Why You Should Be Using SKAGs

Going Against Google’s Recommended Best Practices is Actually in Your Best Interest

When you begin creating a campaign within Google Ads, Google will assist with setup along the way. At every decision point, they will have suggestions for what you should do, designed to help you understand the different choices available and choose the best option based on your campaign goals and your budget. 

However, always remember that Google’s primary motivation is to spend your money. Most recommendations they have are helpful to follow, but sometimes, what’s best for Google may not be best for your unique business. Through testing and experience, we’ve found that a few things that they advise marketers to do are not typically going to give anyone, regardless of industry, optimal results. 

One of those recommendations is about how to create ad groups. If you Google “SKAGs”, you’ll quickly recognize that there is a raging debate going on between two tribes: those who advocate for SKAGs and those that don’t.

We’re Google Ads experts (check out our certifications) and we fall into the former camp. In this blog post, you’ll learn why, and why we think that you should use SKAGs in all of your campaigns! 

What are SKAGs?

SKAGs stands for single keyword ad groups. You create one specific ad for each keyword that you bid for, rather than putting multiple keywords in one ad group. 

Let’s point out the differences further by taking a look at two visual examples.

The first is a comparison screenshot from inside a Google Ads account for the business we own (bridesmaids robes). On the left, you see how SKAGs appear; each individual keyword has a matching ad group that no other keywords belong to. The keyword “floral satin robe” belongs to the ad group of the same name. On the right, you see the a campaign where one ad group (“ad group 2  (gifts)”) includes multiple related keywords (“bridal party gifts”, “cheap bridesmaid gifts”, “bridesmaid favors”, etc.). 


SKAGs Campaign Structure

Traditional Campaign Structure

The second is a conceptual example, to display the organizational hierarchy of SKAGs. On the left, you see that because each ad group only contains one keyword, only one ad, specific to the ad group, is shown per keyword; every keyword gets a different ad. The left graphic shows how when multiple keywords are placed in the same ad group, all of the same ads are triggered. 


SKAGs Campaign Structure

Traditional Campaign Structure

Benefits of SKAGs

Using SKAGs guarantees that the keywords you bid on match up with the search terms that you pay for. It’s the most granular way to structure your account. There are several reasons why using SKAGs is going to be more effective, but perhaps the most convincing argument for SKAGs is the relevance that’s achieved;  you show the user exactly what they’re looking for. If you have highly relevant ads, you’re going to get a higher CTR (click through rate), which leads to a higher Quality Score, which leads to a lower CPC (cost per click), which leads to a lower cost per conversion. Multiple keyword ad groups spend your budget on clicks that are way less likely to result in conversions and revenue because they are not as specific to the search term. 

Greater relevance = less spending = better results.

For example, say you operate a furniture store. The keyword “couch” is triggered by a search term “black leather couch”. If you have a single keyword ad group structure in place, the user is shown an ad for black leather couches. If you do not have a single keyword ad group structure in place, the user may be shown an ad for generic couches, or leather couches in different colors. Which user do you think is more likely to click on the ad and convert?

One popular argument against using SKAGs is that it clutters the account. However, it actually gives you better data visualization – you don’t have to click on the ad groups to see all of the keywords they contain, because you know that each only contains one, and the name tells you what it is. You have greater control over bidding – you can even set keyword-level mobile bid adjustments – and over your campaign in general, because you can see how individual keywords, ads, and ad groups are performing, rather than having to guess about which keyword may be throwing one ad group off. 


Two Methods


There are two ways that you can implement SKAGs in your campaigns. 

One is to include one keyword in each ad group, but include 3 match types in the ad group for every keyword in the campaign. 

  • +black +leather +couch
  • “black leather couch”
  • [black leather couch]

(Broad match modifiers trigger ads for relevant long tail versions of your keyword; phrase match will trigger ads if the search term is in the correct order but may include additional keywords; exact match has to be the exact same as the keyword.) When you have all of the match types in one ad group, under a single root keyword, you can test match type performance. 

The other is to segment further by putting only one match type with one keyword (turning one SKAG into 3). So, running with the furniture example, your campaign would include:

Ad Group 1 (+black+leather+couch) > Keyword (+black+leather+couch)
Ad Group 2 (“black leather couch”) > Keyword (“black leather couch”)
Ad Group 3 ([black leather couch]) > Keyword ([black leather couch])

And so on, for all of your ad groups. Though some say this divides the account too much, we prefer this method, but it’s more than just preference; we’ve seen real revenue results come from this ad structure over and over again. Our process has been tried and proven. Because match types vary in CPC and conversion rate, we split them into their own campaigns. Budgets are set at the campaign level, so it gives us more control over spend and more opportunities to optimize. 



How to Implement SKAGs

Structuring your account using SKAGs will make your campaigns stronger, and while it takes more time and effort than a traditional approach, it’s not difficult. First, create a new ad group using the name of the keyword you’ll enter. You’ll be prompted to add keywords; only add one, not a variety like Google suggests. Then, write at least three ads, all that are relevant to to the keyword and search term. Finally, enter the destination landing page (which should be highly relevant to the keyword and search term as well). 

It’s an involved process, but a simple one. Stay tuned for our video tutorial on this topic next week, where we’ll take you into an account and show you how to add SKAGs step by step!


Do you have any questions about SKAGs? What’s your experience with them? What other arguments have you heard against them? Empirical360 has produced millions of dollars in revenue for our clients. We have managed over 99 accounts, which gives us the experience and skills we need to help other marketers take their online strategy to the next level! Contact us today if you have questions or want to learn more about how we can help you grow your business!