Mystifying Google Ads Error Message Diagnosed: “An error occurred. Please try again later.”

In: Google Ads|Pay-Per-Click|SEM

30 Oct 2018
by Chris Silver Smith

Recently, we were setting up a Google Ads campaign for an existing client when my ad management partner, Joe Foerch, ran into a mystifying error in the new interface which would not allow us to complete the setup and launch the PPC ads. He would add a Daily Budget, click to save, and the interface would return the message, “An error occurred. Please try again later.” It took some effort, but we ultimately solved the issue and we’re sharing this so that others will not get stymied as we were, and hopefully so that Google engineers can fix the problem.

Google Ads Error

Backstory:

This is a relatively new client of ours for Social Media Management in Dallas, and we had proposed providing some additional services, including Pay-Per-Click Ad Management. To check out what the client’s previous ad managers had done, we requested access into their Ads account, and we reviewed their prior ads and keyword targeting. We believed there was a very good chance that we might be able to operate ads on their behalf at a higher level of efficiency, and also perhaps target additional, long-tail keywords that they had not previously thought to include.

After providing them with the proposal and examples of ad creatives, they agreed to a limited pilot program, with a very limited initial budget. If the pilot is successful, we will later expand the budget over time.

In Google Ads own backstory, Google rolled out a new interface for operating PPC ads around three to four months ago. (Google Ads also used to be named “Google AdWords”.) I think this interface update¬†likely factored into the issue we experienced.

What Happened:

Once we were given the thumbs-up, we performed additional keyword research and analysis for targeting purposes.

Joe then logged-into the client’s Ads interface, and began to set up the new campaign.

He didn’t get far.

He would set up the audience targeting (we are geographically targeting the campaign to specific U.S. states, only) and then he would get to the point of entering a daily budget, he would type in $9.00, and hit the return key. It would not save. He would then scroll down to the “Save and Continue” button, and attempt to save the campaign settings thus far. It would not save, and it would return the vague message, “An error occurred. Please try again later.”

Google Ads: An Error Has Occurred. Please Try Again Later.

Google Ads: An Error Has Occurred. Please Try Again Later.

Here’s the video of Joe getting to the point of the error:

Now, Joe is highly experienced as an long-time ad manager, having worked previously at Verizon’s Superpages.com (which is now part of DexYP / Thryv) doing this, and then later independently as a consultant. Joe has been Google AdWords Certified. So, when he tells me that there’s a technical issue keeping him from getting a campaign set up, I know it’s likely not a simple case of user error.

We tried to research and find a fix for this, to no real luck. Most online¬†Google Product Forum threads that mention this error message indicate it can occur in a few different scenarios, but they primarily all suggest just clearing browser caches and cookies. I also thought this could have been the issue, since I’ve seen various errors with Google Chrome wherein session data variables do not seem to always clear properly, causing errors with complex JavaScripted submission forms, just as is used in Ads. Joe and I both repeatedly tried clearing caches, cookies, logging-in and out, and switching browsers, all to no avail.

When this was happening, I happened to be attending the SMX East conference in New York, and I hunted-down a Googler devoted to Ads and described the issue to him. He also emphasized trying to clear browser cache as a likely solution, and he provided his email address where we could send info for assistance. However, he was involved in the conference and then travel after, so he could not really help us during the timeframe where we needed it.

Joe also attempted to call Google’s Ads help line, but was apparently routed to overseas support staff which it has been our experience is often unable to provide good assistance.

The Solution:

After trying multiple times to start over and trying different settings, we began to conclude that perhaps our user account could have somehow been responsible for the issue. After delving through our own user account information and settings, we discovered that the client had neglected to provide us with Admin access level privileges when they had first given us access to login and look over the account. We asked the client to change our access level to Admin, and we no longer were barred from saving the settings and proceeding.

So, the solution if you are getting this vague message could be as simple as you may not have sufficent access level to set up or make changes to the Ads account.

Conclusion & Feedback for Google:

The issue we experienced really sounds idiotic, doesn’t it? We are highly experienced at ad management and at using internet apps and all things Google, so on the surface this might seem like a very stupid thing for us to have endured, since we should not have been attempting to set up ads without sufficient access level. We could have just fixed this when we figured it out, and quietly slunk off without mentioning it publicly.

This negatively affected us because it delayed the launching of the ad campaign, and also could have tarnished the impression we make with our client.

What this issue exposes is that Google’s new Ads interface was likely rolled-out with insufficient quality assurance testing beforehand. Numbers of others are encountering this very same issue, if onling postings are any indication. New interfaces need to be thoroughly user-tested prior to wide rollout in order to check every foreseeable permutation of user settings and resultant interface messages in order to insure that people do not get unnecessarily stuck at any stage.

If we had merely followed Google’s interface error message recommendation to wait, “Please try again later”, then this never would have been resolved.

Vague and generic error messages do not inform endusers as to what is going on, nor how to correct for it. Google’s own feedback of “clear caches” and hope this will fix it indicate that their own technicians have difficulty diagnosing this due to the nonspecific nature of the error message. From reading the online forums, I believe that this same message can appear due to a number of different factors involving Google Ads accounts — for instance, it may happen from having a session timeout if one is setting up a campaign and walks off to do something else before returing to complete set-up.

Hopefully, Google will now fix this issue with better interface error messaging. Meanwhile, we hope that our transparancy in posting this will give anyone who is stymied by this error message another good option to try before giving up.

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