How to Check Your Ads

The Google Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool is designed to check your ads in a live setting. It allows you to view a search engine result page (SERP) to see if your ad appears. And what it looks like.

You can view a SERP for specific parameters. Like keywords, location, language, device, and audience. The tool will display your ad as it appears to users within the device mockup of your choice.

Like this:

"Ad preview..." showing a desktop SERP, with an ad from Semrush highlighted in green and the message "Your ad is showing."

Use the Google Ad Preview Tool to see an accurate ad preview. You’ll be able to determine if your ad is running, diagnose issues, and find optimization opportunities. And make sure it looks good. 

See Your Ad Without Hurting Performance

You should use this tool instead of searching for the keyword on Google. If you do this too much, you’ll trigger impressions without clicks. This lowers your click-through rate (CTR). Which may tell Google not to show your ad as much.

Eventually, you may notice a decrease in the visibility of your ads. That’s because Google may stop displaying an ad that doesn’t receive clicks. In both cases, searching for your ad can skew your performance metrics.

Diagnosing Ads Issues

If your ad isn’t running, the Google Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool will tell you why. Some common reasons are:

  • Your ad is still in review
  • The keyword you chose is not in your account
  • Your campaign doesn’t have a sufficient budget
  • Your ad isn’t enabled
  • Your daily budget has been exhausted
  • The location you chose isn’t being targeted

The preview tool always displays the SERP‘s current appearance. You’ll see it even if your ad is not currently running.

See How Your Ad Looks

Even though Google named this tool “Ad Preview Tool,” you’re not previewing your ad. This tool allows you to see an ad that’s already live. Use this tool to see the appearance of your ads. You can filter your SERP view by the following:

  • Keyword
  • Location
  • Language
  • Device
  • Audience

You’ll only be able to see the audience filter if your campaigns target specific audiences. That filter option will not appear for campaigns with no audience targeting.

The SERP display might reveal an issue with your ad. Like truncated text or incorrect URLs. If you see an ellipsis (“…”) after your title, you may have used too many characters. Which forces Google to shorten your title on specific devices.

Google SERP for "web designers," highlighting a sponsored ad with a purple arrow pointing to an ellipsis after a title.

It’s important to note that some extensions might not appear in the ad preview tool even if they appear live. 

If you use an extension like this but it’s not appearing in your ad preview, check your ad extension performance dashboard to see if they’re running.

Optimizing Ads for Better Performance

Tweak your ads for better performance based on the insights you get from the ad preview tool. For example, you might find:

  • Your local ads are showing for general keywords, lowering your CTR
  • An ad with the wrong message is getting to the wrong audience
  • You’re showing your ad in a particular SERP, but you’re not in the No. 1 position
  • Google Ads Sitelinks aren’t going to valuable pages based on the search intent
  • Your ad copy is truncated and confusing

All of these are opportunities to optimize your ads for better performance. 

You need a Google Ads account to use the Google Ad Preview tool. Once you have an account, you can view a SERP by selecting a few display parameters.

Login to Google Ads and Find the Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool

Log in to your Google Ads account to use the Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool. Once you’re logged into your account, you’ll see a dashboard with an overview of your campaign performance.

Google Ads dashboard showing the Overview tab with graphs for clicks and impressions over time.

On the left-hand side of the screen, locate and click “Tools” to open a sub-menu. Select “Troubleshooting” to expand the menu, then click “Ad preview and diagnosis.”

Google Ads menu with "Tools," "Troubleshooting," and "Ad preview and diagnosis" text boxes highlighted.

Choose Your Keyword and Filters

You need to select some SERP parameters to view your ad on a SERP. In this case, we can choose a keyword, location, language, and device. If you’re using audience targeting for your campaigns, you can also select an audience.

Ad preview and diagnosis tool displaying settings for location in Washington, language English, and mobile device.

When you start to type a keyword in the search bar, the tool will suggest keywords. It recommends keywords you’re targeting by impressions and volume.

You’ll also need to search for your location. We clicked the pencil icon to the right of “Location” and started to type “Paris.” Google gave us several suggestions to select. You can choose locations that are as broad as an entire country, or as targeted as a single city.

A location search field with text input of "paris" displaying a drop-down list including various related locations.

The same is true for languages. You can either select from the dropdown menu or start to type your language of choice.

A language search field displaying a drop-down list including various languages, with English highlighted.

Select “Desktop,” “Mobile,” or “Tablet” when choosing your device.

A device drop-down menu dispplaying the options "Desktop," "Mobile," and "Tablet."

You’ll be able to view a SERP once you’ve selected each parameter.

View Results for Different Parameters

Your view will change if you change any of these parameters for a given SERP. 

For example, here’s the SERP for the keyword “fine jewelry.” This is how the SERP displays in English on mobile devices in Washington, D.C.

We don’t have any ads running for this keyword, so we see “Your ad isn’t showing” above the display.

"Ad Preview..." showing a mobile screen displaying a SERP for "fine jewelry," and "Your ad isn't showing" highlighted.

When we change our location to “Shanghai, China,” our language to “Chinese, Simplified,” and our device to “Desktop,” the SERP display for the same keyword changes.

