Paid Search Ad Delivery: Reasons Why Ads Don’t Show Up

Wondering why a paid search ad didn’t show up when a targeted keyword was searched? Perhaps a team member searched for a targeted brand term with a high impression share or a specific nonbrand phrase, yet the ad didn’t show. There are several reasons why paid search ads may not show up, regardless of impression share. Impression share is the number of impressions you’ve received divided by the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive; it is an important metric to consider because it is a strong indication of why a keyword may not be performing



If audience exclusions have been set for a campaign, ads may not show to the user. Exclusions are added to make sure (a) ads are not served to unqualified users – employees or team members, and (b) more ads are served to users who have a higher likelihood of converting. It is possible to exclude the following users from seeing ads:

  • Site users who visit certain pages tagged with pixels
  • Users who have completed a purchase
  • IP addresses


lack of engagement

When a user searches for a term multiple times, but does not click on the ads shown, Google will show those ads less and less frequently, until it stops serving altogether. With repeated searches and no clicks, Google will determine that the user is not interested in the ad it is showing and will begin to show other ads. Therefore, if a paid search ad was shown, but wasn’t clicked on, it may not show again the next time.

The general best practice is to avoid searching for your own ads, as it will inflate impressions and negatively affect click-through rate when one doesn’t click on the ad. This in turn impacts quality scores, which can impact ad serving and efficiency. Conversely, clicking on your own ads costs the campaign money and can negatively affect conversion rate, assuming that there is a conversion goal being tracked on the site and the conversion action is not being taken in the situation.


budget exhaustion

If a campaign has spent its budget limit for the day, it will likely not show any ads again until the next day. Even if campaigns are optimized to spend budget evenly throughout the day, ads may still not show if budgets are at all restricted. For those priority campaigns, consider revising settings so they will not be limited.


bid adjustments – geotargeting, ad scheduling and device

Bid adjustments may also have an impact on whether a paid search ad will show up – certain adjustments include location, scheduling, or device. For example, if bid adjustments have been set up to decrease bids for certain geographical areas where efficiency is generally low, the ad may not show up for a user searching for a term in that area. Similarly, ads may not show for a user on certain days or time of day where bids have been lowered based on historical lower performance during those periods. Device bid adjustments are another factor; for example, if mobile bids were adjusted down based on performance, ads may not show to a user searching on mobile.


what marketers need to know

To recap, there are a few reasons paid search ads may not be showing up when one is looking for them: audience exclusions, lack of engagement, budget exhaustion, or bid modifications. If you or a team member are wondering why an ad didn’t show up, look into the account and settings to identify the likely reasons. And remember our general best practice: don’t search or click on your own ads!




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