If you spend any time at all trying to manage Microsoft Ads in Microsoft’s online interface — I still have to stop myself from saying Bing Ads — you’ve seen frequent reminders to do another import from your Google Ads account. From time to time they’ve even thrown a reward or two at accounts for setting up recurring imports from Google.
Avoiding the Google Ads import currently incurs only a minor penalty in the highly manipulative Optimization Score, but it’s there too.
I find the import from Google Ads — highly customized — to be very useful when I’m building new campaigns or ad groups or creating a lot of new ads. But I’ve quit setting up automated imports into Microsoft Ads to import day-to-day changes. I’ll explain both parts of that.
The Google-Ads-to-Microsoft-Ads Import Is Useful in Its Place
My typical approach when I manage Microsoft Ads and Google Ads for the same client is to build out new campaigns or ad groups in Google Ads. Then I optimize them for a while. “A while” could be a week with heavy traffic, assuming performance is promising, or as much as a month or more with light traffic or if it takes longer to approach satisfactory performance.
When I’m happy with the campaign and ad group structure, and I’ve built out the ads I want, and I think the bids are about where I want them, I do the import into Microsoft Ads. I may change only the imported budget before I let things run there for a while. After that, I’m not likely to import again, until I have new ad groups or campaigns. I explain that below.
Here’s why I don’t import Google Ads into Microsoft Ads even sooner — why I wait for a while, after building the Google Ads campaigns.
Google Ads almost always has much higher traffic for my clients than Microsoft Ads. This means I get actionable data for optimization much faster in Google Ads. And the search keywords that work with Google, or don’t, most likely will do the same with Microsoft. This isn’t quite true of negative keywords, of which more below.
By the time I do the import, the imported Google bids are good starting points for Microsoft. As actionable traffic accumulates in Microsoft Ads, the bids there will likely diverge from my Google bids, but usually not dramatically.
(You’ll note that I seem to be talking about old-fashioned PPC, where we bid on keywords, rather than letting the platform do that for us. I still start with manual bidding, which Google still allows and Microsoft allows with an asterisk. I typically plan to switch to AI eventually. Sometimes I have to go back to manual bidding after months or years relying on the AI — but let’s leave that topic for another day.)
Why Regular Imports from Google Often Do More Harm than Good
Once the basic structure of an ad group or campaign is intact, much of the work focuses on specific keywords (for search), bids, ads, and various sorts of targeting. You can import your day-to-day changes from Google Ads either manually or automatically on a regular schedule, but that’s exactly what I’m telling you not to do.
I have five reasons. Most involve differences between the two platforms which contribute to differences in performance. It’s not just that Google has some features and campaign types which Microsoft has yet to slavishly imitate. (That imitation isn’t always a bad thing.) It all adds up to this: if you just copy what you’re doing in Google, one way or another you’ll lose money.
1. Different Demographics
The Bing and Google demographics are different. The smaller Bing demographic tends to be a little older, better educated, and have more money to spend online. Bing users are more likely to be married with children. The mix of devices can be different too. Other differences may appear in specific markets. These are more than enough differences to lead to different performance.
2. Different SERPs
The Bing and Google search results pages (SERPs) are somewhat different too. Ads look a little different and may appear in different places and different quantities. These factors too can contribute to differences in performance, which in turn require different optimization.
3. Negative Keywords Work Differently
As far as I can determine from the two platforms’ documentation, negative keywords should work the same on both platforms, but they don’t. I’ve seen two troublesome scenarios. One involves using negative keywords to block unwanted traffic. The other involves using them to direct traffic within a campaign.
First, the same negative keyword may block search keywords in Bing Ads which it doesn’t block in Google Ads. Your first hint of this, if you get one, may be notifications of a keyword conflict in Microsoft Ads, where a negative keyword is blocking a search keyword.
For example — I’m just barely making this up — if your brand is “Kwik Krisp” and you don’t want to show ads for searches on someone else’s brand, “Quick and Crispy,” you might add “quick and crispy” as a negative keyword in Google Ads, where it will work fine. If you import that into Bing Ads, it may block “Kwik Krisp” too, because Microsoft’s algorithm is looser than Google’s in this respect — and you lose valuable branded traffic.
Second, for the last several months, when I import negative keywords I’m using to direct traffic within a Google Ads account, they work differently in Microsoft Ads.
