If you’re wondering what your ad may look like to search engine users, you might try searching to see it for yourself. While this feels like a fast and easy approach to knowing what your ad looks like, we’re here to tell you how this can actually be a total waste of your time.
If you want to start finding reliable information on where, how, and to whom your ads are showing, we’ve got you covered. Here are our tips for staying in the know about your ad campaigns:
Why is searching for your ad pointless?
Google and Bing personalise their ad deliveries with extreme detail, making a search result page for the same product search look drastically different from one individual to the next. If you’re running live searches, your experience may not be the same experience as someone in the same room as you.
Search engines use thousands of signals to determine what ads and organic search results to show you. These signals include search and click history, demographics such as age and gender, the type of device you are using, timing, location, the search itself (obviously!), and more.
These are just some of the many variables the search engines use that can affect the rank (prominence) of your ad, the amount of ad extensions shown with your ad and, indeed, whether your ad is chosen to be delivered at all. So running a live test search is not going to be useful to you.
Google AdWords and Bing Ads do have an ad preview feature, but because search results are so customized to the user, what you see there is not the same as what someone else will see as well.
Other elements of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) can change for each person. Variations include:
- whether you see an embedded map.
- whether there are shopping ads (PLAs) shown.
- whether there’s a knowledge graph shown on the right side.
- whether you are shown a prominent Wikipedia result.
How can you be sure the ads are showing?
In a word: reports. Performance reports can be used to see if the ads are delivering and if they’re showing to the correct audience.
Include metrics like Impression Share, Exact match Impression Share, Impression Share Lost Due to Rank, and Impression Share Lost Due to Budget in your performance reports. These will show you everything you need to know about the ad’s impressions to see if it is showing when you expect it to.
Use “location of the user” and time segments in your performance reports to make sure you’re reaching the right people in the right places in the right moments.
To see where on the page your ad’s delivering as well as what extensions are showing, run ad extension reports and also include the “Top vs Other” segment alongside the usual Average Rank column. This will give you much more accurate picture at scale or down to the ad group level on how your ads are displaying and what is getting users to click (and convert).
Lastly, if you’re worried about how your ad is showing on mobile devices, add the Device segment in the reporting to view the delivery performance broken down by Tablet, Desktop and Mobile.
Ultimately, performance reports are the only cast-iron way to fully understand if your ad is delivering and who is seeing it.