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    Growing up, I wasn’t the type of kid who knew how to fix things. I wasn’t into cars or building tree houses and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why my Discman kept skipping (yes, it was because I was moving). But there was one thing I was amazingly good at: making Nutella sandwiches.

    Now that I’m older, I’ve realized that I do my best when I play to my strengths. Google AdWords is fortunately one of them. The other is making the occasional grocery store run in a highly effective manner. Let’s just say I still know how to get the essentials.


    And although I know you’re not a beginner when it comes to AdWords, I can’t tell you how many high-budget AdWords accounts I’ve seen ($100k – $500k/month) that are set up in a way that just makes me super sad.

    You can optimize your landing page all you want, but if you want to get the highest ROI from your PPC campaigns, you should also be optimizing the setup of your AdWords account.

    Not only will the ideas I’m about to share improve your CTRs, Quality Scores, ad positions and impression shares plus increase your chances of dating and lower your cost per click, it will also help you improve your conversion rates.

    Get ready to have your mind blown.


    Here are three AdWords mistakes that are hurting your conversion rates… and how to fix them.

    1. You’re not using single keyword ad groups

    One major obstruction to AdWords performance is when people decide to bundle 10 – 20 keywords in a single ad group. Many people do this because all those keywords fit a common theme.

    Sadly, it’s actually recommended by Google to do it this way within the AdWords dashboard:


    What Google fails to mention is that having that many keywords per ad group can make search-to-ad message match hard to achieve.

    Message match is when the search term matches with the ad, and it’s ideal because achieving it means that Google bolds your ad copy to stand out. In the split second it takes someone to decide which ad to click, yours becomes instantly more relevant.

    But when you have that many keywords per ad group, you can never have a 100% message match between the keyword you’re bidding on and the ad that is being triggered to show.

    If you have 10 – 20 keywords per ad group like Google suggests, you’ll end up with a situation like this:

    Can’t believe I actually found a Nutella ad.

    The keywords that are pointing to this one ad could be:

    • Nutella cookies recipe
    • Nutella recipes
    • Nutella brownies recipe
    • Nutella cake recipe
    • Nutella hot chocolate recipe
    • Nutella frosting recipe
    • Nutella cupcakes recipe
    • Nutella ice cream recipe
    • Nutella crepe recipe
    • Nutella cheesecake recipe
    • Nutella recipe book
    • Nutella recipe book urban outfitters
    • Nutella recipe brownie

    As you can quickly see, not all these keywords that you’re bidding on would be relevant to that one ad. In an ideal world, when someone types in “Nutella cookies recipe,” you’d want an ad that has the following headline: “Nutella Cookies Recipe.”

    So how do you go about perfecting your message match? The answer is SKAGs.

    What are SKAGs?

    Single keyword ad groups (aka SKAGs) allow you to control the message match between the keyword and the text ad because only one keyword will trigger that specific ad.

    When you only have one keyword per ad group, your best bet will be to make your ad super specific to that keyword. This means that your ad for the keyword “Nutella crepe recipes” could and should look like this:


    The reason why this ad is better and more relevant is because you have the keyword you’re bidding on in the ad itself. Perfect message match.

    Higher relevancy = higher click-through rate = higher Quality Score = lower cost per click = lower cost per conversion.

    I’d recommend having at least two drastically different ads in each ad group that you test against each other that follow the format below:

    Headline: Include keyword in headline
    Description line 1: Talk about benefits and features.
    Description line 2: Talk about benefits. Call to action!
    Display URL: YourDomain.com/Keyword

    When you create single keyword ad groups, your layout of targeting should start looking like this:


    And when it comes to keywords and match types, try setting them up like this in each ad group:

    +nutella +cookies +recipe
    [nutella cookies recipe]
    “nutella cookies recipe”

    How SKAGs impact your click-through rates

    Here’s an example of what happens to your click-through rates when you continually create single keyword ad groups (screenshot pulled from one of my client’s accounts):


    Your click-through rate slowly starts to grow as your relevancy between keyword and ad increase.

    Here’s what happens to your click-through rates when you don’t:


    The multiple keywords in your ad group ultimately hurt your performance and relevancy, bringing down your click-through rates and Quality Scores (and adding more just makes it worse).

    Here’s another example of a complete single keyword ad group overhaul for the entire account. Notice the spike in click-through rate and the ongoing improvement of it as well.


    You may be thinking, “Well crap Johnathan! I have like, a bazillion keywords, and I use dynamic keyword insertion for almost all of my ads! I can’t do this!


    And all I’ll say is, “Can you afford not to?”

    2. You’re not focusing on ad group level negative keywords

    With PPC, there’s nothing worse than not knowing what you don’t know.

    Inside your AdWords account, you most likely have short tail and long tail versions of different keywords. What you may not know is that your shorter tail keywords could be stealing away impressions from your longer-more-specific-tail keywords. Usually, this happens because AdWords doesn’t know how to correlate the search term to your long-tail keyword because of the match types you’ve chosen.

    This is a problem. You don’t want your newly-created SKAGs to go to waste, right?

    To avoid this scenario, we’ll need to take a very close look within your search term reports and make sure that each search term corresponds with the exact same keyword.

    Using ad group level negative keywords

    One of the things I always strive to do is to get all AdWords accounts to have at least 25 search terms (from highest impressions and down) in a row that are pulling from the exact same keyword. When that happens, your search term report starts looking like this:

    Notice how the search terms correspond perfectly with the exact same keywords?

    To make this (almost ludicrous) level of granularity happen, you’ll need to start adding ad group level negative keywords (not campaign or account level negative keywords) when there’s a discrepancy between keyword and search term. This will then prevent your short tail keywords stealing away impressions from the longer tail ones.

    When you look at your search term report and see search terms that you want to show for but don’t match up exactly with the keyword that you’re bidding on, you’ll want to add that search term as an ad group level negative keyword (from the current ad group) and then create a new ad group for it.

    Ensuring the right ads are being triggered to show

    To make sure your keywords are triggering the right ads to show, you should frequently perform keyword diagnoses. To do this, you’ll want to be at the keyword level view within your AdWords account and click on the “Details” button and then “Keyword diagnosis.”


    Sometimes you’ll find that negative keywords, bids that are too low or internal competition are preventing certain keywords from triggering corresponding ads. No matter the source of the problem, identifying the issue gives you the information you need to optimize your ads and make them hyper-relevant.

    As you continue to do this over time, your Quality Scores, click-through rates and average ad positions will start going up because you’re granulating and improving relevancy.

    3. You’re not using dynamic keyword insertion

    Now that you’ve done your part on the AdWords side, it’s time to start capturing the traffic on your landing pages. Remember the day you created landing pages for every single keyword? No? I sure do.

    Well, luckily, you may never have to go through that.

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    With dynamic keyword insertion, you can essentially take any text on the landing page and change it out with what you specify in the URL parameters. This allows you to create one landing page around a service or product theme and then change the headlines and calls-to-action to fit the keyword that the visitor searched for.

    This will also have a positive impact on your landing page Quality Scores as Google sees that your page is very relevant to the keyword you’re bidding on.

    With dynamic keyword insertion in place, your PPC funnel could essentially look like this:

    By the way, that’s a horrible landing page. No call to action at all. What is that? A parchment?

    A PPC funnel structured like this results in ads and landing pages that are extremely relevant to what people are searching for. Here’s that magic equation again:

    Higher relevancy leads to more conversions

    This trifecta of strategies will make ads more relevant to your leads and will result in increased conversions. It’s a win-win.

    SKAGs, ad group level negative keywords and dynamic keyword insertion work together to improve the relevancy of the ads seen by your visitors and give visitors a consistent experience.

    Combined, these three steps will make your AdWords campaign optimization efforts more accurate than a Stormtrooper trying to do its own laundry.


    So there you have it: a brand new way to structure your AdWords account. I’d love to hear how your initial tests go.

    Do you think this will help with your PPC performance? Why or why not? Please comment below!


    About Johnathan Dane
    Johnathan Dane is the founder of KlientBoost, a California-based PPC agency that's on a mission to grow companies. He's been interviewed by Google and has a German Shorthaired Pointer named Tanner. Connect with him on Twitter.
    » More blog posts by Johnathan Dane
    • Qaz

      Great overview John, sometimes people over complicate Adwords but from an account strategy point of view it really is “as simple as that”

      However, it looks like Google might be directly targeting this with the recent exact match not being exact match changes!

      I do have one big issue with this strategy, I often end up with lots of low volume keywords, which can often not be healthy for your account/overall QS – how do you get around this potential issue?


      • Pierre-André DEWITTE

        As far as I know, low volume keywords have no negative effect until they have a good QS (cross-checked information from official Adwords forums, blogs, etc.).
        Personnally, I encounter sometimes low volume keywords with a QS of 8 or even 10.
        If these keywords don’t make your average QS down, I would keep them active.
        To make sure these keywords triggers an ad impression as soon as the search volume rises, you can put them in a specific adgroup with higher auction. Even if the auction is higher that your average desired auction, as the volume is very low, it won’t cost a fortune :-)

      • Hey Qaz :)

        I wouldn’t recommend doing this for ALL your keywords (to begin with at least). Even with the campaign default setting of allowing the variants and close matches to come through, you still have just as much control as before. In fact, many of our accounts and clients are purposefully set to allow those variants.

        Even if you have low volume keywords, you’ll still see a jump in QS. I would recommend starting first with your top 5-10 volume keywords and see the results. Then you can just pour a cup of your favorite drink, turn on your tunes, and go down the list :)

    • Is it true that Google is abandoning axact keyword match and will feature ads according to relevancy, mispelled words etc?

      • Pierre-André DEWITTE

        Yes Upenyu, but when we look more closely, keyword exact match is already opt-out by default since 2012. Since 2012, when you create a new campaign, by default, you target misspelling copies, plurals, and “very similar searches”. But for now (end of september, more exactly), you won’t be able to choose.
        IMHO, it’s a good thing to automatically target misspellings and plurals (we save time), I don’t know many advertisers who really want to target specifically singular rather than plural (or vice versa).
        The only case that make me say that this change is a bad thing is the change about the delibarately vague term “other close variant” !! What is a “close variant” ?! We’ll have to be very carefully after this Adwords update, and check search termes of each our exact keyword to make sure Adwords doesn’t include some aberrant keywords in its “close variant” logic.

    • Hi Johnathan,

      It’s timely article. I have been working on search impression share and CTR’s this week.

      I got a problem, which was not even solved by google’s team. The problem is that around 50% of our keywords are conflicting with other keywords in the same or other campaigns (all the keywords that I have taken were unique). The error message is something like “this keyword is triggering ads with other keyword in xxcampaign–>xxadgroup”

      Google’s suggestion is just pause all the conflicting keywords..do you agree with that? or you got any fix?


      • That makes no sense for Google to recommend that!

        You’ll want to start using ad group level negative keywords to reduce the internal competition. But be careful. Once you add one negative keyword, you might find you’ll have to add multiple more simply because your short tail keyword ad groups are the ones stealing those impressions.

        • Jonathan, can you give a few examples of the conflict that might exist and how to fix it using neg keywords in ad groups? Thanks

          • Sure things Frank :)

            Let’s say you have two single keyword ad groups.

            Ad group #1 is: vanilla ice cream
            Ad groups #2 is: organic vanilla ice cream

            You’d want to add the ad group level negative keyword of ‘organic’ to ad group #1 so it doesn’t steal away impressions from ad group #2 since it’s a shorter tail keyword that will most likely get the most impressions.

            You can also take a look at some of the other comments where people had the same question you did.

            Hope that helps!

    • We have been testing a very similar strategy lately and it is working, nice to have someone confirm that we were already heading the right direction! One other big jump we noticed in CTR was adding spanish to our languages, even with only english ads for areas with a large hispanic population.

      • That’s awesome Matt!
        Try allowing all languages now :) You still have the filter of the language of your keywords, but you will prevent your ads from showing if the default language setting or Google domain (google.de for example) is set to something else.

    • I’ve been wasting a ton of money on Adwords without seeing much return. So thanks for this tutorial Johnathan :)

      • No problem Matt :)

        Thanks for reading and the comment!

    • Great post – your idea to create negative kw lists at the regarding ad group level from results on the SERP is spot on. Great post overall.

    • Great Post, thanks Johnathan

    • Lidia

      Hi Johnathan!
      I have so many products, countries, campaings and KW that SKAGs are way beyond impossible for me. I’ve chosen to segment my KW in groups of the same KW including variants of the same KW, grouping them by KW not by theme.
      I use DKI on the titles and URLs to get relevance. Of course, the KWs on an Ad Group are negative in all the other groups.

      What do you think about it? Is there any better way to manage my KWs?

      • Hey Lidia :)

        Yea, we’ve run into that problem ourselves as well many times. I feel your pain!

        Here’s the only thing I recommend you do: Take your top 5-10 search terms (from your search term report) and create new ad groups for them with no DKI in the ads.

        Then compare everything as before. Your DKI could already be doing just great for you, but you may be losing out on click share due to short tail search terms that result in short tail/boring ad headlines.

        If you find that this does produce better results, then you have all the proof you need to start your long journey to transform your entire account :)

      • The good news is that actually doing the work is very easy and hence very easily outsourced.

        Organising your campaigns like this is so valuable it’s worth paying someone to do it for you.

    • Well Jonathan, this was all good while it lasted.
      To spice things up, Google are throwing another spanner in the works in few weeks’ time when they make “Search Network with Display Select (SNDS)” mandatory.
      Ad groups with single phrases don’t generally tend to work well on the Google Display Network (GDN).
      What would your thoughts be on using SKAGs when this happens?

      • It’s all about control.

        By not doing SKAGs (even for display), you’re giving up control by having multiple keyword triggers with the same ads. It can definitely work, just like not using SKAGs can work, just not the best way of improving performance.

    • Nice writing, good stuff! Thanx!
      I am wondering why do you set 3 different match types for each keyword. Does it help anything or is it just for testing purposes and you eventually leave just one after while?

      • Thanks man :)

        Eventually you will start refining all ad groups and extracting search terms to create new ad groups and then adding ad group level negative keywords.

        If you start with single keywords with just one match type, then you’re limiting yourself with less impressions to begin with. Over time, the 3 keyword match types will basically become more and more exact match search terms.


        • Marib

          Hi Jonathan!
          Then aren’t different match types within an ad group competing with each other?

          • Hi Jonathan! I have the same doubt as Marib: don’t you risk that the PM & BMM will cannibalize your exact match? Or maybe you just let it run for a few days and then refine? Thanks!

            • Hey Guido :)

              They’re not. If you look at your search term reports after you use this set up, then you’ll see that the search terms are triggering the right keywords.

              BUT, even if they were competing, then it wouldn’t really matter. It’s not driving up your costs, and because of the SKAG, you know your search term and ad will at least be relevant to each other.

              Not a concern to have compared to the upside that SKAGs have :)

    • Hi Johnathan,
      This is a great article:-) First off, that headline grabbed me, second off I love Nutella, thirdly I am a big fan of SKAGS. They can be a pain to setup, but they are worth it in the long run. In my view you are getting paid to do the work (if you do this for a living) so you may as well do it to the best of your ability no matter how big a PITA it is. My questions to you is – why are you including phrase match? Doesn’t BMM basically give you everything that you need with that?
      Again great article for my Friday:-)
      – Adam

      • Haha thanks Adam! :)

        You’re absolutely right about the phrase match, and many times, you’ll find that the phrase match keyword is what gets the lowest amount of impressions between the 3 match types.

        I personally like to include it because I’ve seen many times that the phrase match keyword just has a way better conversion rate than the broad match modifier (BMM). Obviously the BMM has phrase match and other broad match modified search terms, so the results are all jumbled and isn’t crystal clear.

    • Peter

      Great post John.

      I’m wondering, if the idea of this way of setting up the AdWords account is to ensure that the search term is matched with the right ad, why include any other keyword match type than exact in the ad group? Won’t using modified broad match mean that you could end up with a search term triggering an ad which doesn’t have the keyword within the copy?

      Also, within this sort of granular account set up, what would your approach be with the use of broad match keywords for looking for new opportunities?

      I work with an account with a narrow enough focus that I could manage using SKAGs across the account.


      • Hey Peter!

        You’re right on point. The reason for why you would want to use broad match modifier and phrase match keywords is because it would take you 328 times longer to figure out all the exact match variants you want to bid on.

        BMM and phrase match allow to act as keyword mining tools to further create new ad groups for once you look at the search term report. That’s when you start seeing up upward sloping trend in your CTR for example.

