UPDATE: A more streamlined solution is available for those who prefer not to implement it themselves, as detailed in the article. Simply contact Microsoft support, provide a clear explanation of the situation, and their team of experts will gladly assist you in disabling audience ads.
Over the past several months, Microsoft made changes to how the Audience Network plays into your search campaigns. Many users started to see weaker performance because we could not turn off the Audience Network, and in some cases, we couldn’t even bid down on the Audience Network.
So we were wasting a lot of ad spend getting nothing in return, and of course, really dropping out click-through rate. We found a way that we can still try to exclude the Audience Network from showing our search ads.
- What is the Microsoft Audience Network (Bing)?
- Microsoft Audience Network Performance report
- The Importance of Excluding the Audience Network from Search Campaigns
- Identifying Websites Where Your Ads Appear the Most
- Excluding Websites from Your Bing Search Campaigns
- Utilizing Website Exclusion Lists and Microsoft Editor
What is the Microsoft Audience Network (Bing)?
Before we jump into Microsoft Ads, let understand what the Microsoft Audience Network is. Microsoft’s Audience Network allows advertisers to place cross-device native ads on a variety of Microsoft sites and other properties.
And the examples of the ads that can be shown. So there are image ads, product ads, and of course, the ones in the middle that could be affecting your performance, text ads are also included.
To compare this to Google, when you set up a new Google campaign, Google has the box checked within your campaign settings to also allow your search ads to be shown on the Display Network.
This is something that we typically uncheck right away, so essentially Microsoft’s Audience Network is their Display Network.
The difference here is Microsoft no longer allows us to uncheck this Audience Network box.
Your search ads are now automatically included to show on the Audience Network, and we cannot remove them.
Microsoft Audience Network Performance report
To see how the Audience Network is performing for your search campaigns in the main campaign view, go to Segment.
We can take a look at some campaigns in the image below. Most of the spending is on the actual Microsoft sites that we want, but the Audience Network has a really low click-through rate, affecting the overall average.
Some campaigns spend two dollars for the month. As we drop down to the next campaign, the Audience Network is still not giving any conversions, spending 36 bucks, and has a really low click-through rate. But if we look at the bottom campaign, we see the majority of the ad spend in this campaign is for the Audience Network, and the click-through rate is really low, and it’s giving us nothing in return.
The Importance of Excluding the Audience Network from Search Campaigns
This is just one example; there are many users for whom the Audience Network was spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars and giving nothing in return because the intent is different.
Someone going to Bing.com typing in a search term that shows a deeper intent. Someone reviewing the news on MSN.com, they’re not looking for what you’re trying to sell. So it’s a higher level of intent or no intent at all.
They weren’t actively looking for your product or service at the time, which is why we have seen the Audience Network for the most part harm our search campaigns. What we’re seeing so far is that the Audience Network just isn’t delivering for search campaigns. It works great for standalone audience campaigns.
But we want to turn this off, and we used to have the ability to turn it off completely. That feature is now gone from our accounts.
When we navigate to the ad group settings within a specific campaign and click on “Advanced ad group settings” to reveal more options, we can find ad “Distribution options”. Although we are running only a search campaign, all available options include both search and audience ads.
If we modify the “Ad distribution” settings to “Target sites and select traffic”, the ads will still be displayed on Bing, MSN, Outlook, as well as partner sites like Yahoo.
When we return to the campaign level, we don’t find additional settings, as these are typically managed at the ad group level.
Identifying Websites Where Your Ads Appear the Most
So now the question becomes, what do we do?
Well, the first thing we like to do is to see where our search ads are appearing besides Bing.com, and to do that, we can head on to “Reports” in the top navigation. Under “Default reports”, we’re going to head on over to “Performance”, and then we want to look at the “Website URL (publisher)”.
Right now, it’s showing us every campaign, but if you have a lot of campaigns, look at adding a filter.
- Filter 1: Network contains Audience;
- Filter 2: include just Search campaign (by campaign name or some other way).
Sort them by the most impressions. And in the column “Website URL”, we are getting a list of the websites where our ads are showing up the most.
Offerup.com, some of the most common ones that you are going to see is going to be MSN.com, the Outlook.live.com. And if we keep going down, it’s just a bunch of websites that just have nothing to do, and we just don’t want to show up here.
So now that you have collected your list of URLs.
Excluding Websites from Your Bing Search Campaigns
To exclude websites from search campaigns, exit the reporting view and return to the settings. Click on a campaign and scroll down to access the Advanced settings. Paste the URLs of the websites you want to exclude (in this case, the five with the most impressions and nearly all Audience Network spend). Although there are many more websites, most didn’t receive clicks and didn’t use ad spend, so they can provide free brand awareness. After saving the changes, repeat this process for each search campaign.
Utilizing Website Exclusion Lists and Microsoft Editor
Now, you’re probably asking, “Hey, what about website exclusion lists similar to the placement exclusion list in Google?” That’s a good question.
If we go up to “Tools”, we do see “Website exclusion lists”, it’s saying website exclusion lists can only be created at the manager account level.
You need to log in as an Account Manager. If you have Manager access, create a list and paste where website URLs.
You can also do this via Microsoft Editor. You can go to advanced options in Editor, and there you will see website exclusions. You can add them to all campaigns.
In conclusion, excluding Microsoft’s Audience Network from your search campaigns can be a challenging task, but it is necessary to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your advertising budget. By using the techniques outlined in this article, you can effectively exclude the Audience Network from your search campaigns and avoid wasting ad spending on untargeted audiences. Remember to always review your campaign performance regularly and adjust your strategies accordingly. If you have any further questions or tips on this topic, feel free to share them in the comments section below.