What are SKAGs?
SKAG stands for Single Keyword Ad Group which represents a particular approach to paid search marketing that revolves around creating dedicated ad groups for relevant keywords.
Distributing your keywords across separate ad groups can not only improve your CPC (among other metrics) but also have a positive impact on the overall ROI of your Google Ads campaign.
Shortly after it was first introduced, the SKAG approach has earned a well-deserved spot on the PPC best practices list and has garnered wide acclaim among digital marketers and agencies alike. This blog post will explore some of the science behind SKAGs and what makes them uniquely beneficial to most paid search strategies.
Google’s PPC platform has always been an enigma of ever-changing metrics, ranks, and scores but Quality Score is by far one of the most vital elements to your campaign’s performance.
The whole concept of SKAGs was devised with a singular purpose in mind - to maximize your Quality Score potential which in turn contributes to higher click-through and conversion rates.
How can SKAGs improve your ad relevance and Quality Score?
Maintaining a consistently high Quality Score is no easy feat, but it is well worth the effort if your ultimate goal is to make Google Ads a viable customer acquisition channel. One of the biggest contributors to the quality of your ads is how relevant they are to the search term that triggered them.
- SKAGs are easily one of the most efficient ways to make sure your ad is a near-perfect match for the keyword intent.
Having only one keyword to worry about when setting up your ad group means having ultimate control over your ad text and how much it will resonate with the person behind the search query.
SKAGs may not be the answer to every PPC campaigns challenge but they have a proven track record of lowering your cost-per-conversion which ultimately leads to higher ROI.
What is Quality Score and why is it critical to your Google Ads performance?
Google generates most of their revenue from advertising on search, therefore their focal point has always been to provide the best search experience for users. Given that, they prioritize serving ads that offer a better match for the search term and have higher CTR potential. These ads tend to generate the most clicks and therefore, the most amount of revenue for them.
One of the more important metrics that informs Google’s assessment of how much effort you’re putting into your paid search strategy is Quality Score — a way for the algorithm to quantify how relevant and useful your ad might be to the search query that triggered it.
Google Ads is tailored towards campaigns that actively pursue creating more relevant ads for the keywords they’re bidding on. Investing a bit of time into adjusting your campaign settings and tweaking your ad copy will go a long way towards making every CPC penny count.
How is your Quality Score determined?
Quality Score is meant to serve as an insight into the quality of your ads and landing pages based on their estimated performance during ad auctions.
If your ad was well received and led to an answered search query - you get on the good side of Google Ads’ algorithm which often comes in the shape of higher Ad Rank and lower CPC.
Fortunately, most of the metrics that influence your Quality Score can be easily improved upon with the right knowledge and tools at your disposal.
There are 3 main factors that contribute to your Quality Score:
- Expected CTR — how likely is a person to click on your ad when triggered by a given search query. Your expected click-through rate is calculated at the time of the auction and is largely based on your keyword’s performance in the past, taking the position of your ad into account.
- Ad Relevance — how relevant is your ad to the keyword that triggered it. The more tailored your ad — the better chance it has of being exactly what the user is looking for. This seems like a no-brainer on paper but can get pretty challenging to maintain without a strictly organized campaign structure. The challenge with having multiple keywords in an ad group is making sure that your ads are still relevant to every single keyword on that list.
- Landing Page Experience — how useful your landing page will be to the person who clicked on your ad. Your landing page should have a well-organized structure and contain useful information pertaining to the subject. Irrelevant and difficult-to-consume content means a bad experience for the user which Google is trying to avoid at all costs, hence taking the landing page experience into account when assigning Quality Score.
How can SKAGs improve your Quality Score?
Introducing SKAGs into your Google Ads strategy can have a positive impact on 2 out of 3 factors that affect the Quality Score of your ads. With the right strategy in place, having tailored ads for each keyword that triggers them is bound to improve your ad relevance and expected CTR.
- Splitting your keywords across multiple ad groups gives unparalleled control over your ad targeting and empowers you to make sure that whatever search term your ad shows up for — it’s as close to the user’s search intent as it can possibly be.
Aside from contributing to a higher Quality Score, structuring your campaign around single keyword ad groups offers more transparency over keyword performance and makes it considerably easier to optimize your strategy based on the individual performance metrics.
As long as Quality Score continues being one of the main deciding factors behind your Ad Rank and cost-per-click, SKAGs will remain a go-to approach for improving the quality of your ads and keywords.
How is SKAG different from a regular campaign structure?
Beyond the obvious difference of limiting the number of keywords per ad group, SKAGs rely on using multiple keyword match types at once to achieve the required reach. Since your ad group is built around a single keyword — you need to make sure it reaches the widest audience possible to make it a worthwhile investment of time and effort on your part. Using a combination of different match types covers a lot of search term variations giving you plenty of opportunities to show your ads.
Keyword match type is one of the many aspects of paid search marketing that can be made easier by introducing SKAGs into the workflow. Having the keyword match type pre-determined by your PPC strategy allows you to devote more attention to things like keyword research and writing converting ad copy.
What are keyword match types in Google Ads?