        It’s a great idea to use regular broad match keywords once you’ve hit an impression and click ceiling with the 3 match type setup. I treat broad match keywords as pure keyword mining tools, and then extract what they might generate in the search term report.

        Keep a close eye on them though ;)

    • Rob

      Great post Jonathan. Luckily the accounts I manage are small enough to be able to use SKAGs. And manage the landing pages. Otherwise the Unbounce product with DKI on the landing pages is invaluable.

      • Sounds like you’re a champ Rob!

        Thanks for the feedback :)

    • Great tip indeed, well detailed, very helpful and easy to understand. Worth sharing to others. thanks…

    • Jon

      So….you’re one of those types with 500 AdGroups per campaign. Gross….

      • Nick

        haha… Just 500 Adgroups?! I have created spreadsheets with over 100k Adgroups and had to split campaigns due to the Adgroup number limitations.

    • Mark

      Hi Jonathan,

      Do you think Unbounce’s DTR feature helps the “Landing page relevance” factor of QS?

      I’m trying to figure that out.

      • Hey Mark,

        Are you talking about the dynamic text insertion feature? If so, yes, we’ve seen that work for improvement in QS.

        However, sometimes it doesn’t change the Landing page relevance portion, just because that measure is not entirely accurate. And not to mention, are very scary metric to be focused on :)

    • Timur

      Great article Jonathan! Thanks a lot!

      Could you please clarify for me for negative keywords.
      I have two ad groups:
      [real estate in montreux]
      “real estate in montreux”

      Second ad group:
      [real estate in montreux switzerland]
      “real estate in montreux switzerland”

      How should I add neg. keyword in ad group?
      for the first group: switzerland or real estate in montreux switzerland?

      Thanks for your answer!

    • To make it easy, you should just add the negative keyword ‘switzerland’ in the first ad group.

      Hope that helps :)

      • Timur

        Johnathan, thanks! Again, great article.

    • Ian

      Really sound and informative article.

      I can only really back this up.

      Since making the move to much smaller, focused and keyword targeted adgroups, conversions (and click throughs) have seen a decent level of improvement.

      Yes, it of course takes more time, but it is the results that matter, and I think it gives you more control in the long run anyway.

      Again, fantastic article.

    • I found the way to automate Google AdWords when it is really hard to create, edit, start and pause them manually. See examples here http://blog.adpwr.com/google-adwords-automation-examples-that-you-can-do-too/?utm_source=unb&utm_medium=article&utm_campaign=adwords

    • Great post and I’m already seeing the boost in QS since last week! Two questions:

      So your recommended order for match types is Broad, Modified Broad, Phrase & Exact Match? Don’t you think it would be better to use the broad match in a separate campaign for keyword research?

      • Don’t use regular broad match at all.

        Unless you use it as a keyword miner in a separate campaign, like you said :)

    • thank you very much. it is very helpful.

    • Great post Johnathan Dane, relevancy and different ads testing give you a analysis on your Adwords account. Yes, you are true 2-3 ads should be live for 10-20 keywords for best search query matching.

    • thank you very much. Very nice article

    • Nick

      Hi Jonathan, So I’m now creating SKAGs. My question is that for my exact match ads should I use KeyWord insertion for the title or set the exact match as the Title? Will either method alter the QS?



      • Hey there Nick!

        You’ll want to have your keywords in the SKAG be exact match, phrase match, and modified broad match for the same keyword.

        Don’t use DKI for the ad headline just yet. Depending on the length of your keyword, you can add supporting words around it, in the headline.

        Let’s say you’re selling yo-yos and your keyword is ‘buy yo-yo’ – your headline could be:

        Buy Yo-Yos Right Here – as an example.

        Hope that helps!

        • Nick

          Hi Jonathan

          Thanks for your reply. My IT people set up an access database that creates all the different variations of SKAG AdGroups and spits out a CSV so I can upload them. Currently it uses DKI for the headline with the same fallback text is the keyword is too long.

          If it’s better to match the keyword up to the headline then I can have it so the database works out if the character length of the keyword and if it’s more than 25 to use DKI and if not to only use the keyword.

          Hope that makes sense. :-)

    • Hello Johnathan,

      Thank you very much for the tip, I believe it is very helpful. Just have 1 question.

      What if you have SKAG – nutella cookies recipe -, but you have in another ad group (lets call it ad group no.2) the keyword “nutella cookies recipe for children”. Would you recommend to move the keyword “nutella cookies recipe for children” to the SKAG mentioned before?

      I am facing this current situation and I don’t know if I should add nutella cookies recipe as a negative keyword to my ad group no.2. I could only ad exact match negative keyword so I wouldn’t affect my other keywords.

      1. Add “nutella cookies recipe for children” to SKAG?
      2.Add only exact match negative keyword to ad group no.2

      Thank you.

    • Yes to both :)

      But only if you’re getting enough impressions on that new “for children” keyword.
      If the search volume is low, then there’s no point going through the motions of adding it.

    • Great article, Johnathan Dane.
      What do you think of separating the keywords by match type too. For example the Modified Broad Ad Group + nutella +cookie will have as negative keywords “nutella cookie” and [nutella cookie], the ad group “nutella cookie” will have as a negative [nutella cookie].

      • Hey Nora! And thank you :D

        You’ll eventually get to that point of extracting new search terms and creating new SKAGs with them, so the answer is yes :)

        But I wouldn’t waste time doing it until the search term report tells you it’s necessary.

        Hope that helps!

    • Thank you, Johnathan!

      I recently started with Adwords and was having a tough time trying to catch up with my competitors. I had a couple of sessions with google training team that went nowhere. it seems that many of these guys haven’t been working with google but for a few months. 10 minutes with your article and a few SKAGs later, and boom! My ads are consistently at the top of google search. Now google want’s me to increase my advertising budget because of all the potential clicks I’m missing. SKAG is the perfect solution for me considering my services are very localized, I only created a hand full. Thanks!

      • Haha that’s awesome! Glad this was easy to use and understand David :)

    • Wow great article!

      There is one thing I can’t seem to grasp.
      How do you know when or where to place a keyword as a negative?

      I have one keyword phrase (kw) I use in a broad match modifier (BMM) and it’s in every variation of other kw’s imaginable supplied by the BMM. Now, do I want to add a suggested kw from adwords in the BMM to the negative list in the BMM to force Adwords to place it in Phrase or Exact match? Or do I manually break it out and place it there myself? Or do I wait until it’s in all three ad groups and negative list the one’s that aren’t performing in their respective ad groups?

      This is the area that’s unclear in all the articles I’ve read. Yours however is the closest answer I’ve seen.


      • Thanks Brian! :) Let me see if I can answer that for you in a clear and easy way.

        In this example of SKAGs, you never want to add any additional keywords to an ad group. Each ad group should always have this keyword setup:

        +nutella +recipes
        “nutella recipes”
        [nutella recipes]

        The only thing you should do is add negative ad group level negative keywords to this ad group.

        Let’s say your search term report shows that after ‘nutella recipes’ the next highest popular search term is ‘nutella cake recipes’.

        Because the ad group of ‘nutella recipes’ originally triggered the ad to show for the search term ‘nutella cake recipes’, you’ll want to add the word ‘cake’ as an ad group level negative keyword to the ad group of ‘nutella recipes’ AND THEN create a new separate ad group for ‘nutella cake recipes’ with the same SKAG blue print:

        +nutella +cake +recipes
        “nutella cake recipes”
        [nutella cake recipes]

        Hopefully that makes it easy! :) But do let me know if you need further clarification.

        P.S. I should get Nutella to sponsor this blog post. They’re getting too much free endorsement ;)

        • Thank you Johnathan for that clarification!

          It all made sense after I read it and then implemented your recommendations. Very nice results. Actually, excellent results. I’m right there with my big competitors that have very deep pockets. I’ve watched them for years beat us all up in adwords real estate. Since I used your advice they haven’t budged me from my NEW rank. In fact, I out rank them 40% of the time and we all use the same highly competitive kw’s. It also has only been 3 weeks since implementing full changes.

          I must say you know your stuff and the newsletters are very informative too. I’m intrigued with your product offerings as well. If the product is as great as your advice I can’t see why I won’t be a paid subscriber in the very near future. Keep up the great work!!!


          • Hello Johnathan,

            This article is timeless. Almost a year later and I still had to come back to re-read it AND this is the reason WHY:

            Around Feb. 18 – 24 Adwords changed the ad layout removing the sidebar ads.

            Within a week I noticed ~ EXACT match started showing up in PHRASE match and Phrase match close variants started showing up in the broad match modifier. Am I internally competing against myself? (I believe so)

            The only thing I did differently was I had paused the BROAD match modifier. Big cash burn. Then when I noticed the above happen I paused the EXACT match due to not wanting to compete against myself. Since then the EXACT match has been running a muck in my phrase match. Great CTR’s but the PHRASE match has taken a back seat to the EXACT match. But the PHRASE match does have fantastic CTR’s too. Or at least when it was just phrase matching – no exact matching in the phrase match.

            SMX 2016 people love the SKAG structure but there was a little more emphasis on KW’s having to be in its own ad group as per BROAD, EXACT or PHRASE. Was Google there and made changes so that their ROI is better by watering down your structure making us advertisers pay more? Because it certainly isn’t in favor of my ROI at this time.

            Or did I miss something else here? My KW’s are highly coveted in my industry. Could it be that Google is trying to make us compete harder to up the CPC cost?

            Has google become biased to allowing the SKAG structure?

            I have my structure exactly the way you layed yours out. Been running it for 9 months straight with trimming the fat for high relevance. QS is 8/10 and 10/10 BUT most importantly the CTR is up 300% – 700% – astounding results.

            Have you seen any changes in your accounts as outlined above for Google slipping in these Mis-matches?

            Thank you for your time.


    • Hi Johnathan, great article.
      I have one question, I did the SKAG and is working correctly, the only thing is that on the group I have the same keywords but with broad match, when I run the keyword diagnostic it says that they are excluded because of the negative keyword I put (in exact match).
      What should I do?

    • Hey Bruno! And thank you :)

      You don’t want to put the same keyword as a negative keyword in that ad group. Then you’re telling Google you don’t want your ads to be triggered if someone types in the broad match keyword as is, but only if the search term is something else (longer tail search term for example).

      Hope that helps!

    • Thanks for a great article. I’ve always advocated “be as specific and relevant as possible”. You’ve made that an actionable recipe. One question about using regular Broad Match as a keyword miner. Why a separate campaign? I can think of lots of reasons myself but I’m very interested in your explanation. Thanks.

      • Heya Brett :)

        Two biggest reasons for a separate campaign is that it won’t cannibalize any budget from other keywords in the campaign.

        The other reason is that if it’s not a separate campaign, then I won’t sometimes remember that it’s hidden as a separate ad group and keep a close eye on it.

        Separate campaign allows me to scan it from a top view when I log into an account.

        What are your thoughts? :)

    • Thank you very much,I think this is the best free strategy I ever read.Thank you for your sharing.
      On my site I sell only one product,I will use your advice.You think I should do otherwise?
      Thank you .

    • I’ve been using SKAGs for some time with good success. I have a couple of questions, at least for now.

      BACKGROUND: In my Adwords account, I have this structure:

      Campaign 1:
      Ad Group 1: – Broad Match (for search term mining)
      Ad Group 2: – Broad Match Modifier
      Ad Group 3: – Phrase Match
      Ad Group 4: – Exact Match
      Campaign 2:
      Ad Group 1: – Broad Match (for search term mining)
      Ad Group 2: – Broad Match Modifier
      Ad Group 3: – Phrase Match
      Ad Group 4: – Exact Match

      QUESTION 1: I understand from your very helpful post that putting the Broad match keywords and related ads into separate campaigns can help you pay closer attention to them. But, I don’t understand how the Broad Match keyword being in the same campaign with the other match types cannibalizes budget from the other match types. Wouldn’t it do the same thing being in another campaign? Maybe you’re talking about per-campaign budgets and not the account-wide budget. Please clarify this for me.

      QUESTION 2: Please explain the advantages of including the three match types in one ad group versus creating an ad group for each match type as I have been doing.


      • Thanks Richard :)

        Answer 1)
        When it’s account wide, you’re right. When I know I can expect a certain campaign to perform a certain way and be consistent, then I choose to have the regular broad match keyword in it’s own campaign not to disrupt the other campaigns I know are solid.

        Answer 2)
        If you do it the way you mentioned, then I feel like it’s much more overkill than the ROI and time I can expect from it. You have 3x more ad groups on top of already using SKAGs plus the potential of 6x more ads you have to control and test.

        The extraction of search terms from the 3 match type SKAG has proven to be a lot less of a time commitment and faster results :)

    • Everything you said makes perfect sense, but I was dreading going through and doing it as I typically set my Campaigns by the cities (so I could write ads relevant to each city) and a lot of my accounts have more than 10 campaigns each with 10+ adgroups (broken down by the service). My current strategy works well with most of my accounts – resulting in above average CTR’s and Conversion Ratio’s however I have a plumber in a major city and the CTR’s have been abysmal to date.

      We are not targetting general plumbing jobs / terms, so that helps. We are targetting Hydro Jetting, Sewer Replacements and other high paying jobs.

      I am going through now and setting up my SKAGS for each as you outlined and realized that this is not as daunting of a task as I originally thought. I can just setup the SKAG in 1 of the campaigns and then copy / paste the ad’s and the keyword’s into all the other campaigns! :)

      Thanks for the pointers (and your willingness to share them.) I’m excited to see the results of this work. (not to mention that the customer is more than willing to double his budget if I can get the ROI! ) :)


      • That’s flipping amazing Richard! :D

        Not sure if you use AdWords Editor, but that would save you some time as well. And to take it one step further, you can export everything via CSV and work some Excel magic to make it even quicker. Just pay very close attention to all the changes you’ve made before you upload them.

        Also, if the keywords you’re creating SKAGs for have very low impression volume, then it might not be worth your time to keep granulating out.

        Something to keep in mind! :)

    • Thank you very much,I think this is the best free strategy I ever read.Thank you for your sharing.
      On my site I sell only one product,I will use your advice.You think I should do otherwise?
      Thank you .

    • Mark

      Hi Johnathan,

      I’m torn over the use of SKAGs due to the dilution of data. Because keywords are split out so granular it can be difficult to see the data to make bidding decisions.

      If you created 100 adgroups for 100 keywords relating to Nutella and each adgroup only received 1 click, overall Nutella has generated 100 clicks. If only 1 conversion is received out of the 100 clicks, one adgroup is going to look great whilst the remaining adgroups will only have one click which isn’t really anything to write home about.

      Now if the keywords had been split in the traditional sense and all 100 keywords were put in the same group (yes I know this is stretching the boundaries for adgroup limits) you would quickly realise Nutella is converting at 1%. You can then make an informed bidding decision on this group.

      Creating an ad to suit 100 keywords would be difficult but with the use of a DKI title the ad could read;

      {KeyWord:Nutella Cookie Recipes}
      Win Back Your Husbands Love.
      Voulez-vous Coucher? Download Now!

      Of course a couple of draw backs with using DKI is that the keyword could be too long to fit in the title so the default keyword is shown. However I did read recently a note from Google (I’ve forgot where) that they have extended the ad title for DKI ads to 35 characters. And guess what Google finds to be the optimum search query length – correct, 35 characters.

      The other downside to DKI is head keywords ie. Nutella. The ad would suck with the title “Nutella”. A new adgroup could be created for the head term or you could just let it ride. After all, head terms aren’t the best converters so you probably won’t sweat the lower CTR.

      You could even take this a step further and change the destination URLs at keyword level, or be really smart and make the ad destination URL dynamic to link to the correct page.

      Have you noticed a considerable difference in CPC and CPA between SKAGs and non-SKAG campaigns? The image used above shows a decline in CTR for the non SKAG campaign, but were the ads using DKI?

      • Hey Mark!

        Yea, you definitely wouldn’t want to create SKAGs if there’s not enough impressions or clicks behind those keywords. If you can’t be actionable behind the data, then there’s no point in having it.

        To answer your question, we’ve seen a very strong increase in performance using SKAGs compared to the non-SKAG usage before, even on the CPA and Conv/Rate side of things :)

    • Mary

      I use goomito marketing for my sales site because it is cheaper so I have more clients and I’m happy

    • Thank for the great info, however i don’t understand your way of setting up keywords. For example: +stella +cookies +recipt will have keyword conflict with “stella cookies reciept” and [stella cookies reciept] and sometime keyword will not show. So what is the purpose of doing single keyword when you are using broad modify.

      Also it’s important to create Landing page to have your bid Keywords to be on the headline?

