In Microsoft Ads’ ad quality review, they identified an increase in policy-breaking behavior in 2020.
As a result, they suspended almost 300,000 accounts from the Microsoft Advertising platform in 2020, which was a 30% increase from the year prior. Microsoft noted that they have also removed 1.6 billion bad ads and an additional 270,000 sites from their system in 2020 alone.
Microsoft’s findings were in line with Google’s recent Ad Safety Report findings.
Factors Leading to Increased Fraud
With both of the major search engines seeing upticks in fraudulent activity, it’s easy to wonder what is driving this behavior.
One major theme that both search engines mentioned in their respective reports was that the pandemic created a unique situation in which there was a massive spike in new demand for new and hard-to-find products such as Covid testing kits and vaccines.
At the same time, Microsoft noted that there was also a rise in the online presence of businesses of all kinds, as well as an increase in consumer interaction, including those consumers that may not have previously interacted with businesses online.
The combination of these two factors may have created a perfect storm for advertisers looking to capitalize on the situation. As a result, Microsoft Ads rejected nearly 21 million ads in accordance with their sensitive advertising policy, which bans the exploitation of sensitive events for commercial gain.
As an election year, 2020 also saw its fair share of political ads that did not follow policy. Microsoft took down more than 20 million ads and 10,000 sites that broke political policies by advertising election-related content, advertising sensitive political content for commercial gain, or promoting political agendas and issues.
Microsoft identified more than a 100% increase in advertising accounts that leveraged phishing and other scams in an effort to scam users. Beyond that, attempts to take over Microsoft Advertising accounts increased by nearly 5x from 2019, leading Microsoft to implement multi-factor authentication for the safety of all advertisers.
Steps Taken to Improve Ad Safety
Microsoft continues to invest in real-time evaluation systems backed by artificial intelligence, leveraging behavioral signals and fraud analysis tools. This system, paired with manual reviewers, helps to quickly identify policy-breaking content.
Microsoft also takes feedback from users very seriously. In 2020, Microsoft received roughly 50,000 complaints related to non-compliant ads. They found nearly 65% of the reported ads to be in violation of policy.
Since most user-reported complaints are due to trademark issues, so Microsoft has made additional investments in trademark protection and, as a result, were able to decrease trademark-related complaints by 25% year-over-year.
Ad Quality Improvements Going forward
Microsoft takes pride in its operations team, which works 24/7 to address concerns relating to ads. In response to complaints, the operations team took down nearly 400,000 ads in the past year.
In 2021, Microsoft plans to continue to leverage its two-pronged system of automated reviews powered by machine learning paired with manual reviewers to continue to improve the search experience for businesses and searchers using their platforms.
Microsoft asks that if searchers see a bad or suspicious ad, that they please report it through the Microsoft Advertising ad quality escalation form.