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    The SKAG strategy is a solution focused on the best possible match between an ad and a keyword, so that the maximum quality score can be achieved. SKAG ad groups are Google Ads groups containing only one keyword. SKAG means maximum control and optimization at the lowest possible level. It’s kind of the equivalent of micro-management, where you manually set every detail of the whole, big machine.

    Improving your quality score, increasing your click-through rate (CTR), reducing your ad spend without compromising your results… all of this can be achieved by implementing SKAG. Although this tactic is not widely known, it can prove effective, especially for accounts limited by structure. 

    What are groups of ads with one keyword (SKAG)?

    SKAG is a campaign strategy that includes separate ad groups for each keyword. Assigning a keyword to specific ad groups increases ROI, CTR and ad relevance. This approach improves the overall quality score, reduces costs and enables you to increase whether conversion and sales rates.

    How can an account structure using the SKAG strategy look like?”

    • Groups of ads with a safely high budget within a single campaign
    • One ad group per campaign with a common budget (portfolio), i.e. one campaign = one ad group = one keyword
    • Differentiated number of ad groups containing one keyword per campaign, with each keyword having its own ad group. The budget for each ad group is strategically determined based on the products and services represented.

    Does SKAG increase quality score?

    Quality score is paramount in Google Ads. One Wordstream study proved this by analyzing more than 30,000 Google Ads accounts and found that a 1 point increase in quality score led to a 16% reduction in conversion cost. To improve the quality score, among other things, they began using a method of isolating each keyword in a separate ad group. This translates into heavily optimized ad text and landing pages that closely match the query increasing the quality score and further increasing the probability of conversion (thereby lowering the cost of conversion).

    The second study by Clicteq examined the impact of implementing single keyword ad groups. It found that single keyword ad groups increased CTR by 28.1% over a two-month period. This also translated into an improvement in quality score from a weighted average of 5.56 impressions to 7.95 (on a scale of 1-10).

    Does the SKAG strategy still work?

    Yes, the SKAG strategy used well can produce great results. However, it is worth remembering the correct structure of SKAG and the limitations of this method. In most cases, SKAG methods should include all ad groups in a single campaign with an appropriate surplus, otherwise advertisers will have micro-budgets in different campaigns. This will lead to significant losses and misallocation of budgets.

    Also, SKAGs are designed to help match specific search terms searched by users with displayed ads. For example, if a user searched for “steam and microwave oven,” SKAG would display your ad only to users who searched using that very specific query. The more opportunities to ask a query in a category, the less effective SKAG will be. It will either skip a large portion of the traffic and miss the potential, or fail to cover the current one due to budget allocation.

    Since Google Ads updated its keyword matching concept in 2018, ads with the keywords “gold bars” can also be displayed to users searching for “5g gold bars.” The search goal for both users was the same – to find listings for gold, in bars. Shifting the main focus of Google Ads to the target of keyword searches created a major challenge for the SKAG campaign. 

    On the other hand, even the most experienced copywriters are challenged to create unique ads for SKAG that outperform automated flex ads. 

    Alternative SKAG. What are single-topic ad groups (STAG)?

    STAG is a method of structuring Google Ads campaigns based on themes, one might even say intentions. Single Theme Ad Groups have become the preferred substitute for SKAG since Google Ads updated its definition of similar keyword variations.

    Unlike single keyword ad groups, STAG campaigns do not limit the number of keywords at all. However, the keywords must match the topic group, or at least fulfill the given intent.

    The keywords must match the topic group, or at least fulfill the given intent.

    For example, if the primary keyword is used car, and the variable is brands, then keywords such as bmw used car, or ford used car, must be separated accordingly.

    To segment single-topic ad groups (STAG), for example, you can use such methods:

    • Use a product or service category as an ad group 
    • Use the probability of achieving the highest margin to organize the campaigns, and then group the services or products into thematic categories
    • Use location and market as campaigns, products and services as groups.