      • Hey Lance :)

        They won’t have a conflict so to speak, but they’ll overlap each other and the search term report for each will show the search terms as they should be. There will be a conflict if you have a shorter tail SKAG like “cookies recipe” in another ad group since it could steal away impressions from the SKAG of “stella cookies recipe”.

        And using a headline with the keyword is not a bad test, but doesn’t always work :)

    • HI, great article and makes for a lot of sense. Just a point of clarification on the different match types. Correct me if I am wrong but I would think that only one match type in a particular ad group would be better rather than all 4 so you can see the exact traffic for that keyword and not have it split up. I usually start with a broad match modifier and so long as I am getting an ok CTR then I will stay there. If not then I will move up to the next one, phrase match and so on to exact match. I also think a broad match modifier is the best for pulling in the long tail search terms so as to add as negatives and open new ad groups with as per your suggestion which I think is really great and vital for a successful adwords campaign. I will start implementing that as of now.

      • Hey Colm :)

        You don’t want all 4 match types, just 3 (not regular broad match).

        And you’ll find that each of the 3 match types perform differently with different CPCs, different conversion rates, etc so you can bid on them differently, in the same ad group.

        If you try to create single keyword ad groups for each match type, then you’re spreading yourself too thin and will have a monster of account to try to optimize.

        Try for yourself :)

    • Hi Jonathan

      Well I tried the SKAG method but it doesn’t seem to really work. We sell printers and copiers and all the various consumables so have over 4000 products.

      With my access database to generate the Campaign I took one consumable, entered the various printers/copiers it fits into, mixed into that different possible words (i.e. toner, ink, black, etc) and ended up getting 381 different keyword combinations.

      The database then creates 381 Adgroups as an exact match to those keywords.
      It then creates 381 Adgroups with those same keywords but set to phrase match.

      So I end up having an Adgroup for both the exact and phrase match of the same word. To stop any of the phrase match Adgroups from appearing when there’s an exact match Adgroup the database puts 381 negative keywords inside each of the 381 phrase match Adgroups.

      I end up with a campaign with:
      762 Adgroups
      762 Keywords
      145,161 Negative Keywords

      The reason why SKAG doesn’t work like this is that many of the keywords are flagged by Google as having a low search volume so they won’t appear (even though I think people do type these exact phrases). My phrase match Adgroup also won’t show up when that exact phrase is typed in because of my negative keywords.

      I’ve tried this method now with a dozen or so products but it’s just not working so I’ve paused everything now.

      Does anyone have any suggestions?



      • Hey Nick :)

        Completely understand the frustration, and hopefully this is all you have to do:

        Look at your search term report for the past 3 months and create 5 SKAGs from the search terms that have the highest impressions.

        Keep all 3 keyword match types in one ad group (not an ad group for each match type), and then make two ads where the headline and display URL are specific to that keyword and the only thing different between the ads are description line 1 and 2.

        This will prevent you from the low search volume alert you’re getting since you have the proof that those 5 search terms have tons of potential traffic. Creating that many ad groups will always lead you to the point of diminishing returns.

        Hope that helps! If not, let’s roll up our sleeves and dig deeper into this together :)

    • AM


      Thank you, this has been so helpful. I wondered if you could clarify this for me if you have time please?

      I have a product which we are advertising to 45 locations on Adwords. To use SKAGs, would I need the following Ad Groups PER keyword?:

      Keyword x BMM
      Keyword x Phrase match
      Keyword x Exact match
      Keyword [location] x BMM
      Keyword [location] x Phrase Match
      Keyword [location] x Exact Match
      The last 3 multiplied by 45 to cover each location.

      Which if I have 4 keywords, could potentially leave me with 138 Ad Groups altogether.

      Is that right?!
      Thank you

      • Hey Aimee!

        First rule of thumb: Don’t create any SKAGs unless your search term report shows you which ones to create.

        It can seem daunting to potentially have to create that many SKAGs with the 3 keyword match types in each one:


        But if it works for your top 5 search terms, to then extract and create SKAGs with, then you have a reason to continue the fruitful journey :)

    • google has abandoned the other match type. But the choice selection for exact, phrase or broad is still there. With the latest changes what should I choose: broad, exact or phrase?

      • Broad match modifier (BMM) is still there :)

        Just put a “+” in front of each word in your broad match keyword.

    • Brilliant, very easy to follow article. A novice to this and hate to ask you to do my work for me, but my head is starting to hurt and you seem rather accommodating. I’ve done exactly what you said: I have 3 Ad Groups with the following, however I am still getting conflicts – triggering other ads. Can you spot anything obvious?

      +sylvanian +families +sale
      [sylvanian families sale]
      “sylvanian families sale”

      +sylvanian +families +caravan +car
      [sylvanian families caravan car]
      “sylvanian families caravan car”

      +sylvanian +families +caravan
      [sylvanian families caravan]
      “sylvanian families caravan”

      I’ve put ‘car’ in the negative keywords for group 1 and 3 at ad level??? And an obvious rookie question, by putting ‘car’ will that affect the word ‘caravan’.

      Thanking you in advance.

      • Hey there Chrissie :)

        You only want to put in the ad group level negative keyword of ‘car’ (broad match) in the ad group: Sylvan Families Caravan so it doesn’t steal impressions from the SKAG – Sylvan Families Caravan Car.

        No need to add it to ad group 1, and to answer your question, the negative keyword ‘car’ will not prevent ‘caravan’ from showing.

        You may have added the negatives as campaign level instead of ad group level or you have a negative keyword list in your shared library that is preventing your ads from showing when doing a keyword diagnosis.

        Hope that helps :)

    • I’ve been wasting a thousands of money on Adwords without seeing result. From this article I learned a lot of things, thank you!

    • One of my biggest challenges with SKAGs is running ad tests and aggregating the data across a bunch of low volume ad groups. Has anyone used AdBasis?

    • Thank you!

    • This article should be in the front page of Google Adwods official page. Google sometimes “sells” a fish that is not true.

      Thanks for this awesome insights/tips.

    • Really Good article – I was getting increasingly uneasy about how my different keywords were clearly taking traffic from each other which was pointed out to me by the fact that my search terms report was a complete mess and not telling me anything at all. Gives me a way to clean up and get some actionable data. Also have experimented with DKI but now have a proper way to implement it – Thanks :-)

    • hey Johnathan
      After reading full post i got many ideas about using keyword usage in Adwords, Actually your idea to create negative keywords lists at the regarding ad group level from results on the SERP is spot on. I thank google for such a great post suggestion actually i was worried about the low click rates , I was about to start the campaign but thought to learn some secret things about keywords. This post is overall 100% helping for me really loved this :)


    • Roshan Mohnani

      Thank you Jonathan – can’t believe how much you’ve simplified this for us … can’t wait to try it out.

    • Hi.
      I want to ask is: if used, each one format skag keyword matching text will use 1 ad or keyword to your ad text 1 includes 3 types of keyword matching

      • Hey there Ninh :)

        You’ll want to follow the recipe in the article to a T :) Otherwise it can get messy and overwhelming quickly.

    • Hi Johnathan,

      I stumbled on your article while we were overhauling our adwords campaign, and I think we are going to move forward with SKAGs. Is there any way to tell just how much google will allow your keywords to vary without live testing?

      For example, I’m trying to figure out if I should separate keywords containing “telecom” from keywords containing “telecommunications.” When I search “telecommunications,” “telecom” is always bolded in the search results. But when I search “telecom,” “telecommunications” is not bolded.

      Oddly enough it seems like “telecommunications” could include “telecom,” but not vice versa. Obviously these could very easily cannibalize each other, and with the words so close I’m afraid to use negative terms as well.

      Thank you for the great read!

      – Kevin

      • Give it a shot on just a few keywords to begin with and see what happens. If there’s no search volume behind the search term that doesn’t match the keyword that triggered it, then there’s no need to create a SKAG from it.

        If there is a big difference in search volume between “telecom” and “telecommunications” then don’t worry about Google bolding anything, worry about the CTR and all other metric improvements :)

    • Love this blog post! One question. Some people suggest dividing your ad groups into broad and exact keywords matches. For instance:

      Ad Group 1 – +Cheap +Computers
      Ad Group 2 – [Cheap Computers]

      What’s your take on this? I’ve been looking through the different comments, but I didn’t get a definitive yes or no.


    • When we are creating SKAGs you say to put all three types of search matches (+nutella +cookies +recipes / “nutella cookies recipes” / [nutella cookies recipes]), but should we also add singular/plural variations to phrase and exact matches (“nutella cookies recipe” / [nutella cookies recipe])?

      • No need for that since Google automatically will show for plurals and singulars.

        If there are enough impressions for each type of keyword, then I’d recommend splitting them up in their own SKAGs and then using ad group level negatives to stop the internal competition.

        That way you have control over the bidding and can see how they differ in performance :)

        • That is true about broad search but not for phrase and exact. At least this is what google support told me.

    • Thank you for this great post! We have the issue of having hundreds and hundreds of keywords in every one of our hundreds of ad groups… I have just been assigned to manage it all and clear up the mess. I started creating SKAG’s but found that the bid is really hig for the keywords compared to the group the originated from. How is that and will the bids be lower in a few days?

      • It’s most likely because the old ad groups were showing for a ton of different search terms, and maybe you were using regular broad match in the old ad groups?

        That could be the reason for why as you saw an avg CPC on a bunch of different search terms in the past, and now you’re being more focused and hence, the competition is higher for that keyword.

        Not to worry though, if it is a keyword you want to bid on, then focus on improving the CTR to drive the quality score up and the avg CPC down. But more importantly, start improving the conversion rate on the landing page so you can easily afford bidding more aggressively in the near future :)

    • Brian, impressive insights and great information. I manage several accounts and I use a similar strategy. I try to explain how important the landing page is and how everything relates. I’m going to point to them your article cause I’m tired of explaining it!! LOL. I couldn’t agree with you more and your extremely helpful advice. I think so many focus on one element or the other, overlooking the whole system and how the “process” works. Appreciate it all Brian, very helpful!

    • Johnathan, great tips for me as I’m new to this PPC game. I’ve gone ahead and set up all of my campaigns with the structure you recommended, and I seem to be getting a fair number of impressions, which must be good!! I’m only 2 days in, so still early days. My question – I’m guessing there is no numerical limits to the number of ad groups in each campaign, and would you recommend ALL ad groups are constructed in this format?? I have nothing to compare against so I have no guage as to whether I have got it right.

      • Hey Garry :)

        And thanks for asking.
        You’ll want to allow your impressions from your search terms dictate whether or not you create new SKAGs for them.

        If you’re only getting 5 impressions a month on that keyword, then it may not be worth spending time on, compared to for example of optimizing your landing page instead.

        The goal with SKAGs is to have a rock solid foundation and blue print so you can set it up to begin with, and then start the a/b testing on the landing page side :)

    • Hi Johnathan!

      Thank you for your post! I just set-up a campaign following your instructions & I can’t wait for the results. I also have a question : You bid for every keyword matching type differently I guess right ? In my campaign I’m bidding more for the exact matching type, middle for the phrase & less for the Broad Modifier. Thank you in advance :)

      • That’s a great strategy Liana, but it won’t be a perfect bidding scenario like that across all your keywords.

        I recommend setting all the bids the same to begin with, and then when the data comes in, adjust bids according to avg position, cost per conversion, etc.

        • Liana

          Thank you for the answer! This is exactly what happened! When the data came in I had to make adjustments. A last question :What was your campaigns’ CTR after the first week? Thank you!

    • Hi, great article! A question that came to me: Is the quality score (or ad relevance) influenced by whether my keyword appears in the headline or in one of the description lines?

      • Great question Gideon :)

        We’ve seen that your keyword is better off to be in the headline because people sometimes take a quick second to click on the first ad without reading all 11 ads on Google completely before they click.

        This then helps giving your a stronger click-through-rate which is the biggest part of a great quality score.

        So to answer your question: Keep the keyword in the headline.

        But never say never. Try both, or mix it up and see for yourself.

    • What if I have a long tail keywords of more than 25 characters, So how to add them in Title to have relevancy and also If I have more than 35 characters and I concluded the Keyword in both description lines 1 & 2 and still not getting relevancy..

      please give the way,

      • You’re going to have to take the most important part of that long tail keyword and include it where you can.

        Sometimes we splice up the long tail keyword and use part of it for the headline and the other part for the display URL or the description lines :)

    • Ben

      Awesome article! I have yet to embark on my first PPC campaign (about to within probably a few days). Glad I found this John it makes a whole lot of sense. Thank you for sharing this.

      • That’s awesome Ben :) You have a solid blueprint now to follow!

    • Great article, really this article help me lot start my first adwords campaign. I am very confuse that how many keyword should i us for single ad but now i got the things.

      John can you help me to choose first ad title for my first ad ? My website give online flight ticket booking service.

      Thanks in advance

      • Depends on what keyword is in your ad group :)

        If the keywords are:
        +online +flight +booking
        “online flight booking”
        [online flight booking]

        Then your ad headline and display URL should include: Online Flight Booking

        With an extra word or so before or after the keyword in the headline and display URL if you have room :)

    • Thank you very much.

    • This is a great post, and these strategies will absolutely work well with higher volume campaigns with a lot of traffic where you can create SKAGS based on very measurable results on specific keywords.

      What about with lower volume, local campaigns? I find that exact match, and even phrase match rarely generates any traffic. In fact, the vast majority of my volume comes from BMM or pure broad match, even. Of course, aggressively adding negatives is required, but this seems to be the only way to get any volume.

      Of course, because a lot of this traffic is less qualified, it doesn’t convert well, so I find myself reducing bids pretty significantly to keep CPA in line.

      Do you still feel that the strategies outlined in this article apply to lower volume local campaigns, or to verticals with very little traffic generally, where a certain number of keywords are regularly generating the majority of your conversions?


      • Yes, absolutely! You’ll want to consider multi intent keywords instead of using regular broad match then. See my webinar on it here: http://grow.kissmetrics.com/webinar-105

        You may be in a position where you have to balance high volumes of low quality traffic with low volumes of high quality traffic.

        I would prefer the latter and then focus my time and efforts on improving the conversion rates on my landing pages :)

    • Jon

      Great post Johnathan, If you have very similar keywords would it be just as effective to place them those into one ad group theme like the example below, and use just the common keywords (nutella cookies) for the headline and display URL?

      +nutella +cookies +chocolate
      “nutella cookies chocolate”
      [nutella cookies chocolate]
      +nutella +cookies +oatmeal
      “nutella cookies oatmeal”
      [nutella cookies oatmeal]
      +nutella +cookies +vanilla
      “nutella cookies vanilla”
      [nutella cookies vanilla]

      Then the 2nd ad group theme might be something like “nutella recipe”.


      • Thanks Jon :)

        “Themes” are extremely dangerous, and you want to avoid them at all costs. You will find much better success with creating SKAGs with each of those specific keywords in their own with corresponding headline and display URLs.

        Btw, why aren’t Nutella cookies a thing?! Your comment is making me extremely hungry for dessert right now lol

        • Jon

          Lol, well you started, and I just had some brownies so it sound like a good example at the time. Thank you for the explanation and fast reply.

    • What if you are bidding for a highly competitive term.

      For example, in my case im bidding for “Sell My House Fast”, all my competitors are using the same title in their ads “Sell Your House Fast”.

      Is it still smart to use your keyword in the title of your ad, or is it better to break with the pattern, so your ad gets clicked more?

      I feel that if I break the pattern, my ad might get more clicks since it looks different. Do you think this is true, or should I just try to outbid my competition?

      In my example, I’m saying “Instant Cash Offer” in the ad title, and to stay relevant, I include my main keyword, “Sell your house fast” in the first or second line of the body of the ad.

      My goal is to generate as much qualified traffic to my website, needtosellmyhousefast.com

      Also, what do you guys think of my landing page: http://www.needtosellmyhousefast.com/cash-offer

      I made it very lightweight so it loads fast on mobile.

      • Hey David!

        If that’s the case then I would definitely recommend switching things up like you mentioned. Looks like your competitors also read this post ;)

        Keeping the keyword in the description would be the next best thing to still stay relevant.

        In regards to your landing page, you’d get a lot better performance if you did a two step form instead of the one step you have now.

        You can read about that strategy here: https://klientboost.com/cro/multi-step-landing-pages/

    • One of the issues with this is that there are certain requirements around ad group volume to have some of the Adwords features work.
      Like Google call tracking for example. They will only bother swapping out your original number for a Google forwarding number on ad groups which meet a minimum threshold for traffic and impressions. If all your adgroups are SKAG’s, theres little chance these features will ever fire in your accounts.
      Also writing new ad copy once a month for over a 10,000 adgroups (say for ecommerce campaign) can be tiresome.
      Another downside is your Ad creative A/B tests will take a lot longer to reach statistical relevance, so how quickly you can improve ad copy will be limited.

