Media Two Interactive

Transparency In Search Advertising – Microsoft

Here at Media Two, we take pride in being constructive critics of the advertising industry. And over the last year, we have plenty of reason to be critical of Microsoft’s advertising changes as they relate to the search advertising space.

In Microsoft’s quest to outperform others in the artificial intelligence race, it’s misleading advertisers (at best) on the true nature of their search advertising performance and demand.

Specifically, Microsoft no longer reports Bing and Yahoo Search as distinct networks and now lists both of these under “Microsoft Sites And Select Traffic” within the campaign and ad group performance metrics by network. Further, Microsoft also defaults to including Audience Ads in all campaign types. Audience Ads are effectively a native advertising format shown through Microsoft’s display network.

First, here’s a sample view of a search campaign’s network segmentation from January 2023:

Here’s that same view in January 2024:

What we’re missing is an accurate view of just how many impressions were served through Microsoft’s search engine, Bing. And to add insult to that injury, we’re forced to use Audience Ads as all campaign types now include this format:

With an ecommerce client, we were first thrilled to see QoQ and YoY improvements in branded search impressions, but soon the growth started to seem suspect. Could there really be a ~200% increase in queries and impressions for our client this quarter vs. the same quarter last year with no major strategic changes to account for it? We dug deeper and identified that 1) we don’t know at all whether more people are actually searching for the brand by name on Microsoft’s search engine, and 2) we’re being forced to use an asset type for which we did not opt in. If advertisers neglect to or simply choose not to upload image assets, Microsoft’s systems can scan the advertiser website for appropriate images, and will auto-create them. Again, misleading at best!

We implemented exclusions for the top sites that are reporting Audience Ads for all active campaigns as a workaround, but, sadly we’re all losing out on valuable performance data and insights when Microsoft hides it’s search network data under the “Microsoft Sites And Select Traffic” umbrella. Transparency is paramount in business practices and, at least in this case, Microsoft is falling well short.

1 thought on “Transparency In Search Advertising – Microsoft”

  1. Great article. Thanks for sharing the details at this level. Transparency is an issue on most digital advertising platforms. Very helpful insights!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top