“Ad relevance” is a key component of quality score in Google Ads, and, despite other advances, Google’s test of ad relevance is still absolutely primitive: does the ad contain the exact keyword? So I split different keywords with similar meanings into separate ad groups, with close matches between ad copy and keywords.
For example, keywords using “lawn,” “grass,” and “turf” may be synonyms to the human eye and to some parts of Google’s promiscuous “exact match” algorithm, but in the world of ad relevance, Google often doesn’t handle similar meanings very well. “Grass” keywords will get a lower quality score when paired with “lawn” ads, and so on. So I make three ad groups where I might prefer one. Electrons are cheap.
In this context I use negative keywords to direct traffic. For example, in a “lawn” ad group I pair “lawn” search keywords with negative keywords using “grass” and “turf.” But when I import all of this into Microsoft Ads, it treats them as synonyms and willy-nilly sends grass keywords to turf or lawn ad groups, and so on. This negates all that careful directing of traffic and may also affect Microsoft Ads’ rather different handling of quality score.
So — you saw this coming — when you manage Microsoft Ads, negative keywords need to be used slightly differently, not merely imported from Google.
4. Not All Manual Bidding Is Created Equal
Google Ads still allows pure manual bidding, though you’ll endure incessant reminders and warnings that your life would be so much better if you let the AI do the bidding for you. A while back, Microsoft Ads took away pure manual bidding. The closest thing they’ve left us is “Enhanced CPC: Adjust my bid to get more conversions.” It’s better than nothing, but it’s enough of a difference to need to be managed separately, not just by regular imports from Google Ads.
And yes, even Google will still admit that there’s a time and a place for manual bidding. That time and place are more common than Google thinks they are, but either way, the differences between platforms can be important.
5. If You’re Not Careful, the Import Will Deoptimize Your Campaigns
Small changes to bids matter less than some other decisions. If you’re continually optimizing campaigns — search, shopping, whatever, including campaigns where you’re using the AI with ROAS targets, as I often do — you’ll overwrite your changes in Microsoft Ads the next time the Google Ads import runs, unless you’re very careful every time (and a little bit lucky). This will happen even at the level of campaign budgets and deciding which products to keep advertising and which to pause.
Anything you need or want to do differently between Google Ads and Microsoft Ads you’ll have to protect by customizing every import, or you’ll have to undo some of the imported changes, and sooner or later you’ll miss some. If you miss some or forget, the overall effect is to deoptimize — and you may not realize you’ve done it, at least not for a while.
Pay-per-click platforms are moving targets, to be sure, and never more in the past few years, as AI penetrates ever more deeply. Every reason I just gave for avoiding regular imports and managing Microsoft Ads accounts separately could change eventually. #2 could change very quickly and without warning, just as it arose. But change may also introduce further differences.
Most of the PPC specialists I know, even the good ones, prefer to focus on Google Ads and ignore Microsoft Ads as much as possible. I understand the temptation. But Bing’s search market share is significant, so Microsoft Ads are usually worth doing. And odds are that most businesses will see better results with Microsoft Ads by managing them separately, rather than setting up regular imports and turning our focus back to Google Ads.
Sorry about that.
A Personal Note
This is my first post here in five years, corresponding almost exactly to the time when I left a high-end marketing agency in Salt Lake City, with its small but excellent omnichannel marketing team, and took a Chief Marketing Technology Officer (CMTO) position at a small manufacturing company in a neighboring suburb. I’ve never looked back — but the company is small enough that I still do the paid digital marketing myself, while I oversee all of marketing, IT, and such. That in-house work and a handful of PPC clients on the side — all of whom have been with me longer than those five years — keep my skills up through each new year of dramatic changes in the digital marketing landscape.
I’ll be writing here more frequently. (Granted, I’ve lowered that bar just about as far as it can go.) Automation — a.k.a. artificial intelligence, a.k.a. AI, a.k.a. machine learning — will be an ongoing theme. So will my chosen focus on digital marketing for small businesses.
So we’ll chat. In the meantime, thanks for reading. Substantive comments are always welcome, within the bounds of relevance and professionalism.
Photo credit: Ivan Bandura on Unsplash
(I don’t have a photo I can use of a Sesame Street song, “One of these things is not like the other.”)