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Mastering Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAGs)

Single keyword ad groups, or SKAGs, can help boost campaign performance. Get started with this Google Ads strategy today.

When you run a business, you have to find ways to reach customers. Traditionally, advertising is the best tool for the job, but in the modern world, there are a lot of alternatives available. You can run social media campaigns, work on search engine optimization, create an event, stream videos, and leverage countless other ideas that have helped plenty of businesses.

If you’re not already a master of these ideas, there’s one option that is easier and often more effective than the rest when you market your small business: paid advertising. While not all advertising is created equal, Google pay-per-click advertising allows you to set your own budget and utilize advanced computer tools that help you find your best customers.

When you use Google AdWords, you’ll want to explore single keyword ad groups (SKAGs).

Understanding single keyword ad groups

What is a SKAG? At the most basic level, this is a way to use Google Ads campaigns to target specific keywords and demographics. The concept can be applied to advertising and marketing outside of Google Ads, but we can look at a specific example to better understand what it is and how it works.

When you use Google Ads, the software will walk you through some decisions to help you tell the algorithm what and who to target with your advertisements. As an example, if you’re selling fishing gear, you’ll want to let Google Ads know that during the setup process. Hopefully, you also know who your top buyers are, so you can use the algorithms in a way that helps you target people who actually buy fishing gear.

Specifically, you can use several different keywords on your Ads campaign. In order to make use of SKAGs, the idea is to have a unique ad for each individual keyword. If “fishing” is one of your keywords, you want an ad to go with that keyword. Tackle, boating, fly, and other fishing-related keywords might be in your campaign, and each of those will have a unique ad.

Keep in mind that even though you’re focusing on unique keywords, you can have multiple keywords (including negative keywords) in a single campaign.

This is where the idea of SKAGs comes from. Each ad hones in on its one keyword. By doing this, you can still utilize a broad approach to advertising, but the ads that viewers see are streamlined, making them more impactful, easier to remember, and highly effective.

Single keyword ad groups vs. single theme ad groups

SKAGs make even more sense as an advertising model when you compare them to other options. Another prominent strategy is to use single theme ad groups (STAGs).

STAGs are an evolution of the concept of SKAGs. When SKAGs were first developed, algorithms weren't as sophisticated as they are today. Misspelled search queries and related but not identical keywords might not pair potential customers with your ad campaign.

STAGs were developed to help with this problem. Instead of using literal keywords, STAGs focus on themes. Sticking with the example of selling fishing gear, a SKAG might use the word “tackle box” for one of the ad groups. Meanwhile, a STAG would put the whole campaign under the theme of “fishing gear.”

It simplifies your inputs as the advertiser, making it easier to manage your advertising budget. After all, Google typically charges per click on their ads, and if you have various different ads running for each of your keywords, it can get complicated when you try to budget for each of them.

Ultimately, the theme approach allows you to consolidate advertising ideas into generalized themes without sacrificing your ability to reach relevant prospects.

Considering all that, does it mean that SKAGs are dead and that all advertising should use STAGs instead?

No, and there are a couple of reasons why.

First, keyword matching is much more sophisticated than it used to be, and misspelled search terms will bring searchers to the right ads. The theme approach is no longer needed to fix this specific problem.

Second, some campaigns do better with SKAGs because they provide more useful content for keywords that might not be similar.

Here’s an example.

Deep sea fishing and fly fishing are very different sports, but a single manufacturer might make gear for both activities. You probably don’t want your deep sea gear to be in the same campaign as the fly gear (with some possible exceptions). As a result, you can advertise these very different products by putting them in distinct SKAG groups. This is a classic example of using multiple ad groups in a single campaign.

You can use different themes as well, but if your product or service line is segmented enough, SKAGs will be more efficient than STAGs.

Of course, you can take advantage of both strategies. You can have a STAG campaign where the theme is a location you want to target, and you can run a SKAG campaign targeting a brand new product you want to let everyone know about.

Why are SKAGs important?

So far, we’ve looked at some general ways that SKAGs can work for you when you utilize a Google Ads account. Now, it’s time to look at some of the specific benefits you can expect from a successful SKAG campaign. In short, SKAGs help you generate responsive search ads, but the gains from that approach might surprise you.

Click-through rates

The primary reason to use the SKAG approach is to increase click-through rates and ad relevance. You’re trying to show your ads to people who will click on them and follow the link. SKAGs tend to provide the best click-through rates of any online advertising.

This is because they're specific. You’re showing ads to people who searched for the exact thing you already sell, so it’s not surprising that they'll click and follow through more often than with less-specific advertising.

Cost per click

The cost-per-click metric also benefits businesses. Because your SKAG Google Ads are specific, people who aren’t likely buyers are very unlikely to click on the ads. That means that your total pay-per-click cost goes down relative to the size of your ad campaigns.

At the same time, your conversion rate tends to drive higher engagement with good PPC SKAG planning. Put the two together, and you’re looking at a great bottom line. The net cost (or gain) per click is typically much higher with SKAGs.

Ad performance tracking

Outside of raw revenue numbers, SKAGs offer another interesting advantage. They’re easier to track. In fact, you get a search term report for each existing ad group.

Since each keyword has its own ad group, it’s easy to see which keywords and ads perform better or worse. Google already tracks these numbers for you, so you simply have to review your SKAG numbers to see what works and what doesn’t.

This is most notable when you compare SKAGs to STAGs. With a theme, it’s hard to know which specific keywords generate the best results, so there’s more guesswork involved with performance reviews. When you stick with SKAGs, there's no mystery; you can use the data to inform your ad spending as you go forward.

How to optimize SKAGs

If all of this sounds interesting, you must still organize your SKAGs to make them work well.

If all of this sounds interesting, you must still organize your SKAGs to make them work well.

You've probably already guessed this, but you'll use performance data to optimize your SKAGs. With your initial campaign, you’ll do your best to look for profitable keywords and ads for them (keyword research goes a long way). Once you put them out there, data will drive the rest of your strategy..

The first thing to consider when optimizing your SKAGs is the match type. You’ll get results from Google that tell you when something is a broad match, a phrase match, or an exact keyword match. If you’re getting more broad matches than exact matches, you can look at what modifiers Google added in order to justify the match. If one shows up a lot, you should steer into it and make that one of your keywords.

You also want to look at click-through and conversion rates. A keyword that doesn’t match but generates great click-through and conversions are fine. The algorithm is adjusting nicely; you can let it run its course.

Keywords that aren’t getting clicks or are getting clicks but not conversions should be reassessed. After all, if you invest in paid traffic and it doesn’t generate sales, you’re taking a loss.

Unfortunately, there's no magic, general strategy for optimizing SKAGs. It’s a matter of reviewing the data and making specific decisions each step of the way. However, you’ll be able to see exactly how well each keyword does in the same ad group, and that takes a lot of guesswork out of the process.

Use SKAGs in your next keyword strategy

SKAGs can help boost your online presence and drive potential customers to your business. In order to ensure your SKAG strategy is a success, it's important to conduct thorough keyword research and understand your audience to select the best keywords possible.

With Mailchimp, you can run targeted ads designed to reach your audience at just the right time. Get started with Mailchimp and engage consumers with paid ads today.

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