We often get questions from clients who are spot checking their PPC ads in Google. It usually starts with a sales person in the field who periodically searches for their important keywords to make sure their ad is showing. When they don't see their ad they call the marketing department who then calls us. Typically one of three things is happening:

  • We first check the keyword and budget. In some cases the budget could be set too low and the campaign is running through its budget before the end of the day. If you see this issue also be aware that some search campaigns have intra-week trends where one day might have traffic spikes. Make sure you set the budget based on the regular traffic spikes assuming you are going for maximum coverage.
  • Next, we look at geo-targeting and day-parting issues. Many of our campaigns are geo-targeted to certain markets. If the searcher is searching outside one of our targeted areas they won't see the ad. We've seen situations where a salesperson sees different results with their Verizon Broadband Access laptop card than they do sitting in their office. Google uses the IP address of the searcher to determine which ads to show. IP addresses can differ by ISP. As an example, if you search from a Panera using their free WiFi you'll always get ads from St Louis. My guess is that they have their data center in St Louis. The same review applies for day-parting, we check to make sure that the ad was supposed to show when the searcher checked.
  • Assuming it isn't a budget or geo-targeting/day-parting issue, it is often related to your individual search history. Google is really sophisticated in how they display paid search ads. They actually track each computers' search history and change the ads based on your previous search history. That means that if you or your staff spot check by searching on google.com, Google is learning that they don't seem to click on your ad and over time will stop showing it to you individually. Spot checking can also hurt your overall quality score because you are decreasing your click through rate by generating impressions for your ad without clicking. Google built a nice tool called Ad Preview (www.google.com/adpreview) to let advertisers spot check their ads in a way that reflects what the average first time searcher would see.
  • If you ever wondering why your ad isn't showing, run through the list above. If you need to spot check your ads always use www.google.com/adpreview. You'll get a good view of what your potential customers are seeing on Google search engine results pages when using PPC advertising.

    Here is a help topic at Google with some more information.