Here's a quick question (and answer) that we spotted on the AdWords Help user-to-user support forum. We thought it'd be worth posting here (lightly paraphrased for clarity) to more fully explain one important aspect of monitoring your account performance.

When will I see activity? My ads have been live for hours now.

To which, a short while later, a helpful community member replied:

Give it a bit more time. While your ads can go-live and be displayed within a short time of their creation, the stats are updated on a larger interval.

Yep, this is a good observation. When new or edited ads are submitted to the AdWords system, there will typically be a short delay before their appearance on, during which many servers must be updated. This delay can be of variable length depending on volume of activity on the AdWords site, but in most cases is considerably less than an hour.

Once your ads start appearing, it's important to know that their statistics are not reported in real-time. Instead, stats are typically delayed for up to three hours during which time they are aggregated from various servers, sorted and organized, filtered for invalid activity, and so forth. You'll see this delay mentioned in your account: if you look just below the chart in which your stats appear (at either the campaign or Ad Group level) you'll see some smallish type that looks about like this:

Reporting is not real-time. Clicks and impressions received in the last 3 hours may not be included here. There is a 24 hour delay in conversion tracking reporting...

While we're on the subject of statistics, here's another interesting fact worth knowing: clicks and impressions are not necessarily updated on the same schedule. So, for example, clicks can be updated in your account more quickly than impressions. In light of this, it's possible that the number of clicks shown in your stats could exceed the number of impressions until the statistics are completely updated - which typically occurs by the end of the day.