      While it’s a great idea, I dont think it is always required as a best practise. All things are a trade-off.

      Phrase and broad match we don’t even bother with anymore. The only time we use phrase and broadmatch is in negative lists where they make sense.

      • Hey Simon :)

        Actually never ran into that situation, is that an Australian thing?
        Also, you would never want to continue to build out SKAGs when it comes to diminishing returns. Only focus your time on the keywords that actually give you volume.

        The new ad copy testing should actually be quicker and easier to test. If you follow the recipe above, then you’ll get faster results since you can run the same test in multiple ad groups at a time.

        We still use this recipe for high volume accounts and have never found the upside be less than the downside, but like you said, there are never any absolutes :)

        Thanks for chiming in!

    • Hi Johnathan,

      This is a great post and has been extremely helpful. I have a couple of questions:
      1) Does this strategy need to be adjusted for close variants with low volumes? If you have a low volume exact match (close variant) should you add it as a negative keyword or leave it as is?
      2) I’m a little confused around phrase matches. If your phrase match is shorter tail e.g. “nutella cookies recipe”and you’re pulling in relevant but low volume phrases “nutella cookies recipe for thanksgiving” should you make those longer tail phrase matches negative keywords?

      My underlying question is, if you are pulling in low volume but relevant search terms using this strategy do you add these terms as negative keywords or leave them as is (since you don’t add any new keywords with this strategy)?


      • Hey there Marty! :)

        1) Leave as is. ONLY build out SKAGs from search terms that have enough impression volume. Otherwise you’re just spreading yourself too thin.

        2) The only reason you add negative keywords in your example is for “ad group level negatives”. You don’t want to add them as account level negatives, since you’d be shooting yourself in the foot.

        If there’s enough impression volume over time (say, 60 days) for the search “nutella cookies recipe for thanksgiving”, then I would definitely build that out as it’s on SKAG.

        The impression volume depends on your overall account. If “nutella cookies recipe” get’s 1,000 impressions/day and ““nutella cookies recipe for thanksgiving” only gets 4 impressions/week, then I wouldn’t create a SKAG for that until I’ve taken care of higher volume search terms first.

    • Great post Johnathan

    • Joyce

      Hi Jonathan,

      Great Article!

      I have question that I know you can answer quickly.

      I am now using your SKAG strategy, but I am not sure if I am doing it right when adding a negative keywords. Within an ad group search term, I excluded or added a whole search term as an exact match negative keyword, then created a new ad group for that same search term.

      Thank in advance.

      • You’re doing it right :)

        You just want to make sure you’re adding the negative keyword as an ad group level one.

        You have 3 options on where to add negative keywords. They are:
        – ad group
        – campaign
        – negative keyword list

        Always choose the ad group level when extracting :)

    • Very nice info. I would like to prefer it. Thanks for providing.

    • Chris

      Great article! I am new to adwords but want to try your method. Could you explain or show me exactly what you me by +keyword +keyword2 [keyword keyword2] “keyword keyword2”. How exactly will this look in my adwords when I implement this?

      • Hey Chris :)

        Each ad group you have will simply have the same keyword, but 3 different match types. Let’s say you’re selling balloon animal services, your keywords will look like this in your ad group:

        +balloon +animal +person
        “balloon animal person”
        [balloon animal person]

        Hope that helps :)

        • Hey Jonathan,

          Does this mean that you have to bid for the individual keywords “balloon”, “animal”, “person” and also the keyword “balloon animal person”?

          Thank you:)

    • Chocolate so much eh. I Pyrid who loves to shop at the store. But I do not recommend to consume products that contain so much sugar. unhealthy

    • Hey,

      Thanks for this really helpful article. I was just wondering how granular the SKAGs should be. For instance, if I want one SKAG to be “Car Rental NYC” would it be OK if the keywords in that single ad group included the following: “Car Rental in NYC”, “Car Rentals NYC”, “Car Rentals in NYC”.


      • Hey Emily :) And thank you!

        You should get as granular as you can, until you see that you’ve reached a point of diminishing returns.

        Remember that search visitors decide in a split second which ad to click, so I would recommend you give those keywords you mentioned their own SKAGs and see how it goes.

        You can always split test and come back and let us know the difference in performance ;)

        • Thanks for your quick response! I will get granular then. Was also wondering what your opinion of “Callouts” was? I feel like they may distract the user from the precisely relevant messaging of each ad, but on the other hand, I see that a lot of people claim that they boost CTRs.


    • Sam


      Awesome article! I have 2 questions, if you don’t mind:

      Say you are just setting up your first campaign (10 keywords) and you pick the top 5 words or so to do SKAGs based on volume.

      blue widgets
      best blue widgets
      blue widgets software
      blue widgets program
      buy blue widgets

      I know you would have negative matches for (best,software,program & buy) in the blue widgets SKAG, but what about the other keywords I am targeting. For instance, my 6th and 7th keyword may be “blue widgets sale” and “purchase blue widgets” Would I go ahead and add “sale” and “purchase” as negative keywords or wait until I review the report in 30 days and then separate them out?

      Also, how do you typically setup your bidding for BMM, phrase and exact when using this strategy in a new campaign? I assume you want to keep the BMM lower so you don’t blow through your budget?


      • I would actually wait for the search term report to show the discrepancy before I add any ad group level negatives :) That way you don’t have to deal with a dreaded spiderweb every time you create a new SKAG.

        And I would keep all the bids the same to begin with, and then let your CPA numbers tell you what to do from there.

    • Jon

      I get duplicate errors using the Adwords editor when adding exact and phrase match types within a group, modifier is okay because the editor allows the + symbol. Any suggestions adding all 3 match type with the Adwords editor?

      • You’ll always get that yellow warning sign in AdWords Editor :) Just go ahead and ignore.

        Between you and I, it’s Google trying to stop you from saving money ;)

        • Phil

          Hi Johnathan, thanks for sharing this strat.

          Have you ever tested directly how SKAGs with all match types works vs. not using multiple match types? Various posts have claimed that match types conflicting with each other is a no-no, and causes increased CPC. Thoughts? You sure Google is not just trying to help the advertiser?

          • Hey Phil :)

            Broad match by itself is only something we use when we’ve hit a plateau with the other match types. Then broad match gets it’s own campaign with a specific budget so we can easily keep an eye on the search terms.

            Match types don’t really conflict with each other when you look at the search term report spread, so that’s not true. Plus, never seen an increase in QS drive up the CPC cost. So for us, that’s not true either :)

            • Phil

              Thanks for your thoughts Johnathan. I just discovered & read your followup post on KlientBoost, as well as the Iceberg effect. After spending the last couple hours critically mulling it all over, I’ve decided to hell with alleged match type conflicts. In every way conceivable, your SKAG approach solves more problems than I care to list for fear of developing advanced keyboard related calluses. It makes the treatment of campaigns systematic & scaleble at all times, in a budget friendly way. I’m totes giving it a go, and drooling at the future gains in the key metrics. Thanks man, I think you just changed my life. May the force be with you.

              • Haha you made my Friday! xD

                Plus, it won’t cause any conflict, so you’re all good!

    • Tim


      i have a campaign going at the minute with 3 ad groups and it goes as follows;

      ad group 1 – same day courier leeds
      +same +day +courier +leeds
      “same day courier leeds”
      [same day courier leeds]

      ad group 2 – same day courier barnsley
      +same +day +courier +barnsley
      “same day courier barnsley”
      [same day courier barnsley]

      ad group 3 – same day courier barnsley
      +same +day +courier +rotherham
      “same day courier rotherham”
      [same day courier rotherham]

      now when i use the ad preview and diagnosis tool everything shows unless i try to search for a broad match modified version of Rotherham, so if i search for same day uk courier rotherham it cannot show and says its due to other keyword stopping it. but it does not do this on other 2 ad groups, why could this be?

      • The ad preview and diagnosis tool is notoriously buggy. More importantly, are all your match types getting impressions inside AdWords?

        If not, then don’t be afraid to physically search for your ad on Google. You can afford an extra impression :)

    • Jon

      Post on October 18, 2015 has been resolved, just ignore the errors. I do have anther question though. After uploading all 3 match types I noticed that the exact match “first page bid estimate” is quite a bit higher than phrase and bmm. So will being below first page bid on all of the exact terms have any negative impact on my campaign?

      • I’d care more about your average position for those exact match keywords, are they below first page? If so, then I’d increase my bid.

        But most of the time you’ll get those warnings even if your average positions is a 1.3.
        Safe to ignore.

    • Thank you for these tips. Also is very useful to use Matching Types and Automated Rules. Using easy tool I succeed to increase clicks and conversions for several times http://adwordsgenerator.com/
      What do you think about this method ?

    • Sam

      I got my SKAGs created, but my quality score is still 5/10 even with perfect message match.

      I get above avg for both landing page experience & ad relevance, but it says my expected click through rate is below average. Is this just Google’s way of telling me I need to raise my bid? I am biddingg enough to be on the first page, avg position is around 3.

      Am I missing something?

      • Take what Google says with a humongous grain of salt :) More importantly, are your cost per conversions lower?

    • Gav

      Hi, love the article and and just about to test it…

      My main keyword is ‘architectural visualisation’ I’ve been paying as high as £6 per click just to get near third place..

      I obviously didn’t keep it there long and have reduced it now below first page bid as at those costs it just isn’t sustainable for me as a one man operation.. I’ve spent near £150 in a very shirt time and haven’t had one inquiry thus far.

      I know and expect low volume, but im hoping that if i adapt to this method perhaos it might suit my needs better?

      Many thanks for the article and hopefully some short advice to help my situation.

      Best regards

      • It should allow you to pay less per click and thus get more clicks from your daily budget.

        If you know your search terms are solid and you’re getting at least 10 clicks/day from your PPC campaigns, then look to your landing pages. Change your offer, lower the threat. There are tons of things you can do there.

    • If you are creating single keyword adgroups, why are you doing keyword insertion? Keyword insertion solves the problem you bring up in #1. If you create tightly related ad groups and use keyword insertion you can save your account from becoming a mess. Also how many small businesses have the budgets to be spending time on SKAGs? It’s just not efficient management and I think this type of advice is too deep down the rabbit hole for someone running their own campaigns.

      Unless you have a ton of money to spend testing ad copy and landing pages behind SKAGs and the time to do so I wouldn’t recommend wasting your time. I have plenty of 10 quality scores without exact matching keywords to ads. Overall relevance, your offer, and relative CTR all matter more to PPC success.

      • I don’t think anyone talked about doing keyword insertion :)

        You bring up some good points on the fact that it takes time, but don’t all things that are worth doing?

        The numbers speak for themselves. And so do the comments from this post on people who have benefited from SKAGs.

    • Sarah

      Jonathan you’ve saved the day with this article. I’m all aboard for SKAGs just stuck on landing pages.

      How many landing pages?

      I have about 25 SKAG ad groups. Maybe need 18 different landing pages to address different keyword focus. For example 1 landing page that really sells eye surgery keywords, and 1 landing page that really sells the recovery time focus, etc.

      Is this right? Or do you send all 25 SKAGs to 1 Landing and make sure all keywords are addressed on 1 page?

      I don’t think 1 general landing page talking about the Dr. and laser surgery is right, but I don’t want to create 25 different landing pages.

      Help! Been stuck for a week. Also just signed up for Unbounce. thx

      • Hey Sarah :)

        Thanks for the awesome note, and great to hear you making progress!

        You can probably save a ton of time using Unbounce’s Dynamic Text Replacement feature: http://unbounce.com/dynamic-text-replacement/

        This only works for text, so if you have to change up the visuals, then start with the keywords that have the most traffic and see if making unique landing pages is worth the effort.

        Let me know if you need any additional help :)

    • Suzie

      Hi Johnathan,

      Thank you very much for the in-depth tutorial. Very very helpful.
      I have a quick question
      How does Google treat two words ..example: “newsgroup” Vs “news group”
      Should I just create separate SKAG’s for each word?
      like “newsgroup server” [newsgroup server] +newsgroup +server
      and “news group server” [news group server] +news +group +server

    • Hey Suzie :)

      Google will treat them as one in the same, but if there’s enough impressions for each, then I would eventually create separate SKAGs for them as I have seen difference in cost/conversion for plural and singular keywords.

      • Hey Jonathan,

        Does that mean that for +news +group +server, we have to bid for 3 different keywords while for “news group server” we only have to bid for one?

    • Hi Jonathan,
      Instead of concentrating on SKSG’s why not use multiple variartions of the keyword and match them with either phrase or exact match, will the same result not be acheived?

    • Absolutely brilliant article!

      I have a question though. When writing an Ad you stated that the keyword you are targeting should be included in the display URL, what would you recommend if the keyword is too long to fit?


      • Thanks Si :)

        If that’s the case, then you can split up the words of your keyword so combined, your headline and display URL include the entirety of it.

    • I still don’t get the benefits of one keyword per ad group strategy.

      • All about control :)

        If you allow too many search terms to cost you clicks from one keyword, then you’re allowing uncontrollable variables to continue happening.

        Also, many of those search terms will perform worse compared to others, so if you don’t extract with SKAGs then you can’t lower the bids on them specifically.

    • Amy

      Thank you, I started implementing this but in some of my campaigns it will say the ads for the particular ad group is not running because it is too similar to other ads in the campaign. So let’s use your nutella example..say I made the ad groups:

      +nutella +cookie +recipe
      “nutella cookie recipe”
      [nutella cookie recipe]

      +nutella +christmas +cookie +recipe
      “nutella christmas cookie recipe”
      [nutella christmas cookie recipe]

      I am pointing these two groups to similar or identical ads. Is this okay to do? Because Google is telling me it isn’t… It seems even separating them into different ad groups makes them still want to compete with each other

      • Did you try adding ‘christmas’ as an ad group level negative keyword to the nutella cookie recipe ad group?

        • Amy

          Worked like a charm and I am already getting click- throughs and impressions. This tutorial was a life saver! What is an address I can send you some nutella Christmas cookies to thank you?! lol

          • After getting banned from Costco from buying too much Nutella, your comment just made my day!

            1931 Newport Blvd, Suite E,
            Costa Mesa, CA 92627


            • Amy

              Hi John, sorry the xmas cookies didn’t come, I didn’t realize you replied with an address…they are totally coming your way!

              After implementing this I am wondering if you have any articles or know of any on how to manage a campaign set up in this way. I guess the one thing I am confused about is if a low performing ad group should be paused or removed – can a low performing ad group effect the quality score of other ad groups and keywords in my campaign?

              • A low performing ad group could negatively impact the health of the overall account.

                BUT (with a huge emphasis on the “but”), you can have very low quality score keywords that still convert well (like bidding on competitor names for example) that you should not pause because of that.

                In your new SKAG that’s performing poorly, you can look into the keywords and lower bids and pause an underperforming ad variant, before you pause the entire ad group.

                You could also focus on improving conversion rates with landing page testing for example so the high cost per conversion you may be experiencing now would go away.

                I would recommend sorting your ad groups and keywords by highest cost and make your improvements one by one going down the list :)

      • if I use different maych types for same keywords

        +nutella +cookie +recipe
        “nutella cookie recipe”
        [nutella cookie recipe]

        it shows conflicts when hover to one of the keyword bubble
        saying ad not showing wiyj readon below
        ‘Another creative in the ad group was selected over this one.’

        Does it lower the quality score of other match type keyword?


    • Google will treat them as one in the same, but if there’s enough impressions for each, then I would eventually create separate SKAGs for them as I have seen difference in cost/conversion for plural and singular keywords.

    • Pim

      Dead Johnathan,

      In 2014 I’ve read this post and took notes. Because of my notes I could search back to your post. My question is: Is this strategy still relevant today?

      Did you update the post along the way?

      Thanks in advance. Really like how you structure everything.

      – Pim

      • Pim

        Whoops, should’ve been DEAR Johnathan. Sorry about that :’)

        • Still as relevant as ever :)

          • Pim

            Hi Johnathan. Thank you for your reply.

            What I also notice is the following.

            AdWords is telling me that my bid on keywords is too low to show my ads on the first page in the serps. But I see my ads in Google and I receive views and clicks.

            So, like what you said already, you have to take Google’s advice with a large grain of salt.

            • Hi,

              very interesting article, thanks for that.

