Here’s a problem I hear almost every day: I’m using Google Ads (Adwords), running display ads on the Google Display Network (or a similar programmatic network), and my ads just are not showing. Zero impressions! What should I do?

Well, I wish the answer were just “push this button!” but, alas, it’s not that easy.

However, there are a bunch of techniques I usually try. Here are a few of them (and a few of my favorite ones… well, I can’t tell you here but you can call me and let’s discuss, for fun!):

Did you check your bids/MaxCPCs, to make sure they’re high enough?

I’m always shocked at how many people define their max bids to be some super tiny amount. “Hey, I don’t want to spend more than $0.00001 per click. I wonder why Google isn’t showing my ads.” Okay, I think that question answers itself. Rule of thumb I follow: I usually start with a high budget, and scale down.

Same question, but for CPMs and other spend targets.

A similar problem happens not just with CPC and bids, but with CPM and spend options. If you’re too cheap, your ads just won’t show.

Did you check to make sure the daily campaign budget is high enough?

This one is one of the most obvious ones and usually not a problem–it’s the first thing everyone looks to check–but it’s good to list here in case it slipped your mind. And remember that the daily ad budget is really a monthly average, so sometimes Google spends lots one day and zero the next day, especially if you’re targeting conversions.

Is the campaign targeting MaxClicks, not MaxConversions (unless you have a lot of conversions already?)

So often, if you don’t have enough conversions, but you’re targeting conversions, Google just doesn’t know what to do so it just doesn’t show them! Try trying to get clicks and then once you have enough clicks, change to the conversion targeting.

If you’re targeting MaxConversions, is your target number high enough?

Sometimes you do want to target conversions. But if you set your target conversion cost too low, it also baffles Google so your ads don’t show enough. As usual, start high and go down.

Did you check your audience size?

Google gives you your audience size when you define it. How much traffic does it estimate you’ll get? If the range it gives you starts with a zero, it may be too small.

Are you using display keyword targeting still? Try another method.

The old-school method of display targeting is to use keywords. Google has been deprecating it in slow motion. I think it purposefully shows ads far less to those using that targeting method because it wants to train us, in a Pavlov style, away from that.

Did you check that the placements aren’t too narrow?

If you’re using managed placements, are you only showing specific articles that barely get traffic? Or also sites and subdirectories that get substantial traffic as well?

Did you check the geographic placement (to make sure it’s not too small?)

Yes, you can target ads to a 1 mile square radius. But are there enough people there?

Did you check the negative keywords and negative placements to make sure they’re not too broad?

Sometimes negatives are subtle ways to exclude the positives. Are your negatives overload broad?

Did you check to make sure all the ads are approved?

This sounds obvious but it’s surprising how often this is the cause: your ads either aren’t approved, or are approved for only limited inventory. Even if all your targeting is perfect, if your ads aren’t approved or are limited, they won’t show.

Did you check your product category to make sure it’s a product Google supports?

There are some products Google really doesn’t like. Sometimes these products are officially against their terms; sometimes they are on a silent list that’s not publicly known. Are your products on such a list? Even if your products are 1000% legal (and I’m sure they are!), is there any reason for Google to suspect they may not be, even if Google is wrong?

Are you a drop-shipper?

Google really, really doesn’t like drop shippers. It may even be against their terms. Perhaps more broadly you may want to read the Google Ads terms closely.

Are you doing anything sketchy that you think Google may not notice?

Related to the last two points is a shocking, shocking surprise: Google knows more than you think it does! If you’re doing anything that is funny, it’s really hard to hide it from Google. Possible, but just hard–so you need to be subtle, sophisticated, and clever about it. Or better yet, perhaps you should ask yourself why you’re doing something sketchy and change course.

In conclusion: it could be any of these. Or a few other causes. Are you having trouble getting your display or programmatic ads to show? Just drop me a line and let’s talk about it!