What are Google Ads SKAGs?

Simple answer, Google Ads SKAGs are Single Keyword AdGroups. The theory behind SKAGs is that you have one keyword per AdGroup meaning you can tailor your Ads and your landing page to support one keyword, thereby increasing the quality score of your keyword and letting you pay less per click.

The setup looks like this if your keyword is red shoe.

You will have AdGroup with only one keyword the exact keyword [red shoe]

A variation of the SKAGs setup is that you have 3 match types in your AdGroup, using the red shoe example you might have the exact match keyword [red shoe], the phrase match keyword “red shoe” and finally the broad modified match keyword +red +shoe in your AdGroup.

In both scenarios, you will create Ads that are optimize on the keyword meaning, you will most likely use the keyword in the headline as well as in the description and send the visitor to a landing page containing the keyword red shoe.

Another 3rd variation that I’ve tried is to place the broad modified and phrase match type of the keyword red shoe in one AdGroup and put the exact match type in another AdGroup in 2 different campaigns. The reason behind this is so that I can control budget between different match types. In most cases, I want as much budget as possible going into my exact match type keyword then if there’s budget left the remaining budget goes to the other match types to discover new exact terms that I can eventually add to the exact campaign, more on this strategy in a later post.

Why are people saying SKAGs will always win?

Overall improved performance, there’s even a long post about this here. It talks about 19 reasons why it will always win. I won’t rewrite any of the reasons, since I mostly agree.

Why are people saying that SKAGs is the worst keyword strategy?

Main reason they are saying is that Google has open up their natural language processor and thereby is now more focused on user intent instead of just pure keywords. And that exact keywords are no longer exact match, Google opened up exact match to include words with different orders and including the conjunctions like “the” and “for”. You can read that article here. I don’t agree though!

First, I’m not seeing the “the” and “for” in this particular keyword I’m going to show you, it’s mostly misspelling of the main the keyword I’ve entered. Which is still valid in my opinion to use a SKAG.

Second, their other arguments against using SKAGs is more logistics based reason not really if the keyword will perform better or not. They listed the following, that I will debunk:

  1. Time-Consuming to Create, if you want the best performance of course sometimes it can be time consuming to create, but time consuming is hardly a strong case to not do it. You can always use a tool, good thing there are marketers like myself out here that will create tools that will help you efficiently build these types of campaigns. check out my Google Ads SKAG tool on this site.
  2. Create a Mess, this is hardly another good reason not to do it. It’s a matter of opinion whether an account is a mess or not, what matters most is if we can drive good results to our clients or not. What do you want? a cute pig with a nice lipstick to pull your chariot when you enter a race or a horse that’s been prepared to do the job their meant to do?
  3. SKAGs actually increase your odds of duplicating keywords. After working on hundreds of accounts. I don’t even think this is a problem at all. I have accounts with keywords that are in 10-20 different AdGroups and my campaigns perform better than my competitors. I tell you it’s NOT a good reason.
  4. SKAGs are an inefficient way to manage budget. Another weak reason against using SKAGs. Their main reason saying this is that some good keywords might miss out because they don’t have the search volume to support itself. But if it’s grouped with good search volume keywords they benefit from a halo affect being in a heavy AdGroup/campaign. I understand that a good keyword could potentially pull up other low search volume keywords in the same AdGroup but what I found is that many low search volume keywords put together will do the same job. Allowing the good keywords running in it’s own SKAG to be unstoppable and win over competitors without a doubt.

How about the latest performance, the article against SKAG didn’t provide much data to support and I will, so you’ll be able to make your decision based on the data and know if you should be using SKAGs.

The data below that I’ll present to you includes data up until March 2019, the sample SKAG has been running for 5 years under my watch, this is the last full month before I wrote this article.

First, the click performance of a Google Ads SKAG:

You can see the click performance data shows you consistency across 4+ years. We went through a few major changes in this particular account. Google Ads regular text ads were discontinued. Google Ads expanded text ads were added. The expanded text ads were expanded even more into 3 headlines and 2 description lines. Multiple Ad extensions where added etc. to name a few and our click performance held up nicely.

Second, the quality performance of a Google Ads SKAG:

The historical quality score as you can see held up well. Our Ad relevance and landing page relevance for this SKAG remained Above average. And the overall quality score is still at 10/10. Do note this keyword is not a brand term, it’s a very generic term in the construction industry.

Third, the competitive performance of a Google Ads SKAG:

Here, the competitive data shows us that we are dominating this keyword for a long time. While it fluctuates year to year, we remain on top of Google Search pages. You can see that we have a really high Search Impression Share for 4-5 years, we are getting 98.15% impression share. And Search Top Impression Share is at 96.24%, basically 96.4% of the time we are about organic search results.

By the way, there is a good reason that the Search Absolute Top Impression Share is only between 68% and 78%. I will have a post about it at some point, there is a very good reason why it is very important that you are not on the Absolute Top!

Finally, the conversion performance of a Google Ads SKAG:

Finally, the conversion data. Our client says that they will make money if the cost of the lead is £80, for this particular keyword we are getting a lead at £7.66 per lead average for the past 4 years. Remember, I mentioned this is a construction keyword thus the leads they get are construction type leads which are really very high value clients.

What happens when you have a campaign full of SKAGs?

The screen shot below shows you a campaign that has 265 SKAGs with performance over 5 years.

One thing I want to mention here, is that, this campaign actually contains only exact keywords with proven conversions. And all of AdGroups are in SKAGs format. You can see in the span of 4-5 years, we’ve gotten over 62,000+ clicks at 9% click through rate. But what’s really important is the clicks are converting at 6.61% at a cost of £14.98 per lead for a construction company. And the company easily makes it worth their while if their cost per lead is £80.

I have build a full suite of automation to manage an account that utilizes SKAGs. I will talk about my strategy in future posts.

Future posts will include: how many campaigns should I create to control SKAGs, when do I move keywords between campaigns, how do you deal with low search volume keywords, how do you deal with negative keywords and all those nuggets are coming soon.

In Conclusion

I still believe that SKAGs is still one the best approaches you can use to build up your campaign. However, I do find combining other strategies to further increase the performance of your account as a whole is important. Strategies like peel and stick, negative keyword sculpting and more. I will talk about these strategies at length in future posts, so please sign up in my news letter and I will make sure you get updated as I post more discoveries and findings.