              One Question: I’m currently searching for information regarding same keyword, with different match-types in the same adgroup. I used to do it like you suggest: exact, phrase, bmm in the same adgroup. The main reason I did it this way was, that once someone told me that Google ranks relevance like this: exact>phrase>bmm

              A few days ago, someone else told me that keyword match type has no impact on quality score/relevance whatsoever… and suggested that it would be more/most beneficial to build seperate adgroups for exact/phrase/bmm keyword (this is super granular of course, but hardly feasable for multiple clients with big adwords structures).

              Perhaps you can clear things up.


              • I JUST read the same thing and I am now slightly confused. The article I read even suggested using negative exact match for the phrase match ad group. Ex:

                Ad Group #1:
                [fix golf swing]
                [golf swing fix]

                Ad Group#2
                “fix golf swing”
                -[fix golf swing]
                -[golf swing fix]

                Is this necessary or even helpful?

                • Hey Bill :)

                  You wouldn’t want to have different keywords in the same ad group.

                  So the only time you need to worry about ad group level negatives is when you have a short tail keyword ad group that steals away impressions from the longer tail keywords.

                • Hello,
                  I have the same dileman as Gosu and Bill. I know your post is not totally fresh, but maybe you could clear this up for us Jonathan. I belive more of readers would appreciate your advice if it make sense to do it as Bill described above. Thanks a lot.

              • Hey Gosu :)

                If you do it that way, then it wouldn’t do much to improve quality scores.

                It will also make you do more work since you have 3x the amount of campaigns and it will dilute your traffic so that your ad testing wouldn’t be as quick either.

    • Hi Jonathan,
      Instead of concentrating on SKSG’s why not use multiple variartions of the keyword and match them with either phrase or exact match, will the same result not be acheived?

    • Hey Johnathan,
      I’ve read through the comments and through your article thoroughly.

      I have also set up the SKAGs as told in the article.
      Now I have two questions:

      I have really low search volumes and keywords I’m using are synonyms for each other.
      1.So after some time I think if you set up the keywords like in your example the keywords are bidding against each other, aren’t they in the screenshot: http://i.imgur.com/4T1m2Yg.png
      The impressions are really low as I’ve paused the exact match and phrase match for some time.

      2. How should you exclude search terms on campaign level ?
      Should you exclude them with
      [keyword] exact match
      “keyword” Phrase match
      keyword Broad match

      3 When setting up the keywords with
      they are delivered way broader than I wanted as the ads are often shown with non relevant terms. After some months I also know which keywords bring conversions. Aren’t we “overfishing” if we keep the ad groups like that.
      Wouldn’t it be better to go to “keyword” only and pause the other two after some time :)

      Thanks for your input Johnathan
      Yours Thomas

      • Hey Thomas,

        It looks like you may just have a low volume keyword you’re trying to show for. And in the example screenshot, it looks like your broad or exact match term is gobbling up all the impressions.

        That could very well happen depending on the keyword.

        With regular broad match, you will get non-relevant searches coming through, so in a sense, you’re not overfishing with the 3 match types I mentioned, and if there’s enough search volume behind a certain keyword, then each match type will give you a nice set of data to work with :)

    • What would be the difference of using a 2 step form vs a 1 step form. I would think that using a 1 step for should convert better. Also should I strategically try to include as many keywords as I can in the title that are also on the landing page? If so what should I do to my landing page to lower the cost of my CPC?

      My site is http://www.investorwize.com

      My landing page is

      I am targeting the keywords for Sell your house fast with different variations for locality.

    • Hi Johnathan

      How do you create SKAGs for keywords which use the same words in a different order?

      For example:

      Ad group 1
      +broken +widget +compensation
      “broken widget compensation”
      [broken widget compensation]

      Ad group 2
      +widget +broke +compensation
      “widget broke compensation”
      [widget broke compensation]

      The variation broke/broken shouldn’t matter as it is a close variation. But the word order does matter.

      Following your system above, both those ad groups are required. However, the BMM will compete against one another.

      In this situation, would you just remove the BMM from one ad group, so it is only in one?


      • Most definitely :)

        You’ll find that each variation of a keyword (even plural and singular versions) have different conversion rates and conversion costs. Wouldn’t you want to be able to control the bids?

        I wouldn’t remove BMM for either ad group. If one ad group is stealing away impressions from the other, then I would add “widget broke compensation” as an ad group level negative to the Broken Widget Compensation ad group.

        Make sure you use a phrase match negative in this situation.

    • Hi Johnathan, great post. Just a couple of follow-up questions:

      1) Based on your strategy, when someone searches for “nutella cookies recipe”, doesn’t it technically matches with all three keyword match types? If so, will all 3 keywords enter the auction simultaneously during the search, thus compete against each other and self-inflate the CPC?

      2) How would you advise brands that sell a single product/service adopt your strategy? For example, there is a watch repair company that provides on demand watch repairs (goes to client’s home) in San Francisco, Mountain View & Palo Alto. How should the company structure its campaigns, adgroups and keywords?

      Thanks Johnathan!


      • Hey Lucas :)

        Usually Google will give the impression to the keyword that matches to it in the closest way. You’ll see this happening from the individual search term reports per keyword. So the answer is no.

        Also, your CTR will increase, with higher quality scores, and then lower CPCs.

        For your second question, it’s the same set up. Maybe start bidding on a few root keywords with modified broad match, and let your search term report decide on which SKAGs to create moving forward.

    • Do the rules change regarding the number of ads per ad group when running a display only campaign?

      E.g. You’ve created 30-40 image ads of various dimensions. Should you place them all under one specific ad group (e.g. keyword targeting), with that ad group falling under your display only campaign.

      • This post doesn’t really apply to the Display network, but great question :)

        I would recommend you start by using multiple display layer targeting (contextual and topics and demographics for example), then granulate your ad groups later once you see what is performing best.

        You can use the dimensions tab and the demographic overview to determine this.

        The idea of granularity still applies :)

    • Hi Jonathan,
      I have really appreciated your thorough answers and have read through them all. I had lots of questions come up and had most of them answered as I read. The only question that remained at the end was: “What is the short term impact on QS if I take a keyword in a tight group of 4 keywords that are all performing well with a QS of between 7-10 and move one of the keywords into its own ad group? How long does this take to bounce back?

      • Haha thanks Mike :) That hints towards writing a follow up post for this.

        So you might find a small dip in QS when migrating away, but the increased CTR (and accompanying conversion rate increase, if you do your message match right) quickly obliterates any past concern about a QS you once had.

        Try it with a few and see what happens.

    • This article was amazing, simple, and made me rethink my whole AdWords approach. Awesome job! Now that i’m done stroking your ego ;)…

      I wanted to know if you are creating the ad as a “Dynamic Search Ad” which will replace the Headline dynamically.

      I’m still somewhat new to AdWords, and I’m not sure if that feature needs to be enabled on each ad in order to push through the search query to the dynamic landing page?

      Awesome job and thank you for this Jonathon!

      • Hey Zak, and thank you! If I could throw in a heart-eyes emoji, then I would ;)

        Dynamic Search Ad and Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) are two different things. I think you’re talking about the latter in this case.

        To answer your question, you shouldn’t even care about DKI in the ad or on the landing page right now. Focus solely on the fundamentals and manually write out the ad headline with the keyword included (if character spacing allows).

        Once you see that working well, then experiment with DKI in the ads and DKI (also called Dynamic Text Replacement) on the landing pages .

        Hope that helps! :)

    • AWESOME article. Seriously. Question about geo targeting within SKAGs:

      If I am a roofer in San Diego, and I see that the search term “roofers in san diego” is my highest converting keyword, I believe you would suggest the following set up:

      +roofers +in +san +diego
      “roofers in san diego”
      [roofers in san diego]

      (if that’s incorrect please let me know…i’m not sure if the word “in” matters)

      My question is about the term “san diego”. Is your suggesting to omit geo terms within keywords since the Adwords location preferences will serve the ad based on those parameters? This made me think when I saw my keyword report with the searches for “roofers” and “roofers san diego”. I don’t know if they are the same.

      The quick follow up question is that if “roofers” and “roofers san diego” ARE two separate SKAGs, how should I handle that when there are 50 cities within San Diego?

      • You SHOULD create them as separate SKAGs, and for the non San Diego SKAG, test out the headline space to be local or not (even add in other benefits), since you have that freedom.

        You should not create 50 SKAGs because of the 50 cities. Only create them if your search term report shows that there are impressions for them.

        Hope that helps :)

    • KJ

      Thanks for the great ideas and explaining it out! I implement this a while back and everything feels cleaner. The only concern I have is that before in my previous structure, I was able to use Conversion Optimizer.

      Is there anyway to use Conversion Optimizer in this plan?

      What bidding strategy do you personally use / recommend?

      Thank You!

      • You should still be able to use Conversion Optimizer since it’s campaign specific. You may have to wait to get 15 conversions within 30 days before it’s available to use in that new campaign :)

        You can read more about the AdWords bidding strategies that make most sense to your business here: https://klientboost.com/ppc/adwords-bidding/

        • KJ

          thank you very much. I’ll check out those resources. Is there any risk of broad match or phrase match cannibalizing exact match. My guess is it wouldn’t, but not sure if there’s any edge case scenarios we need to look out for.

          I remember before following your plan, a different strategy would create separate adgroups for each match type and then set negative keywords in the broad match group so it wouldn’t cannibalize the exact match keywords.


          • That other option is a bit of overkill in my opinion, and haven’t seen any reason to do so :)

    • Hey Hi Johnathan Dane,
      This is the first time I am reading a Crystal Stuff related to AdWords in Internet, which clearly states “”how wrong we are dealing with AdWords””. Thanks for all your suggestions. Will definitely undergo it and make my own experiment and come again with the results here. Keep posting !!!

      • Haha LOVE IT Manikandan!

        New one should be up soon ;)

    • Jonathan

      Hi Jonathan
      Thanks for the insightful post!

      This is exactly what we tried back in the early days of ppc (early 2004), but then came across the keyword insertion tool to get around this – which we found very effective.

      So we decided to test this concept again last week and compare it our normal campaigns that just use the insertion tool on the headline and first line of the description. We copied the campaigns exactly and added negative keywords as well as suggested in your article. The ads were composed manually without DKI.

      Interestingly though, so far there seems to be no difference between using the insertion tool and 1-keyword per adgroup. Click volumes are about the same. The CTR is actually a bit lower on the 1KA vs DKI. The CPC is also actually higher on the 1KA vs DKI.

      Perhaps we are missing something here – but it seems the keyword insertion tool is doing it’s job just fine (actually slightly better)? Perhaps the CPCs will come down in time, but we have never actually found this to be the case in our experience.


      • Hello Name Brother :)

        DKI can be great and something that should be up your sleeve to use. It sounds like your SKAG is using 1 keyword with 1 match type and not 1 keyword with 3 match types?

        Irregardless, if both ad groups are set up as SKAGs, then the headlines can always be changed and tested. The keyword of the SKAG doesn’t necessarily need to be in the headline, which I spoke more about here, talking about visitor’s end goals: http://unbounce.com/ppc/write-high-performing-adwords-ads/

        • Hi Jonathan

          Many thanks for the quick response! We did in fact use all 3 match types in each adgroup of the SKAGs.

          The original non-SKAG campaign that used keyword insertion tool had around 1000 keywords per adgroup, and google just did its magic by placing the keyword in the headline and desc1 when the ad was triggered. This performed as well (in fact better) than reducing the whole thing to tens of thousands of SKAGs.

          We would love to able to reduce our CPCs and/or get more clicks by using SKAGs but it seems to have made no difference:( Perhaps we missing something / doing something incorrectly.


    • Hi Jonathan,

      great article, I’ve implemented the SKAG setup for a customer account already. It’s a very small niche market not generating much impressions. The CTR was rising almost instantly, but the impressions were down really badly, also no conversion due to the minimal number of clicks.

      I just added Broad Match to the short tail keyword-adgroup and the impressions go up again. I will filter the noise with negative keywords, so relevancy is still good.

      I think your strategy is good for high volume sarches, for smaller markets it seems to me that SKAGs +Broad Match +Negative Keywords works better than Modified Broad Match.

      Did you experience similar things?

      Thank You again for this great post

      • Put your broad match keywords in their own campaign so it doesn’t cannibalize the rest of the account.

        This strategy works for all sizes of accounts, but you do need enough traffic to get some conversions trickling in :)

    • Hi Jonathan! Thank you for this wonderful article! i’ve been wasting too much money on Google Adwords in the last few months for my jazz band services and am so happy to have made the changes you’ve suggested. hopefully things get better from here on :)

      • They should Rebecca! :)

        Let me know of the results when they do start coming through.

    • Thanks for sharing this best-practices, and esp., SKAG strategy & it’s importance.

    • JOHN LEE

      Thank you for the post.
      What kind of match type we should use the group level negative keywords?

      • No problem John :)

        If you’re using regular broad match modifier as “positive” keywords (as the post says to do), then you can use regular broad as ad group level negative keywords.

        If you don’t use broad match modifier, then use phrase match negative ad group keywords.

        • John

          thank you for you kind advice. i am using three type positive keywords in each SKG which included:bmm, exact and phrase. based on your advice i believe board match negative keyword should work for me better? thanks again!

          • Yep, that will prevent any potential internal competition you could have between two ad groups :)

    • Great article, i tested the same scenario for my campaign but the keyword i wanted has already a low search term.

    • Good info resource and relatively up to date. Thanks!

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    • NK

      Hey, great post! I have a few questions if you get a chance:

      1. Is it still beneficial to create SKAGs if you will be using the same ad copy for each SKAG? For example, let’s say you are running a branded campaign and have several branded keywords you want to target:

      brand variation 1
      brand variation 2

      If I separate these into SKAGs but use the same ad copy, is there still a benefit? I realize it is ideal to have ad copy that matches the keywords searched, but there are a few instances where it may be the same.

      There are also instances when the keywords are too long to fit in the ad copy. Is it still beneficial to give them separate SKAGs even though the ad copy will be the same as shorter variants?

      2. Do you include separate ad groups for singular and plural? Since Google shows ads for close variants, there isn’t technically a need, but do you do it anyway? If so, are you competing with yourself at all (even after adding negative ad-group-level keywords) since close variants could technically be shown for each?

      Thank you.

    • Jim

      Hi Jonathan – great article but does this approach not mean you can have thousands of Ad Groups in your account?

    • Brilliant advice, I wish I’d seen this $500 ago!

    • BSV

      I can’t seem to find the answer, but should I set up two ad groups for -er and -ing words using this method? I.e., “widget manufacturing” and “widget manufacturer” if I am the maker of widgets? Thanks for the super helpful article!

      • yes, for all keyword match types. The more accurate, the better

    • John

      1) So do you still add the + modifier to all words in long tail keywords, or just the main keywords?
      2) Are long tail keywords becoming a thing of the past because of the way BMM can match a wide variety of long tail keywords?

      +how +much +are +blue +widgets

      Then how would you add the negative keywords for the main ones: (+blue +widgets)


      • 1) All words in the keyword :)

        2) Yes, there are really no silver bullets unless your long tail keywords have tons of traffic behind them.

    • I like your strategy, however for big accounts with hundreds if not thousands of keywords, this would be almost impossible to do. Groupings is the solution in my opinion…

    • Donna

      Hi Dane
      Would it be possible for a phone conversation to get my campaign running properly ?

    • Duncan McGillivray

      Hey John – great tips here. As an Adwords guy myself, I have a couple issues with your positioning and was hoping for clarification. Broad match modifier and phrase match keywords are going to add in variations that your ad text won’t be able to handle.

      ‘Bad Nutella Cookie Recipe’ for example or ‘Nutella Cookie Recipe Book’. In order to use 1 keyword per ad group, you’d have to stick to exact match only. By introducing other types you actually allow in alternatives & add-ons to that keyword, ultimately effecting your CTR, QS, CPC and CPA. So I think you may have miss-stated this with your SKAGs example – you’d still need to a very comprehensive negatives list to hone in on one keyword and get your “perfect ad match” (or like I say, use exact match only). My two cents.

      • Duncan McGillivray

        One other note. Once your QS reaches 10 for your keywords across an ad group, does it matter if there are variations in them? If your QS across an ad group is 9’s & 10’s there isn’t much benefit to this strategy is there? It would just be a time consuming task.

        • The reason for creating SKAGs isn’t for Quality Score’s sake, it just helps that out too.

          The reason for creating SKAGs is to be relevant to the visitor and increase conversion rates first, then worry about the other PPC metrics you mentioned. Those are just added bonuses.

          So to answer your question, yes, you could/should still continue creating SKAGs even after you have a 10/10 Quality Score IF (and this is important), doing so shows an improvement in performance.