"Ad Preview..." tool showing a desktop SERP for "fine jewelry" in Chinese.

It changes when we search for “fine jewelry” again. But this time in Paris, France, with the language French, on tablet devices.

"Ad Preview..." tool showing a tablet screen displaying a SERP for "fine jewelry" for French users.

Diagnose Issues

We don’t bid for the keyword “fine jewelry,” as shown by these examples. If you see this error, click “Results” above the SERP display to see a diagnosis. 

In this case, Google tells us our ads aren’t appearing because “fine jewelry” isn’t a keyword we’ve used in our campaigns.

A digital error message stating "Your ad isn't showing" with a notice below explaining the "Results."

If your ad is showing, you’ll see “Your ad is showing” appear above the SERP display in green. Here’s an example from Semrush viewing our live ad for the keyword “google seo”:

"Ad preview..." showing a desktop SERP, with an ad from Semrush higlighted in green and the message "Your ad is showing."

Share Ad Previews

You don’t have to share access to your Google Ads account to let others see your ad preview. You can share any preview by clicking “Share” in the top right corner of the screen.

"Ad preview..." tool displaying mobile SERP with options to adjust various parameters, and the share option highlighted.

A dialogue box will open with instructions on sharing the SERP. Copy the link provided to share it with colleagues. It’ll warn you that your ad might not show if your daily budget has been depleted.

"Ad Preview..." tool dialog box explaining search settings and terms, with a link provided below for sharing purposes.

See a SERP Across Different Time Frames

See how a SERP has changed over time by adjusting the time frames in the upper right-hand corner of your screen. Click the date box in that corner. Then click on “Start Date” and your date options will appear:

"Ad Preview..." tool date selection interface with various options and "April 1, 2023" entered as the start date.

You can only view a SERP’s history for as long as your account has been open. So if you’ve had a Google Ads account for a year, you can view a SERP’s history for the past year.

Create Quality Ads That Perform

It’s important to feel confident that your ads appear as you want. And where you want. 

Take this further by viewing your competitors’ ads, too. Without having to guess the keywords they bid for. But first, you’ll need to know which keywords they bid on. 

Then, use Google’s Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool to see what their ads look like in different scenarios.

Semrush has advertising tools like Advertising Research and Ads History that help you research your competitors’ search ads. And the keywords they’re bidding on.

Let’s say you’re an online flower retailer looking for new keywords. You might want to see what keywords major U.S. competitor bids for. 

Here’s how:

First, open the Advertising Research tool and paste their domain in the search bar. Then, click “Search.”

"Advertising Research" tool with "" entered in the text field and the "Search" button highlighted with arrow.

You’ll see a brief overview of their paid search strategy. Including the number of keywords they bid for and an estimate of the cost of their paid search traffic. To replicate’s paid search strategy, you’d need around $204.5K a month.

"Advertising Research" dashboard showing estimated search traffic for specific ad keywords, with traffic cost highlighted.

Scroll down the page to “Paid Search Positions” to see a complete list of keywords they’re targeting with their paid search ads.

"Advertising Research" table for "Paid Search Positions", showing keywords column highlighted with a purple box.

To preview the ad creative they’re using for any given keyword, hover over the green button labeled “ad.” Here, we see their creative for “flowers” has general messaging about “Flowers For Every Occasion.”

"Paid Search Positions" table, showing an expanded ad for the keyword "flowers" with the title "Flowers For Every Occasion."

Click the arrow on the right-hand side of the keyword to see more insights. 

"Paid Search Positions" keywords marked with "ad" label, with an arrow before it. The arrow for "flowers" is highlighted.

This example shows how’s position has fluctuated for “flowers.” We also see a list of other competitors to analyze for even more keyword ideas.

Search positions for the keyword "flowers" with a graph, data metrics, top 4 competitors, and website links.

When analyzing a specific keyword in Advertising Research, click that keyword to discover other competitors bidding for the term. bids on the term “flowers near me.” Click the hyperlinked keyword “flowers near me” to open the Ads History tool.

"Paid Search Positions" keywords, with the keyword "flowers near me" highlighted with a purple line and arrow.

You’ll see a list of competitors that have bid for that keyword. And how they’ve ranked over the past 12 months.

For instance, was in the number one position for “flowers near me” in June, October, January, and February.

"Keyword ads history" chart showing monthly traffic and ad spend on various websites, displayed in a grid format.

This tool can help provide insight into keyword seasonality. Or, when competitors ramp up their spend.

Click the hyperlinked number under “Ads Keywords” to return to the Advertising Research tool. You’ll see the complete list of keywords for which each competitor bids.

Use this information in combination with the Google Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool to see how ad creatives change in different countries, languages, and devices. You might get inspired for your next Google Ads campaign.

Google’s Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool does much more than just show you what your ad looks like. It segments your view by audience, device, and location. And it also helps you diagnose issues that might be blocking your ad from running. 

Semrush’s Ads History and Advertising Research tools can help you evaluate keywords and work hand-in-hand with Google’s tool to view the related SERPs.

Sign up for a free Semrush trial today to see more competitor ad previews. And, for more insight into which keywords might be an essential part of your paid search ad strategy. 

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