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Microsoft took down 3 billion ads in 2021

Microsoft removed more than 3 billion ads in 2021. That is nearly double the number of bad ads Microsoft took down in 2020 (1.6 billion) and almost equal to the 3.1 billion ads Google blocked in 2020.

What contributed to the significant growth of ad takedowns? Advancements in machine learning, multilingual models and human moderation, according to Microsoft’s 2021 Ads Safety Report. However, Microsoft noted ongoing and rising threats, including fake celebrity-endorsed investment ads and more sophisticated account takeover attempts. 

Billions of bad ads. Yes, billions. Here are some of the statistics Microsoft shared about its year of fighting low-quality ads, bad actors and scammers:

  • More than 3 billion ads were taken down. 
  • 270,000 accounts were suspended. (This is a decrease from 2020, when 300,000 accounts were suspended.)
  • 400,000 websites were banned from its network. (This was an increase compared to 2020, when 270,000 sites were removed.)

Microsoft also investigated about 70,000 complaints about ads that weren’t complying with its advertising policies in 2021. About 60 percent of those were found to be in violation. Trademark infringement was the most common type of complaint. 

Misleading investment scheme ads. The number of fake, celebrity-endorsed investment ads increased in 2021. Microsoft said it tried to catch and remove these ads in real-time. Microsoft suspended nearly 10,000 accounts and removed 200,000 ads promoting these schemes. 

More sophisticated account takeovers. A top threat to Microsoft’s advertisers in 2021: bad actors using techniques to get past multi-factor authentication. To combat this, Microsoft said it “made use of advertisers’ behavioral identity signals to detect such scenarios and protect our customers. We then shared best practices with our advertisers to help them not fall prey to new tactics.” 

Why we care. Safety is crucial for advertisers and the audiences we want to reach. Search marketing fails when people lose trust in search engines because ads turn out to be scams or of low quality. It’s good to know that Microsoft’s mix of technology and processes is working – but new and old types of threats and attacks will continue to be a reality in 2022 for advertisers. Stay vigilant, my friends.


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About The Author

Danny Goodwin is Senior Editor of Search Engine Land. In addition to writing daily about SEO, PPC, and more for Search Engine Land, Goodwin also manages Search Engine Land’s roster of subject-matter experts. He also helps program our conference series, SMX – Search Marketing Expo. Prior to joining Search Engine Land, Goodwin was Executive Editor at Search Engine Journal, where he led editorial initiatives for the brand. He also was an editor at Search Engine Watch. He has spoken at many major search conferences and virtual events, and has been sourced for his expertise by a wide range of publications and podcasts.

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