      • Not at all :)

        And the reason being that even if your search term doesn’t exactly match your keyword, then your current ad copy is still the most relevant it can be until you decide to break out that search to give it it’s own ad group.

        What you’re saying is overkill and essentially what you want to get to, but it’s a mess if you don’t follow the search term report first.

        Any new longer tail keyword SKAG you will create will automatically be more relevant than the previous SKAG one because of the minimum required words from the BMM keyword.

        And it doesn’t negatively impact the metrics you mentioned, only makes them better from our continued observation :)

    • wow,
      this is like SCI FI GOLD!
      i am amazed and scared in the same time!

    • Hey Johnathan! Great read. :) I just had a question, is this method equally as effective in low budget campaigns? I’m working with 5-10 dollars a day and was wondering if I should combine some of the keywords into one ad group, or keep your suggestion of using only one keyword per ad group. I hope you can clear this up for me! :)

      • 100% – I would go for it :)

        • Thanks for the reply! :) Is there a number of ad groups I should avoid going over for such a budget?

          • Perhaps start around with 5 ad groups first and go from there.

    • Demitris

      Hey John, I was curious what ad rotation setting do you use with this method?

      • In general for any ad testing where speed is a goal, set it to rotate indefinitely.

    • Demitris

      Hey John. What ad rotation type do you select for the campaign. Optimize for clicks, rotate indefinaly ect…?

    • I’m setting up some Call Only Campaigns for two keyword phrases in 3 geo-targeted areas. I created 3 campaigns – one for each geo-targeted region. I further created two ad groups for each of the two keyword phrases and two ads for each keyword phrase. I am using the same ads for the 3 campaigns. I have, alos, set the ads to run only when there is someone to answer the call.

      My question is do I need to disable or pause these keywords in the campaigns where they have been running before I set up the Call Only campaigns?

      — John

      • Hey there John :)

        If you want to make sure there’s no internal competition and not allowing people to click through on the ad (but only being able to call), then yes, go ahead and pause your old keywords.

    • Hi Mark,

      I loved your article. It really helped with my understanding of Adwords. Would you kindly explain to me the rationale of having the 3 types of match:
      +nutella +cookies +recipe
      [nutella cookies recipe]
      “nutella cookies recipe”

      within each SKAG?

      Thank you very much!

      Marcus Tan

      • Hey Marcus :)

        If you look at the other questions, you’ll that this was asked before. The answer is simply that even if you have search term variance, your relevancy will be strong because of your root keyword modified broad match keyword.

    • Nick

      The minus words for ad groups is a must. But this should be done on a cross-group. i.e.
      Group1: +Buy +hot +coffee +online (negatives: fresh, fast)
      G2: +Fast +fresh +coffee +online (negatives: buy, hot)
      G3: +coffee +online (negatives: fresh, fast, buy, hot)

      The problem is that high-frequency keyword in campaign may have up to 500 negative keywords, and adwords won’t let such long phrases upload to account.

      I use script that finds “-word” in phrase, take it out and add it to negative words to the group. The problem is that long phrases I have to manage manually in excel.

      Do you have a solution in such case?

      PS sorry for my, perhaps, bag english. I’m From Russia :)

      • Adding that many ad group level negative keywords is redundant, and you want variance to come through so you can create new SKAGs :)

        You only need to do that for your G3 ad group since it’s the shortest tail keyword.

    • Rok

      Hey Johnathan,

      Just recently stumbled across your article and it was today when I gave it a second read. Simply brilliant! :)
      Would you say the SKAGs approach works just as well today as it did the time of writing this article? Will be definitely trying it out to see how it goes :)
      One more question: what is the lowest monthly search volume a keyword gets that you still bid on?

      Again, thanks for the amazing work.

      Cheers, Rok

      P.S. It took me a while to read all those comments :)

      • Hey Rok :)

        More than ever haha.
        And you’ll get to a point where it’s a diminishing returns game, but it’s all compounding. So it’s just a matter of how much time you have on your hands.

        • Rok

          Got it :)
          Thanks for your response Johnathan, much appreciated.

      • Rok, however you structure your account, bid on all the keywords you can think of that are relevant to your business. Have enough of those that get 1 click a month and get it at a very cheap cost per click… over hundreds or thousands of keywords then you’ll get some good wins. SKAG strategy is a PAIN to do this,,,, but its the long tail magic….

    • Evie

      Hi Jonathan

      This has been really helpful and something that we will definitely be trying.

      I was just wondering what you would suggest with regards landing pages to start with. I know that having a landing page for each keyword would make it extremely relevant to the user but is this necessary?

      Thank you in advance.

      • We’ve done the same for multiple clients but it doesn’t move the needle as much as you think. Plus, if you do that, then you spread your landing page testing data pretty thin and it could take much longer to reach high enough confidence levels.

        If you use Unbounce, then you can start with Dynamic Text Replacement first :)

        But more often than not, it’s not necessary.

        • Evie

          Thank you for coming back to me!

        • Evie

          Sorry, one more thing. If you previously have one keyword with a budget of say £9 and then you create SKAG’s with three versions of that keyword – does each match type now have a budget of £3 to make it up to the £9?

          Thank you!

          • Keywords don’t have budgets, they have bids :)

            Don’t worry about the keyword bids, let the data tell you where they rank and how they’re doing CPA wise, and then adjust bids as you see fit.

          • Evie, if you use SKAGs then your ad group budget = your keyword budget so you are kinda correct :p…

            Rule of thumb, give each keyword a bid for what its worth. If one match type clearly works better than the other two then give it all the budget.. or bid it higher and the others lower… well.. I wont get into bidding but if you want to know more just reach out. :)

      • You ABSOLUTELY DO NOT need a landing page for each keyword…. If someone looks for “dog food” or “food for dogs” and you take them to a page that says “Dog Food” OR “Food for Dogs” this will NOT affect their experience and Google SURELY doesnt care about this either….

        Take a step back and remember that the landing page needs to convert the visitor. Step 1: make sure they know they are on the right page with the headline – should be close enough to their search so they dont hit back within 2 seconds, after that work your funnel magic…. This SKAG method is overkill enough, please dont waste your resources taking it to landing pages…

        Also to make the page relevant for different works like “Online Marketing Service” vs “Online Marketing Agency” you can use dynamic headlines or just copy the page and swap out the headline. Thats good enough… it works.

    • Hey Johnathan,

      Amazing post, i’ve begun implementing this method in my account but theres one thing i’m still confused about. When adding negative keywords am I supposed to add them as broad negative keywords or make it an exact match negative keyword?

      Thanks alot!

      • Most of the time, you’ll just use regular broad match negatives to add to your longer tail SKAGs :)

        Hope that helps!

        • Thanks for the question Justin, and btw great post Johnathan. I’m reading through all the comments Q&A to have my questions answered, but I’m a little confused about this one. If I’m using broad match negative KWs wouldn’t that eliminate all searches for my long tail, as my long tail KW consist of one or some short tail KWs.
          e.g. Positive KW
          +locksmith +service
          “locksmith service”
          [locksmith service]
          Negative KW
          locksmith (in broad match)

          Wouldn’t the example above defeat the purpose?
          I would assume to use negative [locksmith] in the case above
          Please clarify, Thanks.

          • Hi Yehuda, from what I understand, the goal here is to use negative keywords to prevent a “shorter tail” search from stealing impressions from a “longer tail” search.

            So, let’s say there are two SKAGs. The first targets keywords A, B, and C and the second targets keywords A and B. The 2nd SKAG is the “shorter tail” keyword (since the 1st SKAG also targets keyword C). So you would be adding the negative keyword to the shorter-tail second SKAG (since you’re trying to prevent it from “stealing impressions” from the longer-tail first SKAG).

            However, you would NOT be adding A or B as a negative keyword, because as you point out, that would prevent the SKAG from ever triggering an ad. Instead, you would be adding the C keyword to the second SKAG.

            Going back to your example, say you had a 2nd SKAG targeting these positive keywords:

            +locksmith +service +cheap
            “locksmith service cheap”
            [locksmith service cheap]

            The negative keyword you’d be adding to the SKAG you outlined would be:

            cheap (in broad match)

    • Hey Johnathan,

      Amazing post, i’ve begun implementing this method in my account but theres one thing i’m still confused about. When adding negative keywords am I supposed to add them as broad negative keywords or make it an exact match negative keyword? Also if my keyword is more than 3 words I cant fit everything onto my display URL, for those cases should I just select a couple words out of the whole keyword?

      Thanks alot!

      • Sorry for double commenting btw, I didnt know the other one posted!

      • Yea, just pick what you think are the most important words of that keyword.

      • Should fit better with the Path1 and Path 2 now :)

    • Rob

      This is one of the best posts I’ve ever read on setting up a ninja campaign in Adwords. People over look quality score like its useless. I’ve done campaign audits where 1 Adgroup had 100+ broad match keywords and nothing else. Jonathan stop spilling the goods!!! hahaha

    • “I’d recommend having at least two drastically different ads in each ad group that you test against each other that follow the format below:”

      Can you give an example of this? Assuming it is a short trail and then the drastically different ad is the long trail? Can you expand on this a little bit more?

      • Hey Anthony :)

        All that means that you keep your headline and Display URL similar, but change up Description lines 1 and 2 in a more drastic to find a clear winner, and then make new ad iteration tests off that winner.

    • Last Question for you … but do you have a excel document that properly organizes this strategy? Templates that I have found online are more for the broad campaigns.

      • Unfortunately I don’t. We all use AdWords Editor to create the first SKAGs, and then you can export a CSV and use some magic there.

    • Birdenfilmizle online film izleme platformudur, En güncel en kaliteli filmleri sizlere sunan bir websitedir.Tüm filmler 1080p ve 720p kalitede en fazla izleme seçeneğiyle sizlere sunmak bizim işimizdir.Birdenfilmizle Geçmişte ve gelecek çıkacak tüm filmleri en hızlı şekilde hd kalitede sizlere sunmaktadır.

    • Jonathan,
      I read this post over a year ago, and designed my accounts based, in part, on your ideas within. I’ll say that my Google Adwords account is my number one lead source, aside from referral clients. The account performs very well, and requires shockingly little maintenance at this stage. Granted we are in a somewhat niche business, but we do have lots of competition and some interesting challenges when it comes to keywords with double and triple meaning issue. Anyway, I wanted to give you a long overdue THANKS for the post. I’m also an Unbounce customer. :) I used Unbounce for a while, for some specific geo based niche landing pages, discontinued that program, and am now rebuilding some similar ideas using Adwords and Unbounce with dynamic content. So… Thanks…. Again. :)

      I do have a question I’d like to have you clarify. I see where someone else asked, but I am not seeing an answer from you. The issue I have is with plurals. As I’m building this new account that is hyper focused on non-wedding events (80% of our business is wedding related and we’ve GOT to branch out more!) the way to address plurals could potential triple (or more) the size of my account and the time required to properly build it.

      So, using industry terms from my business: Are “band for corporate event” “band for corporate events” “bands for corporate event” “bands for corporate events” FOUR keywords, or ONE keyword (in which case I’d probably use the last one). If it’s four, then that is four SKAG’s. And that’s a simple one in my library of keywords. There are others where 3-4 terms in the long tail all have singular versus plural designations to deal with.

      I’ve gotten lots of conflicting information on this subject, the most confusing coming from Google itself (shocker). Any help you could give would be GREATLY appreciated.


      • Haha thanks so much Joe :) Super glad to hear it, and that you came back after one year!

        To answer your question…

        It’s as simple as trying it out for a few SKAGs first. If the performance between singular or plural is the same, then don’t build out.

        If it’s different (which I think it will be), then there’s your answer to keep building out more. Then you just have to balance the time it takes/managing vs the positive returns :)

      • Joe, keep it in the same ad group. Really. All the campaign setting and ads will be the same, the only difference will be the bidding, right?… great, so bid differently for each keyword in the same ad group. Then take all the time you saved and build out ad groups for “hire band for …” and “local band for…” and “corporate band costs” etc… structuring that out correctly is a MUCH better use of your time

    • Thank you for the useful guide! We will surely use it!


    • Hi Jonathan,

      Thanks so much for sharing this. I’m currently implementing your technique on an AdWords campaign of my own and have a question for you. What if my long-tail keyword is too long for the top headline? Is it still effective if included on the second line?

      Thanks :)

      • Hey Angela :)

        You’re idea would work great, and even if you can’t fit it in the headline, try using the most important words from the keyword in there.

      • From my experience with long-tail keywords, squeeze the main ones in the headline, use abbreviations if needed, then put the rest in the Path 1 and Path 2. For example: Angela Los Angeles Pajama Party Raffle and Giveaway. Headline: Angela LA Pajama Party Raffle (should say Angela’s but doesnt fit and we need to catch their eye and make sense) then Path 1: Pajama-Party Path 2: Giveaway ….

        No idea why I came up with that but basically all the keywords will be in the ad somewhere, catch their eye as the search results pop up and get them to click

    • Johnathan thanks for taking the time to teach us how adwords operates, i have a question im having a hard time with keywords in targeting my website i make youtube videos and im unsure of what to put for my keywords cause i make so many dferent ones at the moment i only have 3 videos cause i am starting all over, is there any advice you could give me?

      • Hey Gerald,

        That question falls out the scope of this article, but you can email me directly with some more context and I can help you out :)

    • Hi Jonathan,
      Thanks for sharing this useful tips. I usually do create SKAGs, but here is my latest observation. I noticed that singular/plural may affect quality score, depending on how we use them. For example if I use singular keyword “cookie” in Headline and put Singular & Plural as my targeted keywords in phrase match, singular keyword will sometimes have larger quality score. I was thinking to create whole account with two different Ads, one for singular and one for plural keyword. What do you think about this?

      • I know that plural and singular keywords most likely perform differently, so I would definitely recommend testing it out in different SKAGs.

      • Milan, keep it in the same ad group and bid on each keyword based on its performance. That works fine if you stay on top of it. Those keywords will have the exact same settings and ads so don’t bother breaking out unless you have some complex need (which exists but its rare).

    • Jon

      When dealing with a large list of keywords isn’t there a chance that some of the BMM keywords will compete with each of the other ad groups because they’re too similar to others? I understand that adding negative keywords prevents this, but with a large list it’s a bit difficult to manage negative keywords.

      Let’s say I have a large list of low volume longtail keywords. Would it be better to leave out the BMM keyword and only have phrase and exact match per ad group?

      • You’re right :)

        But not difficult if you follow the search term report to add negatives over time.

        You can read some more detailed reasons in these two posts:

        • Jon

          Thanks Johnathan for the referring links,

          I’m still confused if in the situation where I have well over a 1,000 keywords in a tight niche if using exact match ONLY would be beneficial opposed to using all 3 match types within the same ad group. And I could easily just activate the other 2 match types for when I’m wanting to mine for new keywords.

          Would using exact match only also eliminate the risk of competing keywords for the campaign?

          • Keeping exact match only would definitely take care of that, that’s just not what this article is talking about :)

          • Structure your account wisely, going after all possible relevant keywords (that you can find or think of), then bid conservatively – that eliminates risk AND doesnt kill growth.

      • Jon, its better to risk an overlap than risking not getting good traffic you didnt think of… in other words if you eliminate BMM you are missing out on matching to and discovering new keywords for your business. If you overlap and Google algo felt that another ad should show over another – no bid deal, happens. Try to tighten with negatives but it will never be perfect. Cast your net wide but safely (relevant traffic and conservative bids) and your account will evolve to be effective, limit it to a narrow set of keywords with minimal chance for discovery and you’ll be stagnant. I hope this helps.

    • Kyle

      Phenomenal advice! I did have a question about broad vs. broad modified:

      So lets say I am targeting Medical Transcription

      So +Medical+Transcription means it would trigger that adgroup for any of the following:

      New Medical Transcription
      Medical Digital Transcriptions
      Medical Transcription Processing

      Is that correct?

      Where as broad term by itself of Medical Transcription could bring up

      Medical Transcription
      Processing Medical Transcriptions
      Medical removal of the leg

      Now in my specific ad group for merchant processing, is it OK to add the plain broad term
      Medical Transcription if I wanted to see what search terms it might generate to find new keywords or will that hurt my QS?

      • Yes to your first question.

        I would only do broad match in its own campaign with a smaller budget and use a negative keyword list from your non-broad match campaigns to exclude against the broad match campaign.

      • Lior Krolewicz

        Kyle, are ALL “medical transcriptions” related to processing? or can you do other things with them (I have no idea). But if you can do other actions with it then each action, like processing, should be its own ad group. You dont have to break out a broad keyword into its own group, just start it off in the same ad group with a VERY low bid and slowly inch it up based on data where its spending what you;d like it to. Once you find that sweet spot your set – much better than managing multiple ad groups with the same intent

    • Universal colours are the colours that flatter any
      complexion, and will make anyone look great.

