Why Aren't People Clicking On My Search Ads?

August 31, 2017 | Zach Tabler


While out there on the battlefield of the AdWords advertising landscape, your ad will receive many impressions. Every now and again, these impressions will turn into clicks. Those users could have been drawn to your ad for a plethora of reasons: your ad was in the top position, the users identified with your ad copy, or maybe they accidentally clicked on your ad when they were scrolling down the SERP page. If you’re doing well, these ads might end up having a decent click-through rate of 2%.

Live footage of the AdWords battlefield

But what about the 98%? The 98% who searched the keywords you were targeting and did not care enough about what you had to offer them. Why would they not be interested in this amazing deal that you had? Or why did they search for my service and not click on my ad?

There are the obvious possibilities like:

  • There are those users who do not trust ads, and immediately scroll past them.
  • Some users might get distracted from their searching and never click a single result.
  • They might have gotten the answer they were looking for via a knowledge graph or meta description.
  • Another ad got their attention before they ever made it to your ad.

Let’s take a deeper look as to why people may not be clicking on your ads and find different opportunities that you can use to increase your click-through rate.

Ad Copy

This is probably the biggest reason why someone decided to not click on your ad. If they get to seeing your ad, they are making quick decisions as to whether or not they want to click. You have to stand out against the 2,070,340,000 other search results, or more realistically the top 4-5 results that users first encounter.

One of the most common reasons for inaction on your ad is that competitors have messaging that appeals to the users more. They might have a great promotion going on, have a stronger call-to-action, or are calling out key benefits that are more important to that user.

The solution here is to continually test ad copy to find the messaging that works best for ad groups across the account. If you are new to ad copy testing, follow along with this 2-part guide. This also keeps users from seeing the same ads again and again. Just like tv commercials, search ads can lose their effectiveness after being seen so many times. It is best to keep fresh ad copy.

Finding the right ad copy combination

The feeling of finding the right ad copy combination

Another consideration, does your ad copy match the intent of the keywords that were searched? For example those searching for “outsourcing IT” may have more of an intent to be educated on the subject than looking for a service for outsourcing IT itself. If the ad copy is speaking to the user about getting a service for outsourcing IT, these users will most likely not click on your ad.

A quick way to gauge if the ad copy is matching the intent of the keywords is to search the top search terms of a keyword, and read the top organic results and knowledge graphs. This will give you an idea of what Google believes these people are searching for, as they are trying to fetch the most useful organic results. Ask yourself if these results correlate with the calls-to-action you are using in your ads. If there is a mismatch, test new ad copy (and possibly the landing page) to fit the intent of the users if it makes sense for your account. 

Keep in mind, a lower click-through rate is not always a bad thing; sometimes it means you are saving yourself money by prequalifying incoming traffic. If your ad copy on broader keywords has a low CTR, but great engagement metrics, like a low bounce rate and high conversion rate, then it could mean you are doing a good job at keeping out unwanted traffic and still reaching important users. When the engagement metrics are not so hot, then it is worth reconsidering the keywords that you are targeting.

Keyword Targeting

Like I mentioned above, every triggered ad impression does not mean that the user is ready to buy your product or service. Keywords targeting users broadly may be including people looking for educational material on the subject or the keyword is pulling in traffic unrelated to your product or service.

Let’s say you are selling bicycles. People searching for “best bike” might be looking for reviews of different brands of bicycles. This search term could also be someone on the search for buying a motorcycle. So you have to ask yourself: how do I want to target this keyword and do I want to target it at all?

I am a big believer in testing and letting data decide for me, so I would add broader keywords like this at the beginning. I can make it more effective by adding negative keywords that I know will not be worth it, such as adding “motorcycle” and “motor” to my bicycle campaign. Next I would only use exact, phrase, and modified broad match keywords to limit the scope of the keyword. Using broad match can be dangerous, as you are giving Google the a lot more flexibility, which can result in your ad showing up in unusual and unrelated places.

The next thing to do here would to go to the Search Term Report and find negative keywords that do not jive with the purpose of your ads or search terms that continuously have bad engagement. Do this at least every 30 days, as you can always find new negative keywords that you had not thought of previously. This should help cut back on irrelevant ad impressions and increase your click-through rate.

If overtime this one keyword just is not working out for you, and cannot seem to get it to work, just pause it. If you have ineffective keywords and you are tight on budget, don’t waste your time trying to get a keyword to work for you that only brings in users with low engagement.

Sometimes its not you, its them

Average Position

Here is a little bit more of an obvious one. The lower the position the ad is on the page, the worse the CTR will be. Let’s say that your ad is at an average position of 3. This means that people will most likely be hit with at least two other tempting offers before they even get a chance to look at your ad. It does not even matter if they actually get to read your ad, Google will still count this as an impression.

If you have the budget to spare, try increasing your bids or using a bid strategy to get your ads higher in the search results and take your rightful place on top.


Having (what you might consider to be) a low CTR is not intrinsically bad. It is all about continuously improving your account. If historically the account had a 3% CTR and it decreased to a 2%, then there might be a reason to be concerned.

A part of having good ad copy is prequalifying the users and keeping out unwanted traffic out. Not only does this keep your costs down, it also lowers the chance for a bad landing page experience, which will affect your quality score overtime. So if you are unhappy with your current click-through rate, start some ad copy testing, review your keywords, and increase your bids. Overtime this will boost your CTR. Try not to get too bogged down why the 98+% are not clicking on your ad, and focus more on how you can improve.