As an employee of a digital marketing agency that’s responsible for running many digital marketing campaigns, I get this question a lot. Unlike traditional media, like a TV spot or a gigantic billboard, your paid search ads are not designed to always be front and center. In the simplest form, your ad should answer a person’s question. Answering that question is a powerful way for you to attract more customers by reaching the right people at the right time. Unless you’re that person (which you probably are not) it’s possible that you will not see your own ad. Which is a good thing!



When I searched for “black dress shoes”, the ads that displayed have extreme relevance:


A couple of things that are going on here. First and foremost, I didn’t type “mens black dress shoes” yet all the search results are tailored toward a man. How does Google know that I’m a guy? My past search history. Google collects hundreds of data points for each single user that performs a search on their search engine. The reason is because they want to become smarter and more relevant over time. They want to show the end user the most relevant results possible. That means, my own ad may not show to me all the time. And that’s okay. Now as a digital marketer, I don’t want it to. I want to show my client’s ad to someone who will act on it.

Say I’m Mr. CEO of Zappos and I’m fixating over whether my digital agency is running my campaign correctly. I perform a search, I see my ad, everything is great. Two weeks later, I perform the same search:


Where is my ad?! It should be there, right? Wrong. This is where I, as Mr. CEO, will continue searching repeatedly until, maybe, I see it again. And then if I see it again, I’ll click on it!


Google is in the business of showing the most relevant search results to each individual person. Does it mean the campaign has stopped running? Absolutely not. But it does mean Google thinks Zappos isn’t relevant to me at this moment. Why? Because in my last search, I didn’t click on the ad. If your ads are generating repeat impressions to the same user (or you) but with no action, Google will stop showing that ad to that person. This is beneficial on two fronts. First, Google wants to show ads that people will click on because it generates revenue for their company. The second, you want Google to show your ad to someone who is likely to click because it may mean revenue for your business as well. Which brings me to another point. If you do see your own ad, PLEASE do not click on it. You will incur that cost since the entire premise behind paid search is paying per click.

Here is a small list of other factors that Google uses to display a search ad or not:

  • Geographic area
  • Budget
  • Bidding structure
  • IP address
  • Search history
  • And 100’s of other data points that Google uses yet doesn’t disclose to advertisers…


As an agency, we rely on data to tell us about campaign performance. We rarely ever Google our own client’s ads to see if the campaign is effective or not. Google’s Adwords platform gives us many metrics that tell us if a campaign, ad group, keyword, or ad is running effectively. If you absolutely need to see that your ad is running, we use the Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool to make sure it is showing up. This way you don’t rack up unnecessary impressions in the campaign that can lead to lower click thru rates and higher costs.

So remember, just because you are not seeing your ad, it doesn’t mean your campaign isn’t working. It just means it’s not in your best interest to see your own ad.