Microsoft is making a big change to how audiences are managed in Search and Shopping campaigns, which will have a large impact on anyone advertising on those channels. Now called Multi-Channel management, you will no longer be able to opt out of audiences on the campaign level.
Some History of Microsoft Ads Audiences
In 2019, audiences (the ability to show ads on sites like MSN, Outlook.com, Microsoft Edge, and other partners with targeting based on interest instead of a search) were added to Microsoft and allowed for two ways of management: convenience (within Search and Shopping campaigns, also known as Search Workflow (SWF)) and control (separate campaigns for Shopping and Image-based ads, also known as Audience Workflow (AWF)).
Updates to Audiences in the Microsoft Ads Platform
So what’s changing is that as of February 21st, the Audience bid modifier is completely going away – no longer will you be able to increase or decrease (or opt out of) audiences in your SWF campaigns. Microsoft is calling this multi-channel management.
Microsoft made the shift because they found that search and audience ads working in conjunction help improve performance and increase brand lift; statistics show that searchers visit a website 2.6x more and convert 6.6x higher when they are shown audience and search ads versus only seeing search ads for that site. Microsoft’s announcement also states that advertisers who have tested multi-channel management saw 14% higher conversion rates (CVRs) and 21% lower cost per acquisition (CPA).
The big change to multi-channel management for many advertisers is that campaigns that are completely opted out of audiences will be opted back into audiences, or those that have a negative bid modifier will have that modifier removed.
So how do you prepare for the change in Microsoft Ads?
Here’s a list of five best practices for preparing your campaigns for the change:
1. UET Tags: make sure you have UET tags set up for the account as well as conversion tracking.
2. Bids and Budgets:
- Bids: make sure you are using a Smart Bidding strategy, which includes eCPC, Maximize Clicks, Maximize Conversions, target Impression Share, target Cost Per Conversion (tCPA), and target Return on Ad Spend (tROAS). If you already have smart bidding running, make sure to adjust it to be in line with what you want it to be.
- Budgets: we recently reviewed all our clients’ budgets to make sure they are realistic. Sometimes you have a much higher budget than what the average daily spend is – make sure your budgets are aligned with what you actually want to spend, so the system doesn’t drastically increase your daily spend from the added audience traffic.
3. Assets: make sure you have all appropriate image assets in the account because in the absence of either of the below, Microsoft will use stock images that might not align with your brand. For Shopping campaigns, they will use the images in your feed. But for search, there are two image assets that can be used.
- Multimedia Ads: this is an ad type that Google does not have. They combine the power of your text ads with images and are very visible on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Microsoft will use these first.
- Image Extensions: also included on Google Ads, they can be imported into Microsoft.
4. Targeting: on a webinar with the Microsoft team on February 14th, they shared that adding audiences is very important to give Microsoft signals on the type of audience to target.
5. Partner Placements: Microsoft’s advice is to start without any syndicated partner placements, so that the system can learn. I wouldn’t advise that; we’ve found a list of website exclusions that perform very poorly that we exclude from the start. Read one of my previous posts, “Mine Microsoft Syndicated Search Partners to Find Diamonds in the Rough,” about how to review syndicated partners, add exclusions, and see our list of 266 websites to exclude from the start.
This change to the audience has the potential to drastically increase the volume of your Microsoft campaigns – something many people have asked for. It will be up to each ad practitioner to see if it benefits the campaigns in the long run. We’ve seen very mixed results with the testing we’ve been doing.