Viewing your AdWords ads safely

“What’s not safe about viewing your AdWords ads?” you say. Well, perhaps “safely” is a bit of an over-statement, but what I mean is without costing you money or otherwise inflicting damage on your AdWords account. Actually, I think that counts as a safety issue!

Why not just do a Google search to see my ads?

Let’s assume here that you’re not doing something really silly like actually clicking on your ad when you see it (“Gotta get through that budget as fast as I can Ian”). Every time you do a Google search and one of your ads shows up it is counted as an impression. An impression is half of the equation for your clickthrough rate (clicks divided by impressions = CTR).

The importance of your CTR (clickthrough rate).

Your CTR is a full 1/3 of your quality score which is made up of:

  • Expected Clickthrough Rate
  • Ad Relevance
  • Landing page experience

To over-simplify the process quite a bit, your ad rank, or how high up the page your ad appears is made up of your bid multiplied by your quality score. So a low quality score means more expensive bids are required in order to gain a high position on the page. By searching for your ads you could be costing yourself money.

The eagle eyed among you will have noticed that the quality score factor says “Expected Clickthrough rate”, not “Clickthrough rate”. This is an important difference. When you first start a campaign, there is no data to base your clickthrough rate on. You automatically get a medium rank for clickthrough. Over time though, as data comes in, it is possible to anticipate the clickthrough rate with more accuracy. The expected clickthrough is never likely to be as accurate as your actual clickthrough, but it should get close.

For more in depth information on the auction process you can watch this super video from Hal Varian of Google. You don’t have to, but it’s worth a look in my opinion:

How do I know if my ads are showing if I’m not doing searches on Google?

The good people (benefit of the doubt) at Google have provided a tool within AdWords. It’s under the Tools Menu and called “Ad preview and Diagnosis”

Ad Preview menu item

I generally like to right click it and open up in a new tab, but that’s a personal preference. Once you have clicked on the Ad Preview and Diagnosis menu item you should arrive on the following page:

Ad Preview Tool

This fantastic tool not only allows you search as much as you like without having an effect on your AdWords account, it also allows you spoof searching from any location and on multiple devices using the settings on the left. On top of that, it tells you if your ad is running or not and if it isn’t it points you in the right direction to rectify the situation. That’s a lot better than doing searches in the regular Google and again on your phone isn’t it?

Here’s a nice picture of what the mobile preview looks like:

Mobile Preview

I don’t have access to the AdWords Account. Can I still use the Ad Preview tool?

Yes you can. Google were removing the logged-out version at the end of 2015, but there was such an outcry that they backtracked.

Simply click this link: to get to the tool. Obviously, since you are not logged in, you will not see any of the information about your specific ad, but you will be able to see if it is showing or not and in what position.

Ok, So I won’t do manual searches for ads anymore, but what about the other people in my company?

Well you could ask them not to search for anything to do with your company, but the reality is that people have to do searches relevant to the business which are likely to trigger the ads. You could make everybody use Bing instead of Google…. No, seriously, if you are part of a large organisation in particular, you need to limit the exposure of ads to your own employees. There is only one way to comprehensively do that:-

IP exclusion.

Unfortunately this only works if you have a static IP address in your organisation. Most smaller businesses do not. A static IP address means you maintain exactly the same IP address even after resetting your internet connection. Unless specifically requested from your internet provider you probably have dynamic IP addresses and this solution WILL NOT WORK for you.

For those of you with static IP addresses here is how to go about blocking your ads from showing to users on your network:

Visit This Page and follow the instructions. You will of course need access to your AdWords account!

Published by

Ian Wortley

Ian knows a thing or two about SEO... and Adwords... and UX... and a few more things besides that. If you're feeling social add him on the following social networks: | Linkedin | Twitter