Microsoft Advertising’s Dynamic Search Ads Fail to Deliver on Claim of Reaching Relevant Searches

Yesterday, we wrote about Microsoft poorly auto-generating ad copy for customers of their search advertising system. While it appears they haven’t done basic testing, as many of the ads generated for us are incoherent, among other issues, they have started auto-apply these ads. That is part of a larger initiative by Microsoft to automate the advertising process, where even what seems like it should be a lot easier to handle than generating ad copy, isn’t even close to being where it should be before being widely available.

Another piece of that involves dynamic search ads. Microsoft describes those with the following:

Dynamic search ads provide a streamlined, low-touch way to make sure customers searching on the Microsoft Search Network find your products or services.

In marketing these, Microsoft also claims they allow you to “[a]utomatically target relevant search queries based on the content of your website” and that they “can help you find customers searching for precisely what you offer”. At least in our case, based on the ten “search queries that could trigger your ad” they show right now, that isn’t true at all.

Four of the queries shown are hosting related, despite us not being in the hosting business:

  • wordpress vimeo hosting sixt
  • web hosting wordpress plans
  • best wordpress hosting sites
  • wordpress hosting

With one of those, “wordpress vimeo hosting sixt”, we couldn’t find what that would refer to.

Another could probably be classified similarly:

  • wordpress com

Another is website builder related, despite us also not being in the website builder business:

  • best website builder

Three queries involve software that we provide services for, but someone searching for just the name is not “searching for precisely what you offer”:

  • wordpress
  • magento
  • woocommerce

Since the services we offer involve things for people already using the software, it seems unlikely someone searching just on the name of it would be looking for that.

Finally, there is a query that doesn’t seem like it would be related to something for sale:

  • wordpress login

Overall, it looks like they have combined, for the most part, common searches that are very loosely related to what we offer. Having us advertise on those things seems like it makes sense for Microsoft, since they can make more money that way, but not for us, since it would target searches that have nothing to do with our business.

The saving grace with these two automated features is that they can be disabled, that isn’t true of other parts of the search advertising that overrule what advertisers want.

Microsoft Advertising Now Generating and Automatically Running Incoherent Ads for Customers

The quality of Microsoft’s search advertising system has gone down over time, as has Google’s, as they have taken more and more control away from advertisers. At best, they greatly overestimate the ability of their system to produce good results. At worst, they are intentionally doing things to increase their revenue, knowing that they are increasing costs for their customers while producing worse results for them.

About a month ago Microsoft announced they would start automatically running ads for customers generated by Microsoft, without the approval of customers. That seems rather ill-conceived idea, as they are putting words into the mouths of their customers. But much worse, looking at ads that have been generated for us, the implementation is even more ill-conceived, as the ads are often not even coherent.

When customers go to the Microsoft Ads web interface, they might now notice a somewhat vague message about this:

We’ve created recommended ad(s) which could improve your performance. Please review these recommendations as they may be eligible to automatically apply at a later date.

From there you can see up to 50 ad suggestions. While a few of the ones currently suggested to us are decent, most are not close to that. Here is one where the ad text looks like it mixed up the words install and upgrade:

Let Us Help You Install Your PrestaShop Installation to the Latest Version.As written, it doesn’t make sense.

In another example of this, this text seems like it should refer to second best instead of second chance:

Don't Settle for Second Chance. Call Us Today to Learn More!Somehow they are messing up phrases like that.

This ad text combines an incoherent message with this odd capitalization of a word with an apostrophe in it:

If You Can't Find a Better Price, We’Ll Give You the Best Price.It would appear their system isn’t advanced enough to understand not to add capitalization there.

Sometimes the headlines and ad text don’t go together, this headline makes no sense in the context of the service being advertised or the ad text:

Don't Trust Your Mediawiki | Until You Read Our Reviews - If You’Re Looking to Upgrade Your Mediawiki Installation, We Do the Rest.The ad text of this one claims we provide an alternative to something that isn’t a thing as far as we are aware:

Our Moodle Upgrade Service Is the Most Affordable Alternative to Existing Plugins.Others advertise services we don’t offer, like this one offering to install PrestaShop:

Let Us Take the Guesswork Out of Installing Your Prestashop. Call Today!Here is the ad text for another one, which, among other issues, emphatically claims we do something, which we don’t do:

If You Can't Find a Better Price on Concrete5 Installation, We Do It!Probably the worst ad though suggests we get websites hacked:
Don't Go Scammed | We Get Them HackedIt doesn’t look like Microsoft did basic testing before rolling out these generated ads.

Despite them creating this content, they have a notice in the documenation for that says that it is the customer’s content:

Any ads or content created by Microsoft Advertising as part of this program are subject to editorial review, and will remain your “Content” as defined by your Microsoft Advertising Agreement.