Finding a perfect account structure with Google AdWords and Bing Ads can be like chasing a golden unicorn with a myriad of variations by industry, company size, locations, targeting options and goals. A SKAG (Single Keyword Ad Group) is a long known method for organising campaigns and deciding on the overall account structure – by having a unique ad group per keyword. We will also discuss an alternative approach of ad group organisation which can be called a STAG (Single Themed Ad Group). A STAG is perhaps more suited to newer Google updates such as keyword matching/intent and automatic bidding. Using just STAG or a combination mix of SKAG and STAG can help create an effective campaign and overall account structure for ongoing management and optimisation.
Keyword matching no longer matches like it used to! In the old days, an exact match was exact- but nowadays it is more akin to an intent match.
In the past. some PPC managers would also use SKAG’s to group not only keywords, but keyword match types as well. With match types no longer matching like they used to, grouping keywords by match types is certainly not a good option. The various ad groups would compete against each other, as it would require an overly complex negative keyword set up to prevent ad serving problems.
Automatic Bidding / Machine Learning
With Google’s automatic bidding strategies such as target CPA and target ROAS increasing in popularity, this is another reason not to overdo SKAG setup, and use a STAG structure instead. If you over do SKAG it will make machine learning bidding less effective because conversion data will be split across more ad groups and campaigns. This will be slower learning, or less comprehensive learning by the machine.
Why Set up SKAG (Single Keyword Ad Groups)
SKAG’s can (or could) increase ROI (reduce costs, as well as increase traffic, leads and sales due to a higher ad ranking position and lower cost per click). One traditional reason a SKAG is able to improve performance is the advert contains the target keyword for each specific ad group. This improves ad relevance and CTR which improves quality score which reduces the cost, making it possible to buy more of the traffic, leads and sales due to a higher position.
SKAG is 80/20 pareto. Do not over do it!!
Google calculates the quality score using an account weighted average of impressions, therefore If keywords do not get many impressions, they will have little to no effect on the account average quality score.
Keywords that get the most traffic have the most significant overall effect on the account average quality score- and therefore the best opportunities for SKAG. So it is getting a balance between scaling the account with more ad groups vs having a smaller more manageable account with only the main keywords setup as SKAG. When SKAG is overdone, it makes the account cumbersome and hard to manage, with diminishing returns on benefits.
In the screenshot below, the long tail keywords have been split into too many SKAGs. In this instance, SKAG is overdone resulting in an account that is cumbersome to make manage and make future changes.
Example of Overdone SKAG
- The 1st ad group (Decorators) is the head keyword (also known as root/stem keyword) – containing exact and modified broad match. This is a single word. The ad group can be paused, or used as RLSA only, or have low bids, or just use the exact match keyword. (E.g. profession name exact match- [Dentist], [Plumber]
- The 2nd ad group is Decorator companies. This is the head and body keyword.
- The 3rd-7th ad groups are long tail keyword variations of the head and body keyword, which makes the campaign bulky and cumbersome.
Having one ad group for decorators- companies- is sufficient for all these long tail keyword variations. The advert will have increased relevance because contains the keyword/s (company & decorators).
We could refer to this ad group as a STAG (Single Themed Ad Group)- with the theme being head & body keyword – company, within the decorator’s campaign.
What is a 20KAG
A 20KAG (20 keyword ad group) is vague- but it means grouping the keywords into closely matching themes. The theme is implied by the 20 keyword limit. Google often refers to 20 keyword ad groups as a general guideline- and an effective starting point for building the new campaign from keyword lists. A 20 keyword ad group implies grouping the keywords into granular themes using a numeric metric. This is a very effective technique for building new accounts.
What is a STAG?
STAG is an explicit single themed ad group. There is no limit on the number of keywords- but they must all match one distinguished theme. (E.g. services, company, contractors, firms, agencies, practices etc). These themes are modifiers of the base keyword. The base word being the specific profession, product or theme. (E.g. Accounting services, builder services, cleaning services, locksmith services, car hire services, etc
The ad group is named by this single theme shared by all keywords within the ad group. If an ad group is a STAG it’s a name that represents the idea better than a 20 keyword ad groups. Different match types are always placed in the same ad group. A single themed ad group seems like the most sensical approach because it is not putting every keyword into the same ad group, and ad relevance is still a factor for quality score.
How to setup and build a SKAG account structure
- Keyword research, then create campaigns based on product, service category or theme. (e.g. Accountants, Book Keepers, Tax advisors).
- Create one ad group per keyword.
- Name ad group the keyword name.
- Include the specific keyword in the ad copy. (for each respective ad group).
- Do not split ad groups by match type (especially with recent updates to keyword matching and machine learning bidding)
How to setup and build a STAG account structure
- Keyword research, then create campaign/s based on product, service category or theme. (e.g. Accountants, Book Keepers, Tax advisors).
- Identify the main themes of each campaign. (e.g. services, agency, contractor, professional, quotes, etc, then group keywords around these. (This is fewer Ad groups than a SKAG).
- Name Ad group the theme name. (Not the keyword name).
- Expand keyword match types (within same ad group)
- Include the keyword in the Ad copy. (for each respective ad group theme).
Popular Themes for Ad Groups
Services, company, agency, commercial, bespoke, contractors, local, near me, Professional, cheap, quality recommended, reliable, reputable, services, trusted, Firms, Experts
Tools & Tips for skags/ stags ratios
- Use word frequency tools
- Use keyword grouping tool within Google Keyword Planner.
- Use AdWords Editor Ad Group Builder
- Use Excel to copy the keyword name into the ad group name
A SAAG (Single Audience Ad Group)
A SAAG is a SKAG equivalent of the Google Display Audience targeting, Facebook Ads audiences etc. Having one audience per ad group. For example, having one managed placement per ad group to test ad variations on different websites.
While every account varies, a SKAG works best when you have fewer keywords and search term variations. A STAG works better with more keywords that can be grouped into similar themes. Getting the right balance between a SKAG and STAG can help get the optimum account structure to reduce costs and improve ongoing manageability. With the updates to keyword matching and machine learning bidding, this is further weight to favour a STAG account organisation over the older SKAG. If you need specialist help setting up and managing Google Ads, learn more today.