    The process of setting up STAG account structures is quite simple:

    • Start by conducting a keyword analysis;
    • After creating a list, remove keywords that may overlap, keeping in mind the subject matter and type of match. Make sure to identify the main topics and group them;
    • Match keywords to groups with similar topics;
    • Write ad text for each based on the topic and variations of the search terms;

    Second alternative SKAG. Hagakure Google Ads Technique

    The Hagakure method for Google Ads is a simplified campaign structure that uses automated tools such as smart rate-setting strategies and dynamic search ads (DSA) to maximize the result, but also account transparency. All of this is designed to better meet today’s automation requirements.

    Till now, marketers have been building quite complex and detailed Google Ads account structures to be able to offer ads that exactly match users’ searches. Hardly surprising, by the way; the system itself rewarded this with a quality score and a better return on investment. SKAG, strict keyword control were top of mind.

    But times have changed and Google Ads has changed even faster.

    1. Google’s machine learning is now much more advanced and implemented in every aspect of the campaign.
    2. Google Ads’ approach to keywords has changed – it now emphasizes relevance, intent, and the user’s path, rather than the spelling itself.
    3. Intelligent Google rate determination is supposed to decide for you. It varies with that, but that’s the goal.

    The Hagakure method for Google Ads is a return to simplicity to reflect these changes – it maximizes campaign effectiveness with simpler account structures built by grouping as much data as possible. In the Hagakure method, you group campaigns based on a structure with more data in each campaign. This gives Google Ads more information so its algorithm can choose the best option for each search (or at least that’s what we’re supposed to think):

    The Hagakure Google Ads structure is governed by the following rules:

    • Use URLs with at least 3,000 impressions per week to optimize automation
    • Create one campaign for each product category for easy account management
    • Use dynamic search ads (DSA) for multiple keywords with low search volume
    • Personalize ads using IF, or other dynamic content insertion functions

    Summary: we have themed ad groups, ETA ads with dynamic parameters, appropriate DSAs in each group, and RLSA support. Personally, I would add to this:

    • Exclude keywords so that traffic doesn’t flow between topic groups
    • Optimizing landing page content and tags so that DSA ads perform better

    Would you like to optimize your Google Ads campaigns?

    Describe your challenges to us and we will suggest a new strategy tailored to your business.

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    Which technique should I choose? SKAG, STAG or Hagakure?

    The Hagakure method will work better if:

    1. You expect ease and transparency in account management The SKAG structure requires the creation of separate ad groups for each keyword, which is time-consuming to manage. With Hagakure, the opposite is true. The method simplifies the account structure by sorting ad groups by keywords that coincide thematically. 
    2. Expect simpler scaling Here the Hagakure method has an advantage, which can be useful in performance marketing With SKAG, each keyword has its own ad group, which can lead to a very complex account structure, especially for a large keyword list. This can make it difficult to scale campaigns effectively. In the case of SKAG, it is difficult to see prospects and lost potential – this data is simply not in the account and you have to search for it on your own.

    The SKAG method can be more effective when:

    1. You expect more control, you are operating in a limited keyword potential and want to use manual optimization methods. SKAG is structured to write specific ad text for each keyword. This leads to a higher level of ad relevance, which in turn can result in a higher quality score and lower cost per click (CPC). Ultimately a higher ROI, but at a higher labor cost and with limited scale.
    2. You want to conduct more thorough experiments With one keyword in one ad group, SKAG allows more detailed testing and optimization of ads. Hagakure does not allow such freedom, and each experiment further considers broad targeting and multiple ad variations. Will the test result then be meaningful? Much depends on what we test and how detailed.

    Finally, the choice of strategy will always be up to you, and it may be that the best option is to combine both strategies or to use the recommendations of Google Ads

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    Tomasz Starzyński
    Tomasz Starzyński

    CEO and managing partner at Up&More. He is responsible for the development of the agency and coordinates the work of the SEM/SEO and paid social departments. He oversees the introduction of new products and advertising tools in the company and the automation of processes.