    • I just started at a new company and I will work a lot with adwords. I really like the 1 keyword per ad thing.. So thanks a lot for some good inspiration!

    • I’ve been running several campaigns with ad groups broken by KWs match types, and must admit that I gave up on optimizing those in favor of having three match types in one ad group, BUT for single KW or very close variations (no more that 5-6). This was huge increase in CTR and Impressions Share. At the beginning cost rose up dramatically, but then with sales coming up higher this was stabilized, as I started to pay lower CPCs then before. It is all situational and you should do your best in estimating possible positive gain depending on what industry are you in and what is your conversion’s type.

      • Glad to hear it, Shareef :)

      • Lior Krolewicz

        I agree Shareef, I also dont use SKAGs, but when doing what you did, I’d always recommend start with lower bids and work your way up to control costs. You can always bid up and get more traffic but once you spend your lunch money its gone, so I go the conservative route.

    • If I go with the SKAGs and use the same landing for around 10 keywords, would that be a good practice to do? (Considering the fact that all keywords are related to each other and happen to be there in landing page)

      • I would definitely recommend that :)

      • Lior Krolewicz

        Yes. When it comes to landing pages with PPC dont think its like SEO. Google just wants to make sure the page is relevant. Dont put an ad for cat food and take them to a dog food page. Its pretty binary decision. I cannot imagine Google overthinking your landing page and just like CTR is an indicator of how relevant your ad is (and happens to get Google paid more), people staying on your page longer will be part of Google’s indication…. but dont overthink that, just please the searcher, if you paid $1 to bring them to your site make sure you get your money’s worth by taking from A landing page to Ze Checkout… lame but hopefully point made :). Good luck.

    • This is a really good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.
      Short but very accurate information… Thanks for sharing this
      one. A must read post!

    • Hi Johnathan,
      I’m only new at this and have found your post very helpful. But I do have a question that is going to sound very rookie of me. When I make my SKAGs do I put my already running ads on pause so that they don’t interfere with the new specific ads?
      Thank you in advance :)

    • Q – I’m about to upload about 4,000 SKAGS all closely related to car keys, and I was wondering if I should break up the camps.


      Camp 1 = Lost Car Keys
      Ad group 1 = Lost Car Keys
      Ad group 2 = I lost my Car Keys

      Camp 2 = New Car Keys
      Ad group 1 = New Car Keys
      Ad group 2 = Need new car keys

      And so on…


      Can I just be really lazy and upload them in one CAMP, so my questions is will this decrease results?


      • Campaign structure won’t do much other than you not being able to control geo, budgets, etc. So that’s up to you.

        I would upload them all in one campaign and then group them later.

      • You can use separate campaigns if you want to use the same ad extensions campaign-wide as it would be a lot of effort to target ad group level ad extension targeting for 4k SKAGs. Not a lot of people bother to separate ad extensions like they do with SKAGs and just use the same ones campaing wide.

        So you can have sitelinks, callouts, services, offers, structured callouts and so on specific to new car keys, lost car keys, etc

      • Lior Krolewicz

        Don’t. The locksmith industry is one of the most competitive in the market, especially since many make it a part time job to click on competitor’s ads. Anyway, you are better off making ad groups based on car model + lost, car model + rekey etc. thats would be more manageable and correct… and in the locksmith industry I sincerely wish you the BEST OF LUCK! :)

    • Hi Johnathan,

      I’ve been researching SKAG strategy of late, and recently came across somebody who has a slightly different setup to you. They use two ad groups initially instead of one, as so:

      AD GROUP 1: [camping supplies]
      AD GROUP 2: “camping supplies”, +camping +supplies

      You would then add follow-up negative keywords to AG2.

      What do you think of that setup and the way it differs to yours? Could you see any potential advantages/disadvantages? Any insight would be appreciated!

      • If you go that far, then you’re going to have an even harder time to collect enough clicks/impressions/conversions to be able to test ad copy quickly enough.

        My method here already dilutes your traffic, but that method is taking it too far imo :)

        • Hi Johnathan,

          I have one more question…

          What do you do if you are targeting multiple countries? We are targeting Spanish-speaking countries, and there are plenty of them! Do you think it is better to start with one country and then duplicate successful campaigns for new countries? Or to separate all countries from the beginning? Or target multiple countries in a single campaign?

          … or something else altogether? :)

          Thanks again for your time

          • Hey Matt :)

            To make it easy on you, I would start this structure with one country first, and then clone it afterwards.

          • Lior Krolewicz

            Start with the country thats most likely to get you the best results, then if its a product that can be sold anywhere you can start to add other spanish countries to it and see how it performs – not all Spanish is the same, so be careful there but otherwise thats solid.

            If you are service and you want to make it feel like it s a service for THEIR country (in the ad) then just break it out to different campaigns but do so in a systematic way so you can copy-paste the campaign, replace the country name in the ad and Buenisimo, you are good to go. Buen Suerte Amigo.

      • Lior Krolewicz

        Matt, its overkill. With AdWords you need to balance the theoretical structure with the effectively managed structure. Those 3 keywords are VERY unlikely to attract totally different people (may be a need to border-in with negative keywords but its pretty much the same people). So a headline like “Buy Best Camping Supplies” will cover all those keywords and so all those keywords can safely be in the same ad group. I believe that even the keyword variations with “buy” (ie. [buy camping supplies] can be there too because the same ad would apply – this is the fundamental way AdWords had worked from the beginning and always will). Just bid on keywords based on their value and cultivate strong negative list and you will be better than 90% of the people out there.Good luck

    • Hi Jonathan,

      Gr8 article there and an even better discussion in the following comments.
      My question to you is : I’m just starting with a new account from ground up with no previous performance data. My initial research has suggested that there are few keywords out there that I can target with the SKAGs approach but with the Extended Text Ads in play, how should we go about designing a 2nd headline for our ? Will including a keyword in this 2nd headline cannabalize our ad?
      Moreover, you’ve mentioned in your post, that per keyword, there needs to be Ad variants. Do they serve any other purpose than testing which ad works best ?

      Aman Gupta

      • Shouldn’t be an issue for you, I would test having the keyword in different areas of the ad.

        Ad variants serve no purpose other than the power of regularly testing your ads :)

      • Lior Krolewicz

        Aman, a good rule of thumb is to have your headline 1 include the keywords you are bidding on and headline 2 saying why YOU are awesome (more than anyone else around the Google page). So if Keyword searched is “aman’s new business” then Headline 1: “See Aman’s New Business” Headline 2: Get 20 Years of Research Free”… not the best headline 2 because I have no idea what you do :) but I hope this helps. Bonus tip – use Path 1 and Path 2 to push a message as well Path 1: Free-Research Path 2: Download-Now – doesnt HAVE TO take them to a DL page but it gets the wheels turning .. good luck!

    • Hey Jonathan!

      I just started doing our google adwords campaign after paying Hibu $1000 per month and I cut out the middle man. I noticed we have a lot of the same keywords and I was trying to do what you suggested, but the adwords does seem to promote too many keywords – I guess they are in it for the money! We are a moving company in the south – very competitive. Should we break up into two campaigns – $500 each or simplify the existing? Thanks in advance!

      • Hey Nicole :)

        For the promotion of too many keywords – is that just keyword volume, or are your search terms all over the place?

        Campaigns should be broken up into themes of keywords (as an example), so if it helps you stay more organized, sure thing :)

      • Lior Krolewicz

        Hey Nicole, Google AdWords is like the stock market – VERY easy to lose a lot of money very fast if your not a real pro. The moving industry is very competitive, you have your local movers and the lead generators both going after the same searcher. The lead generation company can resell a lead to many companies and may be able to afford to pay more than you per click for this reason alone. You need to do more leg work than them and build very specific campaigns around “your city name + moving company”, then “your city name + moving service” (where each of these is a separate ad group with respective headlines: “company” vs” service”… yes GET THAT GRANULAR :). Then in the ads emphasize that you are a REAL LOCAL company for those who dont want 5 quotes, and just want to call someone local – qualify them with the ad.. there is much more to it but this should get you started… good luck!

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    • Thank you for the valuable advise Johnathan,

      Would you mind explaining why do you prefer 3 types of mach for each keyword? I thought modified broad match includes the other two (phrase and exact matches)?


      +nutella +cookies +recipe
      [nutella cookies recipe]
      “nutella cookies recipe”

      • Lior Krolewicz

        Ceren, Google’s AdWords black box is just that – a black box. So these three variations are tight enough to bid on safely and one may perform better than the other for whatever reason – just does. Also having modified broad and phrase allows you to explore very similar search queries that you can cultivate over time and discover more gems. You should probably bid them all low and work the bids up based on performance (or even to just get traffic if you started too low).

    • Lin


      I love this guide I have been reading it repeatedly to implement this strategy and it seems to be working much better than before! :) I do have a problem though where the wrong advert from the wrong ad group is showing for the keyword that is being searched. For example I have the following ad groups:

      [nutella cookies]
      “nutella cookies”
      +nutella +cookies

      [nutella cookies chocolate flavour]
      “nutella cookies chocolate flavour”
      +nutella +cookies +chocolate +flavour

      I have added “chocolate”, “flavour” and “chocolate flavour” as phrase match negative ad group keywords to the first ad group.

      However when I run the ad preview and diagnosis for the term “nutella cookies chocolate flavour” it is trying to show the advert from the “nutella cookies” ad group and states that my advert is not showing as a negative keyword is preventing the advert. It completely disregards the ad group for “nutella cookies chocolate flavour”

      I am not sure what I have done to break this? lol! I would be so grateful for any help or advice!

      Thanks :)

      • Miquel Conesa

        Curious about it, I’ve just tried and [nutella cookies chocolate flavour] is a low search volume keyword, so it’s not elegible to display ads. It would explain your issue.

      • Lior Krolewicz

        Lin, just add the negative keyword “chocolate” in broad match into the “nutella cookies” ad group, thats it. So whenever anything chocolate comes up that ad group CANNOT show any ads for it, so it should then default to the correct one!

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    • Ashish Kothari

      Very useful info. How do I stop our ad from showing for a single keyword, e.g. let’s says I have a keyword “cricket bats” and I don’t want my ads to show up for the single keywords “cricket” or “bats”, but only for “cricket bats”?

      What will my negative keywords look like?

      Also curious to learn, when you have hundreds of keywords how do you go creating hundreds of ad groups with specific ads for each of those? What if you have thousands?

      • Bill Petrey

        Assuming you’re using broad match type, change your keyword to (modified broad) +cricket +balls, or (phrase) “cricket balls”. You should also check in preferences to not allow variations, or some type of wording like that.

        • Ashish Kothari

          Thanks Bill… Would it be safe to add “cricket” and “balls” as two negative keywords?

          • Bill Petrey

            By doing that, you would eliminate any search that had cricket or balls in it. Any search. Best to only have keywords using phrase or modified broad that had both keywords in them so in modified broad, your ad wouldn’t show up unless both were mentioned, and in phrase match, your ad wouldn’t show up unless “cricket balls” was mentioned as a phrase. I suggest using both modified broad AND phrase matching so many instances of the topic would be caught by your keywords.

            How to create hundreds of keywords/adgroups? You need to download Adwords Editor and get very familiar with it, especially the copy/paste and find and replace functions. For bulk input, it’s literally a gift from God.

          • You want to use ad group level negatives, Ashish :) And then follow your search term report to exclude from there.

      • Lior Krolewicz

        The answer is to add exact negatives [bats], [bat], [cricket], [crickets] – thats it. This means that those exact keywords by themselves will NOT trigger your ads. Good luck!

        • Ashish Kothari

          Thanks Lior. This is what I was looking for.

    • Bobby

      Hi, wondering if someone can help me, I have 3 questions.

      I have set up my ad groups by SKAGS as advised by this article. e.g Repair Broken Door

      With 3 variants of match type,
      +Repair +Broken +Door
      “Repair Broken Door”
      [Repair Broken Door]

      I have spoke to Google Support this morning who has told me SKAGS are not the way forward and that if I am to implement SKAGS, only include Broad Match Mod & Phrase match. What is your opinion?

      I have other ad groups set up, also including similar keywords e.g Fix Broken Door
      (Once again with 3 types of modifiers)

      As these keywords are similar, are the ad groups competing with each other?

      Finally, I have a national campaign covering the UK and then several Geo campaigns set up for certain regions. This would allow us to increase budget in certain areas if we needed to hit certain targets.

      As the keywords in the national campaign are similar to those in the geo campaign, are they once again fighting over each other?

      Google Support have provided me with two contrasting opinions this month and advised not to research online apart from their own support facility. Something a bit fishy, what do you guys think? Any help, much appreciated.


      • Hey Bobby :)

        Most of the time, Google support knows nothing, and for them to recommend broad match is simply a joke.

        For your other question, those two ad groups aren’t competing.

        You’d want to make sure you’re excluding your geo areas in your national campaign so they’re not competing.

        Definitely fishy that Google would tell you this. I mean, just look at the volume of people who are loving the SKAG strategy based off the comments.

        As you’re doing this, keep one thing in mind: “Don’t fix the sink, if the well is broken”.

        Your AdWords account is the sink, but your landing page is the well. Based off your questions, I’m sensing that you might be stuck focusing on only on the AdWords side of things, so please keep the landing page equation in mind as well :)

        • Bobby

          Landing pages are undergoing work currently!

          My questions have been answered! Unfortunately my phone call from the Google call center wasn’t as helpful.



      • Hi Bobby, I recommend taking a step back as well and rethink your keywords based on your specific business. The keyword “+repair +broken +door” can be matched by someone looking to fix a door for a car, garage, fridge, house, gate, fence, tutorials, service, handyman, lock, help, … and probably longer tail searches.

        To be effective go after longer tail keywords first and once you prove those go after the shorter/broader ones but still make sure to add negative keywords for any type of door you can think of thats not relevant. Then over time cultivate your Search Query Report to add more negatives.

        As far as Geo’s: yes, separate them and add negatives geos to the broad UK campaign not to overlap, this will allow you to see whats working better and for what keywords etc. So its helpful to optimize better and not only from an internal competition issue.

        I hope this gives you good perspective on the right approach. Start SUPER-TARGETED to go after YOUR TIGHT target market then expand. See, if you offer “house door repair service” and you bid on that exact keyword but it doesnt convert then you know there are bigger issues to attend to rather than account structure.

        Good luck!

    • alex

      Would you create new ad groups for plural/singular (Dog and Dogs), state abbreviations vs written out (FL and Florida), prepositions (in Florida vs Florida) I can see it start to grow pretty long, but would it be the way you suggest?


      ‘Dry Cleaner’ would be the main keyword but now we need to create separate ad groups, each with 3 match types (Broad Match Modifier, Phrase, and Exact) for:

      Dry Cleaner
      Dry Cleaners
      Dry Cleaner Miami
      Dry Cleaners Miami
      Dry Cleaner in Miami
      Dry Cleaners in Miami
      Dry Cleaner Miami Florida
      Dry Cleaners Miami Florida
      Dry Cleaner in Miami Florida
      Dry Cleaners in Miami Florida
      Dry Cleaner Miami FL
      Dry Cleaners Miami FL
      Dry Cleaner in Miami FL
      Dry Cleaners in Miami FL

      Curious on your thought on this…

      • alex

        In addition, creating ad groups that have Phrase Match and Exact Match for the location in front:

        Miami Dry Cleaner
        Miami Dry Cleaners
        Miami Florida Dry Cleaner
        Miami Florida Dry Cleaners
        Miami FL Dry Cleaner
        Miami FL Dry Cleaners

      • Hey Alex :)

        You don’t have to make it that complex, because most likely, a lot of those SKAGs wouldn’t get any impressions.

        So just follow you search term report around the SKAG “dry cleaner” and see what Google tells you. If there’s enough impressions in your search term report, then you build those out first and just go down the list.

        • alex

          Thanks, Johnathan, for the quick reply! Is the suggestion also with plural vs singular?

          • Also follow the search term report :) It will tell you all you need to know.

        • alex

          Setting it up like my example above, it seems all the keywords are getting a, “No” on the “Showing ads right now?” during hover over, in the keyword level of my campaigns.

          It’s stating, “Another creative in the ad group was selected over this one.” The issue is that ALL the keywords in the campaign are stating this.

          Looking more into it, it seems because we are using similar keywords within or across multiple ad groups, Google is having a hard time trying to match the keyword to the correct ad group?

          In my example, if a user types “Dry Cleaner Miami” in Google, just about every ad group can potentially be triggered.

