Microsoft Audience Network: Why It’s Time to Opt Out

microsoft audience network - are bing ads worth it

Updated May 2, 2024

The battle between Microsoft and Google has been ongoing since their inception. While Google is often the go-to search engine and paid search advertising platform, Microsoft shouldn’t be overlooked as a valuable option for advertisers. The Microsoft Audience Network (MSAN) is Microsoft’s native ad platform that serves image-based, text, and feed-based product advertisements to millions of people across various devices.

However, over the past few years, MSAN has caused trouble for advertisers and has become a significant source of unwanted ad spend in many accounts. In most cases, we actually recommend opting out of this ad format entirely. Read below to find out why.  

The Reality of Forced Adoption in MSAN & Are Bing Ads Worth It? 

Advertising on Bing generally costs less than Google and has a lower cost-per-click (CPC), but are Bing ads worth it? Whether you’re advertising using MSAN or other platforms, as an advertiser it’s essential that you closely monitor your accounts to ensure everything is functioning properly. Any Bing ad can be worth it when your strategies are specifically tailored to your needs. 

At Omnitail, we closely monitor our customer accounts, and we’ve noticed that the Microsoft Audience Network can be tricky. In this post, we’ll explain why we recommend opting out of MSAN, how uncertain this ad platform can be, and what we recommend to mitigate any issues you’ve experienced.

The Uncertainty of the Microsoft Audience Network & Its Effect on Return on Ad Spend

Over the past few years, Microsoft Advertising has experienced an alarming number of changes that come off as a way to drain money from unsuspecting advertisers. One of the most egregious changes included automatically opting all accounts into MSAN, which was announced February 2023. 

While audience marketing can be useful for expanding your campaign’s reach to potentially improve your return on ad spend, automatically opting all accounts into MSAN resulted in unexpected and increased spend. In some cases, this adoption more than doubled an account’s spend without any input from the advertiser and no established method to prevent it. In most cases, the increases in spend from this update drove no measurable impact on revenue.

While advertisers have found frustration with accounts being automatically opted into MSAN, this may actually be less of an issue (and platform adoption more readily welcomed) if the platform’s experience included options to remove this source of wasted ad spend.

Our Approach to Mitigating Unwanted Spend from Forced Adoption of MSAN

How have we handled stopping the source of wasted ad spend? Honestly, it’s been a bit of trial and error. In the Microsoft Ads UI, there is an option to segment by various dimensions, including Network. When segmenting by Network, you can see how much spend, revenue, etc. is being credited to the Audience Network. When we noticed ad spend had started increasing in our customers’ accounts with no lift to revenue, this quickly became known as a common problem across customer accounts.

While advertisers have found frustration with accounts being automatically opted into MSAN, this may actually be less of an issue (and platform adoption more readily welcomed) if the platform’s experience included options to remove this source of wasted ad spend.

To combat this, one of the several approaches we tried was inputting bid modifiers to indicate that we did not wish to spend any budget on this ad format. Though this tactic is a bit of a heavy lift, it was ultimately a worthwhile workaround to remove the risk of egregious overspend in our customers’ accounts.

Unfortunately, this solution fell short  in February 2023 when Microsoft announced that these modifiers were being deprecated and would be ignored by their system, which effectively opted everyone back into MSAN. This specific change didn’t immediately result in a spike within our customers’ MSAN ad spend; but over the course of the next few months, we observed spending start to significantly rise and some customers’ entire Bing programs turning unprofitable as a result.

microsoft audience network - budgeted vs actual spend

Once Microsoft announced bid modifiers were being deprecated, we went through a bit more trial and error and were ultimately able to mitigate the impact of this renewed forced adoption using website exclusions (i.e., listing out each website on which we explicitly do not want to serve on), but these are only partially effective and leave our customers susceptible to future issues as Microsoft adds more websites to their ad network. 

Are Bing Ads Worth It? Actions You Can Take to Help You Decide.

If you’re on the fence about whether or not to end your relationship with the Microsoft Audience Network, there are a few actions you can take. 

  1. Add website exclusions. If you are having some success with MSAN, but need to improve its efficiency for your business, you may choose to exclude websites that are causing performance issues. However, there’s no comparable ad inventory we currently recommend subbing in for spend. As a result, you should just add it back into your general marketing budget to test additional platforms or paid media outlets.


  2. Break up with MSAN (or refer back to #1). In Q2 2024, Microsoft deprecated the only way available to completely remove the risk of unwanted ad overspend from MSAN—which was to remove it from your account with the help of Bing support. Bing support will no longer do this for you. Adding website exclusions is the only course of action you can take to help protect your account from unwanted MSAN spend.


  3. Partner with Omnitail. When problems are happening in your accounts and you’re unsure why, you need a result-driven online marketing agency partner that stays up-to-date with industry changes, closely monitors your accounts, and takes action when spend gets out of control. And we’ll help you determine if Bing ads are worth it. At Omnitail, our team is committed to doing just that. When you need assistance, we’re happy to step in and help get your ad accounts back on track.

The Omnitail Difference

At Omnitail, we help customers learn how to measure their success through profitability instead of vanity metrics like return on ad spend (ROAS). Doing this provides greater accountability, integrity, and transparency around the health of your e-commerce business.

Our experienced team of SEM professionals use our proprietary in-house technology for managing and reporting on your campaigns to help you make the most out of your paid search advertising efforts. As a dedicated e-commerce PPC agency partner, we take the time to analyze the whole story of your accounts and optimize programs based on what’s best for you and your bottom line.

A Result-Driven Online Marketing Agency that Tailors to Your Needs

We understand that staying up top of the latest industry trends and changes takes time (and a lot of news feeds). That’s why we’re here. When you’re seeing changes in your ad accounts and are unsure why, reach out to our result-driven online marketing agency for assistance. Our experienced paid search managers will take a comprehensive look into your campaigns and make optimizations as needed. Reach out to us to set up a strategy call today!

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