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Finding SEM-o: When You Can’t Find Your Search Ads

disoriented clownfish searches for his paid search ad frantically

I tend to walk around randomly during phone calls. A few years ago, I realized this as I saw my reflection in the glass patio doors and saw myself walking along the top of the couch. No idea why, but I’m at peace with this. I even move around absentmindedly on short calls, such as activating a new credit card, which I had to do recently.

I called the bank to complete the process, and after a few questions confirming my information, the rep completed the task and was very helpful throughout. I prepared to hang up and stop parkouring around my kitchen when she suddenly launched into an aggressive sales pitch for multiple other products offered by the bank. Identity protection, credit limit increase, insurance coverage – you name it, she was selling it.

When she finally stopped to ask if I was interested, I said: “sorry, I just want to confirm, is my credit card now activated?”

She said yes.

I replied, “Then I’m sorry, that’s all I need at this time. Thanks for your help.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Sales pitches are everywhere, ads are everywhere, and you don’t have to look very far to find someone trying to sell you something. It’s almost more surprising when you don’t come across one when expected.

Good morning. Happy young woman is talking on mobile phone and smiling. She is walking in her apartment and drinking coffee


If you had a chance to join our webinar yesterday, our discussion on FAQ’s of search engine advertising (also known as paid search, PPC, SEM). We touched on one of the most common questions:

“Why didn’t we see our search ad when we Googled/Bing’d our business name, product, or services?”

The answer to this question is usually simple, but it could be one of many great possible reasons. Sometimes the answer is as simple as “we don’t run your Search advertising, so we couldn’t tell you!” It is sometimes assumed that because we host a client’s website, we must also run their advertising, and that may not be so (and we would love to have that conversation with you if we haven’t already). But, in cases where an ad was reasonably expected and not seen, there will be a reason.

We discussed some examples in the webinar, but we decided that the question warranted a list of the most common reasons, so as promised, here you are!


  • The campaign ran out of budget for the day. This is by far the most common. It does not always mean you should increase your budget, you might just be searching late in the day and the daily budget was reached, or it was a particularly active day for the given keywords.
  • You might be searching for something for which you did not ask to advertise. This is probably the second most common reason. For example: you might have search campaigns for your business name, brands carried, and vehicle inventory, but you didn’t assign a budget for your service department, therefore a search for “oil changes” would not be targeted by default.
  • Your IP address is being excluded from the advertising campaign. This is done to avoid spending money on people from within your place of work, such as staff, searching for their own website.
  • You are searching from within a location that is excluded or not targeted. For example: a regional manager could be looking for the ads of their business in another city which is not in the targeted locations of the campaign, and therefore would not be a targeted user.
  • The campaign is set to deliver ads on a schedule. This is typically only seen in mature accounts, as we look at historical data to determine if there is a reason to target certain days/hours over others, in the interest of spending efficiently. Sometimes clients inform us that they prefer their ads running in certain times of the day, otherwise we make no assumptions, and a lead that comes in at 2 AM is just as valid as one that comes in at noon. But if a schedule is being used, you might be searching during an inactive block of time.
  • You don’t match the demographic targeting. Same as above, targeting adjustments are made based on historical data. Some clients instruct us to focus on certain ages/genders/etcetera for the campaign; if there is enough demand, they can be selective rather than showing to all users.
  • We are excluding or lowering our bids on recent site visitors. Using RLSA (remarketing lists for search ads), it may be a good strategy to not spend further money on someone who has already been to your site and probably knows how to find you if they look again. This helps spread out your budget by not spending money on the same users, saving it for attracting new users.
  • Your browsing behaviour may suggest to the algorithm that you are not a probable converter. Automated bid strategies are not universal in our portfolio. But if used, and the algorithm determines a conversion for a given user is low, it might not bid much on that user.
  • The search term contains variations of (or extra) words, and the campaign could be focusing on the more exact matches. If the more precise keyword match types perform better, and the budget is limited, the campaign might just be set to target the precise search terms rather than the broad matches as well. For example: targeting the search of “edmonton dentists” might deliver better results than “dentists near me”, and so the choice could be made to only target the former.
  • The campaign is on standard delivery setting instead of accelerated. This means your campaign spaces its frequency of appearing on search pages, to prolong your budget throughout the day. The accelerated setting will make your ad show up for every applicable search until the budget runs out. This means that if the same user searches for your business in rapid succession, because they kept closing their browser tab or what have you, then you will keep showing them your ads, and incur a cost for every ad click.

White Button with SEM on Computer Keyboard. Internet Concept.

The common theme between all these reasons is the effort to prolong your budget. Very few clients will want their ad to show up in every possible scenario, for every user, around the clock, and budget is not a concern. We understand the need to get “bang for your buck”, and that involves picking your battles, spending wisely, and utilizing the available tools.

Again, this is not a comprehensive list, but we hope it helps as a starting point. We also welcome questions about your advertising account with us, whether it exists yet or not! We’d love to discuss them, even if you mindlessly pace around while talking on the phone like me.

Google Ads, Paid Search Ads

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