Estimation Bias in Multi-Armed Bandit Algorithms for Search Advertising

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 26 (NIPS 2013)

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Min Xu, Tao Qin, Tie-Yan Liu


In search advertising, the search engine needs to select the most profitable advertisements to display, which can be formulated as an instance of online learning with partial feedback, also known as the stochastic multi-armed bandit (MAB) problem. In this paper, we show that the naive application of MAB algorithms to search advertising for advertisement selection will produce sample selection bias that harms the search engine by decreasing expected revenue and “estimation of the largest mean” (ELM) bias that harms the advertisers by increasing game-theoretic player-regret. We then propose simple bias-correction methods with benefits to both the search engine and the advertisers.