To put it simply, Single Keyword Ad Groups -SKAGs- are a way for you to gain more control and achieve higher performance from your AdWords account.
But why are SKAGs such a big deal for PPC performance?
Because using SKAGs can keep you safe from your biggest fear when it comes to PPC: burning your ad budget on irrelevant traffic.
This Single Keyword Ad Group approach isn’t just for AdWords.
It works for social (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) and display networks as well, and it’s insanely easy to take advantage of.
Lucky for you, we’re covering the ins and outs of SKAGs in this post.
We’re all more than fine with spending our ad budget on qualified and relevant traffic that has a chance at converting and generating revenue.
But when you’re paying for each click on your ad, the last thing you want is to see your budget whittled away click by click without any conversion-ready traffic coming through.
So if this is one of the biggest fears of PPC marketers, how is it that this type of performance still plagues most campaigns?
More often than not, it’s because the PPC marketers are focusing their optimization efforts on the wrong parts of their campaign.
You can split test and optimize landing pages till the cows come home, but your account setup is where you’re going to see real ROI.
The more of a granular and search term focused account setup you can create, the more success you’ll see.
And this is where Single Keyword Ad Group come in.
What Are SKAGs?
The most straightforward definition of SKAGs is the acronym itself: Single Keyword Ad Groups. 😸 🤦♂️ Ok, ok! Let’s start with the basics.
In AdWords, there’s an organizational hierarchy that organizes your account. In descending order, it looks essentially like this:
The Ad Group level is where you enter which keywords the campaign is going to be targeting.
So, with ordinary, multi-keyword ad groups, you might get something that looks like the image below:
The issue with this is that you now have a singular ad (or a few ad variants) fighting to be relevant to far too many keywords.
This is what we call your keyword:search term ratio, and you want to keep it as close to 1:1 as possible.
AdWords Bidding: Keyword Versus Search Terms
To understand the importance of keeping your keyword:search term ratio down to 1:1, you must first understand the difference between keywords and search terms.
- Keywords are what you bid on within the AdWords platform, so Google will trigger your ad to show when it deems it relevant.
- Search terms, on the other hand, are what users actually type into the search engine.
Thus, search terms are what we’re really going after in the PPC game.
Why? Because they denote the actual search intent and conversion readiness of the user.
Take a look at the image below, for example:
In the above screenshot, you can see how there are several different search terms all triggering the same ad that is built for only one keyword.
It’s going to be challenging to build an ad and a targeted landing page that is relevant to all those different search terms.
This is what we call the “Iceberg Effect” (essentially when your keyword:search term ratio gets way out of hand).
SKAGs are all about building your ad groups to monopolize a single search term, as opposed to keywords.
This way, you can radically increase the relevance of your ads to what users are searching instead of keywords that you hope are relevant to their intent. This, in turn, should improve their performance as well as other needle pushing metrics.
Why Are Single Keyword ad Groups -SKAGs- a Must For AdWords ROI?
So why exactly are SKAGs so vitally important to optimizing your AdWords account?
Simple really: the more relevant your ads are to your target audience, the better your metrics will look to Google.
Improving the relevance of your ads will narrow your audience a bit (I’ll explain how later), but that smaller audience should have a higher click-through-rate (CTR).
This is because you’re only targeting a single search term, so your ad is much more likely to be relevant to their search intent.
Furthermore, you’ve improved two significant Quality Score factors: relevance and expected CTR.
Here’s what some other AdWords accounts look like when using the SKAG approach:
Relevance, Quality Score, And Expected CPC
Message match is a big part of AdWords success, and it’s at the root of the logic behind SKAGs.
Generalized keyword targeting (relying on broad match) leads to ads and landing pages that are strained to be relevant to too many search terms.
SKAGs take it one step further and create a streamlined and unified experience for the user. Not only that, but by improving your ads’ relevance and expected CTR, SKAGs also improve your Quality Score.
Now, Quality Score is a bit of a black box. But, for basic purposes, all you need to know is that Google is making money every time your ads get clicked on. So it likes it when your ads have a higher expected CTR, and will reward you accordingly with a cheaper cost per click (CPC).
Yeah, you read that right. SKAGs not only improve the actual performance of your ads, but they also save you money too.
How to Set Up Your Single Keywords Ads Group
Now that you’ve read up on how valuable SKAGs can be to your AdWords account setup, I bet you want to learn how to build them.
Good thing for you they’re pretty darn easy to set up. 😉
If you want to dive deeper into how to set up your AdWords account with SKAGs, you can read this blog post on the 19 Reasons SKAGS Always Win.
But if we are covering the basics, you first want to identify your root keyword.
After you’ve chosen your root keyword, you need to make use of all the different keyword match types available to you in AdWords (except for broad match).
- “phrase match”
- [exact match]
Why skip ordinary broad match? Because each different match type comes with a different degree of Iceberg Effect.
And guess which one has the largest hidden iceberg? That’s right: broad match.
The reason behind using all three of the match types on a single search term (or root keyword) is two-fold.
For starters, even if someone searches the long tail variation, your phrase or modified broad match type will still allow your ad to show. On the other hand, removing broad match removes the large surplus of vaguely interested traffic that was hurting your Quality Score.
After you’ve set up the actual ad group, you can move onto the ads.
This is where you get to improve the relevance of your ads by inserting the search term everywhere you can to make sure the user sees and clicks.
As you can see in the above image, it’s the opposite of the Iceberg Effect taking place.
Now, you may want to take this one step further and continue the segmentation down to the keyword match type level. Why not build single keyword ad groups? Why not only use exact match?
I’ll stop you right there and warn you that the drawback of SKAGs is that the decreased audience size makes testing difficult.
So, further dilution of the audience would make testing nearly impossible—which makes SKAGs that perfect sweet spot of granularity and functionality.
How to Optimize Your SKAGs
So you’ve set up your SKAGs and bid strategy. Now it’s time to optimize your ad groups.
Here’s another big win for SKAGs: all you need to do to optimize these bad boys is go into your Search Term Report (we recommend you do this weekly) and find any new search terms that are relevant to your SKAG.
Make a list, and upload that list to your original SKAG as ad group level negative keywords, so there is no overlap.
Then, you can create a brand new, secondary SKAG around your new search terms.
Just be sure to use ad group level negative keywords in both SKAGs to ensure they are each mutually exclusive.
Single Keywords Ads Group: A Smaller Target For Bigger Wins
The logic is pretty straightforward: You don’t want to pay for clicks that have little to no chance of converting — that’s just throwing your money on the pyre.
It’s so much better only to have your ad triggered for highly relevant search queries. And the best way to do this is to ramp up the granularity of your account.
Now, rest assured, SKAGs can build up fast.
And yes, you’re going to be combing through a sea of ad groups when you’re viewing anything from the campaign level.
But it’s better to have an overly granular view of how each ad group and ad variant is performing than having to click through each campaign to see your winners and losers.
This way, you can safely spend your ad budget with the peace of mind that the clicks you’re generating are coming from users who actually were searching for what you’re offering.
The better you can align your PPC marketing strategies to the actual behaviors and search intents of real-world users, the better off you’re going to be.
SKAGs may give you a smaller target, but they will almost always bring you much more significant wins.
Johnathan Dane is the Founder of KlientBoost, a PPC agency focusing on CRO and aggressive testing.
He has grown two separate agencies to more than $5M in annual revenue in less than three years.
If you like what you read and want to skyrocket your PPC Performance, feel free to check out their site for more info!”