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How to Transform Your AdWords Performance with SKAGs

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SKAGs

With so many do-it-yourself PPC blogs and resources out there on the web, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and even worse, paralyzed, by all the ideas you “should” be using.

Some people say that the more time you spend inside your PPC account, the better. If that were true, then something like “going-through-the-motions” or “changing bids” would be a clear cut winner to explain why your competitors are doing better than you.

They simply spend more time than you do.

But luckily, we know that to not be true. And as you wipe that sweat off your forehead, rest assured I know that you probably have 32 other things to tend to besides PPC. And spending more time on it will not get you excited.

Instead, I want to share an idea that we found at Disruptive Advertising to be very fruitful on our journey to create a successful and fast growing PPC Management company.

Disruptive Advertising -- PPC Management

But, before you even start advertising online, you need to understand your goals. Bidding on some keywords to see what happens is not a good idea.

Most likely, nothing will happen because you didn’t make the effort to make sure your AdWords structure is awesome, that your ads are on point, or your landing page/checkout experience can make any tightwad spend their 401K in one conversion (we’re are still trying to hit this goal ourselves).

So today, we’ll be talking about your AdWords structure, specifically, single keyword ad groups (aka SKAGs) and why they can dramatically change your PPC performance.

Everyone understands that not all business owners are amazing copywriters or flawless designers that can make anyone convert. Instead, you need ideas that are actionable, quick to implement, and can give you noticeable results as soon as possible.

A lot of info on the web come come with very hollow and vague tactics when it comes to setting up an AdWords account the right way. People say that you need to have tight themed ad groups, but unfortunately, a lot of us have different definitions of “tight theme”.

To make sure there’s no interpretive confusion, let’s both decide that the highest level of “tight theme” comes when you have one keyword per ad group. That keyword is your theme.

What we’ve found is that when you use this strategy, all the metrics inside your PPC account (AdWords/Bing Ads) start moving in the right direction. Your CTR goes up, your quality scores go up, your average ad position goes up, while your cost per click and your cost per conversion go down.

Now don’t worry. I’m not asking you to spend an everlasting amount of time to set this up (then I’d be contradicting myself!). Instead, I want you to look and find your 5-10 bread n’ butter keywords and use them for our little experiment.

Found them? Nicely done 🙂

For this experiment, please create a brand new campaign so that we don’t mess with your old data. Because as with any good experiment, we’ll want to compare apples to apples.

Once that campaign is created, take your 5-10 best keywords and create 5-10 new ad groups for them. Each single keyword ad group name should correspond to the keyword you’re creating it for.

Let’s say that you’re a retro arcade subscription company named RetroBox.com that delivers new arcade machines on a quarterly basis (pretty sweet right?). You look at your AdWords account and see that these keywords are your top lead producers:

  1. space invaders arcade machine
  2. arcade pacman machine
  3. retro arcade games for sale
  4. arcade machine repair
  5. retro arcade machines
  6. arcade manufacturing company
  7. arcade delivery

To make this single keyword ad group experiment a success, we’ll need to set up your 7 new ad groups this way:

Ad Group Name
Space Invaders Arcade Machine

Ad Group Keywords
+space +invaders +arcade +machine
“space invaders arcade machine”
[space invaders arcade machine]

Why do we use all three different match types? Simply because we want to see what other search term variants are popular.

Ad Group Ads (make sure your keywords are in headlines and display URLs if possible – have only 2 ads)

Ad 1)
Space Invaders Machine
RetroBox.com/Space-Invaders-Arcade
Get Retro Arcade Machines Delivered.
First Month Free. Sign Up Now!

Ad 2)
Space Invaders Arcade
RetroBox.com/Space-Invaders-Machine
Get Back Your Childhood w/ Arcades.
New One Every 3 Months. Sign Up!

Notice how the description lines are not specific to the keyword. This is on purpose so you can create multiple ad groups fast and only worry about changing the headlines and display URLs to be keyword specific.

As you do this, your relevance between search term (what the visitor actually types into the search engine, not your keyword) and your ad goes up dramatically and you’ll be rewarded with higher CTR, higher quality scores, and all the other good metrics that I mentioned earlier. Kinda like this:

CTR up CPC down

So before you go spend any more time frustrated about why your quality scores are so low or why your minor bid changes don’t get you more conversions, look at single keyword ad groups first. And when you master those, let’s take a look at your landing pages/site to get the party cranking even more.

Party

It may seem to good to be true, but putting your most valuable keywords into single keyword ad groups like this can have a big impact on your overall campaign performance. Go ahead and give it a try. Oh, and don’t be a stranger. Let me know how your experiment goes and what your results are!

Author

Johnathan Dane -- PPC managerJohnathan Dane is the owner of KlientBoost, a California based PPC advertising company that focuses on AdWords management, landing page design, and conversion rate optimization. He’s been interviewed by Google, webinared by KISSmetrics, and podcasted by Unbounce.

 

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  • Matthew Gethins

    The guy that taught me PPC advertising had been doing PPC since before Google had a product, that is before Adwords and he was a big believer in SKAGS. I recently had a problematic account and implemented SKAGS and it has helped. And now this article comes along…a coincidence?

    • It sounds like a number of smart PPC advertisers use SKAGS. Can you describe a bit more how you use them for your campaigns?

  • Carlos

    Skags are great and yes they are one of the best ways to structure your account, but also keep in mind that volume comes into play here. As long as your skags can provide a substantial amount of volume within the ad group (recommend min 2k searched a month) this is awesome. Within the ad group level you need a substantial amount of data to make justified decisions when bidding at the level, plus it gives Google a better predictions of your adnl groups potential future in a shorter period of time. All in all though, I do like skags.

  • Ben Horle

    Hi Jonathan, Great post, Just what I was looking for! just to clarify do I put the
    Ad Group Keywords
    +space +invaders +arcade +machine
    “space invaders arcade machine”
    [space invaders arcade machine]
    in the same adgroup or set up an adgroup for each variant please?

    • Ben Horle

      each variant of mach type*

    • Hi Ben, based on the conversations we’ve had with Johnathan, you create one ad group for each keyword but include all of the variations you mentioned in your comment.

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  • Mark Richardson

    Hey Johnathan,

    I implemented SKAGs for a client about a week now, but I included the broad match version of my keywords in addition to the modified broad, and in many SKAGs the broad match is actually driving the bulk of traffic.

    From reading your post it feels like this is overkill, yes? Could this be hurting our engagement? If I pause the Broad Match versions, will the Modified Broad Match get that traffic?

    Great article, thank you for the tips!

    Cheers,
    Mark