          Have you ever come across this? If so, please elaborate on a solution.

          As a disclosure, I am still getting small impressions, even though it does say No. I just want to make sure if there is something else I need to do that I do it. Thanks!

          • Are you adding ad group level negative keywords based on the search term report?

            That’s all you have to do.

            If you run an ad preview & diagnosis then your ads will show. Internal competition is okay to have in the beginning.

    • Daniel D

      I have multiple ad groups for a local ice cream shop running on AdWords. My question is one of the ad groups is called “Cookie Dough Ice Cream”, what would the negative keywords be for that specific ad group?

      • Nothing would be. If you see any any search terms for that keyword that don’t exactly match Cookie Dough Ice Cream, then those would be your ad group level negative keywords.

    • Just come across this post – great bedtime read! I’ve always believed in single keyword ad groups – it just gives so much more information!

    • Tom

      Thanks for the post! I’ve been searching for some new ideas to my stale adwords campaigns.

      Started creating new SKAGs using our highest most relevant keywords.

      having started and breaking those down to new SKAGs off highest impressions.

      I’m a little confused with what to do with my old campaigns/adgroup.keywords.

      I have many campaigns, which have many adgroups which have many keywords permutations.

      So…..lets say I create a SKAG for “custom widget”

      If I do a keyword report account wide on “custom widget” I come up with 139 permutations of custom widget spread out between different campaigns/adgroups.

      Of coarse i pause “custom widget” should I also pause all the permutations and let them start filtering into the SKAG? I have started to take some of the higher impression ones and put them into their own SKAG too.

      My immediate goal is to get to the top 25 impressions / exact match SKAGs

      Thanks again for the great info.

    • Jared

      I have a rather simple question, do we need to make SKAGs for plural versions of a keyword or no?

    • Aron G. Katz

      What would be a good time to start using SKAG on my campaign? Three months?

      Great article btw!!

    • Deniz Ficici

      Thank you for the article. My question would be about bidding.

      I am already using one keyword strategy and my keywords are +broad match for each ad-group but why should I add “keyword” & [keyword] as well? when I add them their suggested bid is much higher than what I am currently paying for +keyword.

      Thank you

    • Thomas

      Thanks for the great post. I found it while searching for a problem I’m having with my campaign. I have all the keywords in SKAGs already, but found that I was getting next to zero impressions. When using the ad preview and diagnostic tool, I get a lot of keywords that say that the ads are not showing and Google can’t determine why.

      Wondering if there were some kind of conflicts between the keywords/adgroups. I did notice that when I tried some variations of general keywords, few ad groups were being triggered, and nothing was showing (as a result?).

      Never had this problem when I used to group keywords into bigger adgroups. Wondering if SKAGs are the culprit. Ever come across this kind of issue?

      If adding negative keywords on adgroup level is the answer, then that’s a whole lot of work… any tools to make it faster? I have 600, 1300, and 180 on three campaigns that are experiencing this same problem.


      • Have you created SKAGs based around impression volumes first? That could be the reason if there’s just no search volume to begin with as Google won’t show your ads because of that or low quality scores.

        For adding negatives, you’ll want to follow your search term report by adding in the Keyword column so you can see the discrepancy between the search term and keyword.

        If there’s a discrepancy/mismatch, then add that search term as an ad group level negative keyword and create a new SKAG around it.

        • Thomas

          Thanks for the reply, Jonathan. Appreciate the feedback.

          My keyword quality scores are all 6/10 and have been from Day 1. So I’m pretty sure that’s not part of the issue.

          I did not create the SKAGs based on impressions. I just did keyword research to gather as much keyword as I could. Then uploaded them all in SKAGs and then deleted the low search volume keywords (since I heard that they could negatively impact the campaign/account – but that’s not an element in this issue anyways, I don’t think).

          So right now I have 180 keywords (plus their match type variations) on the smallest campaign, which translates into 180 ad groups. My initial suspicion was that the keywords were causing conflicts with each other because some of them were SO close variations of each other.

          They never caused this kind of trouble, as far as I can tell, when I used to group them into bigger ad groups based on theme because all the similar variations would be in the same ad group. I don’t really know the logics of it. That’s just a gut/anecdotal feeling/guess.

          If I understand your method correctly, then I should start off with a handful of root keywords with their match type variations. Then, add additional ad groups as they come up in search terms and add them as ad group level negatives from the original ad groups.

          If that’s correct, wouldn’t this lead to quite a bit of wasted clicks/$ as I sort through the “bad” clicks and higher CPC resulting from broader match keywords? I typically start campaigns with a few hundred keywords and figured I was paying less for those longer-tail keywords.

          Guess I’m having a bit of hard time grasping this perspective because it seems so opposite of what I’ve been taught to do for so long.

          Thanks again in advance for your input and feedback. Greatly appreciate it.

          • You’re doing research around outdated insights without the knowledge of how they’ll convert and what their CPA is. So that’s why the shotgun approach isn’t something I recommend.

            I think your execution of them might be off, because all your micro metrics should start to improve.

            Just think about these two extremes:
            Extreme 1) One account, one campaign, one ad group, one ad, hundreds of keywords & search terms = chaos

            Extreme 2) One account, one campaign, 50 ad groups, 50 ads, 50 keywords = simplicity & control

            You can’t have all your keywords match perfectly to your ad and get the highest potential CTR if you group keywords by themes in an ad group. Even if you use DKI, you still sell yourself short because it’s dynamic keyword insertion, not dynamic search term insertion.

        • Thomas

          And just thought of this while thinking about the whole idea of SKAGs. How does this setup give a better information than having “chunkier” ad groups? If I setup conversion metrics, then would I be able to tell which keywords converted without having them in SKAGs? I think I’m sort of understanding the method, but not entirely sure on the reason how this is better…

    • Love this overview! Quick question on negative keywords and new ad groups:

      1) If you have long tail keywords in your SKAG that aren’t triggering a lot of impressions, do you just leave them in there, or would you still create a new SKAG based on these?

      Reason I’m asking is because I’ve done this, but now the new SKAG isn’t being triggered as the search volume is too low according to Google.

      2) Would it make more sense to leave it in the original SKAG?
      3) Is there some kind of rule of thumb for when to create new SKAGS and add negative keywords based on the search term report?


      • Thanks, Nicholas :)

        1) You don’t create a new SKAG from a current SKAG, you only do so from the search term report. So if your long tail keywords weren’t getting impressions as search terms, then they should never have been turned into SKAGs.

        2) Yes
        3) Yes, follow the search term report. That’s where you find new SKAGs to create and where you add new ad group level negatives.

        • Awesome thanks so much Jonathan! It’s very clear for me now. And regarding number 1, I did mean long tail search terms in the SKAG not their actual KW.

          Thanks again, appreciate your comment!

          • Hey @nicholasjohnmartin:disqus this is the challenge with SKAG (and the issue I have with it) – Let’s say you have the keyword “organic dog food” and your ad headline probably would say something like “Buy Organic Dog Food” then you find in your Search Term Report that there are other keywords like “buy organic dog food online” “organic dog food online” then these keywords in different orders….

            To follow SKAG strategy you will need to create a handful of new ad groups with everything exactly the same except the single keyword. This is overkill and hard to manage. Then when you test a new headline or line 2? Do you test it across ALL SKAG ad groups and learn how people react to the new ad?

            Google advises to create ad groups based on “themes” but the rule should be: add keywords to an ad group if ALL those keywords would have the SAME ad and settings. Bid on the keyword level, based on each keyword performance, and thats it.

            As SKAG is pretty hyped, I would advise you to try the way I suggest and you are likely to see its MUCH easier to manage and performance will go up because you will have more time to manage the important things in the account.

            (if you do test it, i’d love to hear how it goes) lior@yaelconsulting.com

            • Hey Lior, instead of high-jacking the comment thread and spreading misinformation while trying to get clients from it, consider the difference in results we’ve seen at scale vs you.

              Maybe you could write your own post and come with your own thoughts?

              • Hey @johnathandane:disqus nice to meet you?

                I am not sure what you mean with “spreading misinformation” but I would be happy to discuss our differing views in a professional manner.

                First, these posts, forums and answers are not about who has a bigger….. agency, its about making sure the readers get the best possible information to be effective and grow their businesses.

                Second, I think you are doing a great job with your agency (stemming off disruptive only a few year ago) because you are kicking ass with PR and sales, your work with unbounce… in all you are doing a great job – so honestly kudos…

                With that, experience is a big factor here and since I personally ran AdWords and marketing for companies that sold for $270MM, companies with $1MM per month, took another’s sales from $20K to $500K a month in 10 days, and 100% hands-on grew client accounts for many years, I feel I a well qualified to help others avoid the mistakes I see too often.

                I don’t believe in SKAG or that people should do it.

                Again, if you would like to further discuss the merits of SKAG I’d be happy to, because people should get a balanced view… but please lets keep it professional Johnathan.

                Thanks, Lior

                • Not trying to make this a contest buddy, but you’re coming into a thread with opposing views and dropping your email address in hopes of chatting further with potential clients.

                  So I’m just calling you out.

                  Hopefully the readers know right from wrong – but pretty disappointed in the way you’re trying to leech.

                  • Ah, I actually care to hear if it works out for Nicholas, so I left an email. However, I can see how that could come off, so I removed my email (and I guess he can figure out how to contact me if he wants).

                    That aside, I don’t agree with you on SKAG. Not sure what you mean with “right from wrong”, but I’m encouraging readers do try a different approach, that has worked better for me over the years, and I’m providing the logic of why this other approach works better.

                    I think the readers will be better off if we avoided the drama, name-calling, and disappointment side of this thread and would love to hear why you think my approach is “wrong”.

                    Again, I am 100% open to hearing and discussing it as I am confident in my approach. What do you say Johnathan?

    • thanks Johnathan Dane .
      AdWords always problem with me but your post help me a lot

    • Matt Marchetta

      Hey Johnathan,

      Thanks heaps for this very informative article.
      I’m a little confused as to how I should structure my product ads. I operate a party supplies website with just over 11,000 products. They are split across typical level 1 categories like Balloons, Tableware, Decorations etc. Then many different level 2 & 3 sub-categories. How would I create SKAGs when so many products would fall under each Ad Group? Or would you suggest that every product should have its own Ad Group, thereby making it necessary to create 11,000 Ad Groups?


      • Hi @spyredigital:disqus here is what you should do.

        1. Start with high level categories: balloons, tableware, decorations, etc as Campaigns (because it sounds like thats how you look at your business)

        2. Create ad groups with more details/adjectives for these categories: wedding, birthday, party, new years, etc

        3. Keyword in each ad group will be very close like Campaign: Balloons –> Ad Group: Party –> Keywords: buy party balloons, party balloons, buy party balloons online, etc.

        You may find you will want to go as granular as “Cheap Party” ad group then keywords would have “cheap party balloons online”. I would start more basic then build things out based on results.

        This will be much more manageable and effective. Look at the 11K products as an opportunity to be more granular and specific than competition. This will take up much more work, but you wont be forced into a keyword bidding war – so you can grow your business profitably.

        This IS a beast so feel free to reach out if you have any questions or need help. Good luck, Lior

        • Matt Marchetta

          Hi @disqus_afOAFsCHyR:disqus ,

          Apologies for the late reply, but thanks very much for the suggestion!
          It’s very helpful. Good idea about focusing Ad Groups around key events.


          • Glad it helps @spyredigital:disqus feel free to reach out if you have any other questions :)

    • I added 10 relevant comments here that were thanked and voted up several time but didnt necessarily agree with the writer of the post. SO SAD to see them just being deleted. I thought that this was an open forum to discuss and perhaps even debate idea but apparently I just get deleted. Not sure why. What’s up Johnathan?

      • Amanda Durepos

        Hey Lior, I’m the blog editor at Unbounce – we recently did a sweep of comments to get rid of some spam and bots. Your posts may have been lost in the fray, maybe due to broken links? So sorry about that!

        • Hi Amanda, I had 20 posts all very well thought out answering people but partly contradicting all Johnathan’s approach here. There were no links and nothing spammy at all. Why would only these and all of these get scrubbed?

          • Amanda Durepos

            Hmm, that definitely shouldn’t have happened. Looking into it now Lior.

            • Much appreciated. Can you get them all back in here from your end?

              • i browsed the comments and now i am pretty sure why your comments are deleted lmao … ^_^ i have nothing against you but i think someone does :P anyway informative comments i’d like to add my own approach as well but nuh i think i’ll pass

                • :) Just trying to help people with a better way to run AdWords…. if you have ideas to help other… please do share.

                  It may be risky, but if you can save just one AdWords owner from throwing their ad budget away or from wasting their time then maybe, just maybe, its worth that risk! :)

                  • well .. i might but definitely not here

            • Update?

            • Also the 20 questions I answered are gone… very odd, any answers?

    • Nick Simpson

      I find that long tail keywords often get rejected by Google because of low search volume. So if I then put that long tail keyword as a negative keyword against a short tail keyword then it won’t show up at all. So how do you manage that? Seems that Google actively tries to discourage long tail keywords.

      • Algocentric

        We’re seeing this as well. Long tail keywords are definitely not always the way to go as an exclusive strategy. A mix of some shorter tail and longer tail is best( 3 to 4 words in a keyword. We also utilize a tool that generates 1000s of negative keywords semantically relevant to our keyword within an adgroup and block out potential Q/S penalties associated with showing up on “unrelated” terms that would otherwise trigger our ads.

    • Algocentric

      This is definitely an interesting thought provoking read. How do you manage SKAGs when you have 15 accounts to manage in an 8 hour work day? Most agencies don’t have 1 or two accounts dedicated to one PPC manager. Getting this granular maybe beneficial, but the work load wouldn’t really be manageable unless you’re an in house PPC expert.

      • Agreed – except that its also manageable if you have the right technology behind you. This is how some successful agencies do things, but SKAG is not very manageable by a human alone.

      • Michael Taggart

        API. We do it with a ton of automation and machine learning.

    • Jon

      You suggest to only create the 3 match types in a SKAG based on impression volumes first.
      If that’s the case, should we start with multiple keywords per ad group?
      If so, which match type should we start with?

      • No, just one keyword per SKAG, hence the name :)
        Read the article and you’ll see which match types are recommended.

      • The 3 match types in an ad group had worked fine for me for years :)

    • D Raj PB

      In this above case as the author says. by doing so we may miss out potential conversions. Whats your point on that?

      • With Google AdWords, cast the widest net that you can that is still relevant to your market. From there eliminate the “bad” keywords that Google matches you to then bid on each relevant keyword based on what its worth.

    • Carla

      I am in direct selling with a company that sells Scents, Warmers and More, Laundry Products, Body Products, Cleaning Supplies, Kid Products, and they also run monthly Specials, plus a “Join my Team” aspect. I really would like to get more people to my website and increase my sales and team members. How should I do this? My biggest sellers are the warmers and scents. Can you help me out?

    • Christy Puller

      Great article Johnathan! Thinking of trying this out. Like EVERYTHING in marketing, there are conflicting views on the way things should be done. Sometimes different methods still yield the same results. I think it’s important to consider whatever makes the most sense for your business and products/services.

      If you are a one-pony show (like I am) with a very specific product and don’t have a 40hr week to strictly focus on Adwords, I think using SKAG would make sense.

      If you have 1,700 different products with a variety of usages and you’re a one-pony show not dedicating 40hrs/week to adwords alone, this might be something to really think about.

      Again – great article. :)

    • Johnathan,
      The information you’re sharing is of great value! Thank you!
      I will follow your recommendations on my next PPC Campaign. Can’t wait to see my results!

    • patinafrica

      Hey Johnathan, I’m a safari operator in Africa relying heavily on Ad Words. I do it all myself after having spent $$$$$ on third parties with average results. I’ve implemented the SKAGS and Ad-group level negative keywords and am seeing good results over the last year, using your article as my bible. I’m now delving into DKI.


      1) To get DKI to work, does it mean I need to load my SKAG with all the alternative keywords users might use as search terms? if “yes”, doesnt this mean the SKAG is no longer a SKAG, as it contains a load of additional keywords?

      Example: SKAG is Uganda Safaris, SKAG Keywords are [Uganda Safaris], +Uganda +Safaris and “Uganda Safaris”. To implement DKI, I need to add variations of Uganda Trips, Uganda Holidays and Uganda Vacations into my Ad Group. Is this correct?

      2) Would I set up the Ad Header as Uganda {KeyWord:Safaris} or {KeyWord:Uganda Safaris}. The reason I ask is that certain keywords cost more or have higher search volumes than others, and I want to stay efficient.