Keyword matching types are a way to define the reach of your paid search campaign by tethering your ads to specific search terms. Picking the right match type helps your ads reach the right target audience and avoid wasting resources on less relevant search terms. Aside from using negative keyword, match types are your best bet to fine-tune your reach and make sure your ads find their way in front of people with highly relevant search intent.
There are 4 main types of keyword matching:
- Broad Match — the default match type for all keywords offering the highest reach across a wide range of keyword variations (synonyms, misspellings, related searches, etc.). Broach match can be great during discovery stages, but less so when trying to optimize your campaign and increase the Quality Score of your ads.
- +Broad +Match +Modifier — serving as an extension of the broad match type, modifiers are meant to give you more control over your reach and make sure your ads are targeted towards more relevant search terms while offering plenty of flexibility through additional words before, after, or in between your +modifiers.
- “Phrase Match” — matches your ads with specific phrases (or their close variations) and allows for additional words before or after the phrase. The main goal is to preserve the underlying meaning of your “phrase” which sometimes prevents your ad from being shown if any unrelated words were added to the middle of the phrase. Phrase match is meant to limit unwanted impressions while still allowing for some flexibility as opposed to the exact match type.
- [Exact Match] — limits your ad to search terms that match your exact keyword (or close variations). This match type offers a lot more control over when your ad is shown in an effort to improve your ads’ relevance to the target audience which often leads to better CTR and more conversions. With this match type, your ad only shows when the search query matches up perfectly with your exact match keywords.
What are the best keyword match types for SKAGs?
Unlike a more conventional campaign structure where you would use different match types depending on your strategy and campaign goals, a single keyword ad group takes advantage of +Broad +Match +Modifiers, “Phrase Match” and [Exact Match] at the same time.
Let’s say you’re looking to find more customers for your graphic design studio and you’ve made the wise choice of adopting a SKAG approach for your Google Ads strategy. Your keywords for a hypothetical ad group tailored to branding work would look like this:
+custom +logo +design
“custom logo design”
[custom logo design]
As your campaign grows and takes on more SKAGs, you’ll want to add negative keywords to your ad groups to make sure they’re not competing for impressions for the same search terms.
How many Single Keyword Ad Groups do you need?
The sky is the limit when it comes to the number of SKAGs you should have for a successful Google Ads campaign (if “sky” is no more than 20,000 which is the official ad group limit per campaign according to Google).
There’s no magic number for ad groups that you should be aiming for. The beauty of SKAGs is that you can put as much effort into optimizing and growing your campaign as you’d like. The ad groups you already set up are fairly self-sustainable and require little effort to maintain them. If you do have some time to spare though - your search terms report offers a virtually endless supply of new keywords for more SKAGs and targetting attunement.
How to find new keywords for SKAGs?
Thankfully the days of racking your brain for possible keyword variations are behind us and modern-day marketers have no shortage of keyword research tools at their disposal. One of the best sources for keyword insights by far is your very own search terms report from a previously created ad group. Who better to tell you which keywords to focus on than the target audience you’re trying to reach.
The main difference from a regular PPC approach is that instead of adding a promising keyword from your search terms report to your keyword list, you create a new SKAG for that keyword and add negative keywords to your other ad groups to avoid competing for the same search terms. This allows you to expand your reach while maintaining ad relevance by tailoring your ad copy to the new keywords.
Your SKAG campaign is only as limited as your keywords supply so as long as you keep track of your search terms report and individual performance of your keywords — you should have no issue growing and optimizing your campaign for better results across the board.
SKAGs in a nutshell:
Single Keyword Ad Groups are designed to focus on a single keyword per ad group in an effort to make your ads more relevant and tailored to the search terms that trigger them. Higher ad relevance leads to improved Quality Scores which in turn contribute towards lower CPC rates.
Introducing SKAGs in your paid search strategy can also help optimize your campaign structure and streamline the process of refining your keywords list. The search term report from existing SKAGs makes it easy to identify high-potential keywords that could benefit from having a dedicated ad group of their own.
With a little bit of help setting it up, a SKAG-based campaign often requires less time to maintain and less effort to scale up. If you’re looking to get more out of your Google Ads budget while investing less time into managing your campaign - SKAGs can be a worthwhile addition to your PPC workflow.
We’re always happy to answer questions via email or live chat but this list should help with some of the more common SKAG-related questions.
- SKAG stands for Single Keyword Ad Group and is used to describe a particular Google Ads / adwords account campaign structure where each keyword has a dedicated ad group with the end goal of increasing the overall click through rate.
Being the only keyword within the ad group, it works best when used with +Broad +Match +Modifiers, “Phrase Match”, and [Exact Match] at the same time.
- The answer is most likely a resounding “yes”. As long as you rely on paid search to drive traffic to your website/app/social media - Single Keyword Ad Groups can boost your ROI (through lower CPC) which is often the ultimate goal with digital marketing efforts.
- It most certainly would, which is exactly what makes SKAGs so useful in your PPC strategy. More targeted reach means tailored and highly relevant ads that match the search terms much better and increase conversion rate.
There’s no minimum requirement to start reaping the benefits of SKAGs so you can start small and add new keywords/ad groups at a pace that works best for you. Much like any digital marketing channel, the more effort and time you invest - the higher your ROI potential.