The average paid search account is a labyrinth of ad groups, keywords, negative keywords and ads that would even baffle even the original Greek maze runner, Theseus.

It’s a mess, but if it’s a profitable mess, than that’s okay, right?

It might be okay, but a complex campaign structure can actually limit the profitability of your campaigns. After all, if it’s hard for you to keep your campaigns straight, what are the odds that your ads are going to be a good match for what your customers need?

Fortunately, there’s a fairly simple way to disentangle your paid search campaigns called single keyword ad groups (SKAGs).

SKAGs are exactly what they sound like. You pick a keyword and build an ad group around it. Sure, you might use a few different match types, but your ad group, ads and landing pages are all focused on that one keyword.

As a result, you can create incredibly focused ads that you can easily optimize for maximum profitability. It might take a bit more work up front, but in the long run, it’s worth it.

Let’s take a look at how SKAGs work and how you can put them to work for your business.

Setting Up Single Keyword Ad Groups

Every paid search campaign has at least one ad group. Ad groups contain a number of keywords that you want to target with your ads.

In most campaigns, each ad group will have several keywords (sometimes several dozen keywords) that all follow the same basic theme.

For example, here’s an ad group for a ghostwriter:

ghostwriter ad group skags

“Business ghostwriter”, “business writer”, “content marketer”, “content writer”, “copyeditor”, “ghosteditor”, “ghostwriter” and “manuscript ghostwriter” all orbit the same need for writing services.

Hypothetically, you could write a text ad that was generic enough to appeal to anyone who searched for any of the above terms, but it might be hard to make the ad truly compelling for all of these different potential searches.

But what if you only had to write an ad for people who searched for “content writer”?

With single keyword ad groups, you don’t have to worry about juggling a bunch of potential search types. For example, instead of targeting a dozen different keywords, you only target [content writer], “content writer” and +content +writer.

All of a sudden, the number of potential search types that could trigger your ad is a lot smaller, enabling you to write incredibly specific and compelling ad copy.

And that’s the power of SKAGs.

The Advantages of SKAGs

Single keyword ad groups come with a lot of advantages over other approaches to campaign structure.

Easy to Maintain

SKAGs give you the ability to create incredibly well structured campaigns. In the above example, the ad group name, “Dynamic Keyword Ghostwriter” is pretty vague. Ghostwriting might be the main idea behind the ad group, but the ad group could contain countless related keywords.

As a result, you could easily add the same keyword in multiple ad groups and end up competing against yourself. That’s a good way to waste a lot of money.

In comparison, with a SKAG, you can give the ad group the same name as your keyword, eliminating the risk of competing with yourself.

Best of all, a SKAG-based campaign is incredibly easy to navigate and optimize. If you want to see which keywords are producing the best results, all you have to do is look at the ad groups.

You may want to pop into the campaign and add specific negative keywords or make tweaks to your ad copy, but SKAGs make it easy to identify what’s working and what isn’t in your campaigns.

Better Targeting

We alluded to this earlier, but the ability to create hyper-targeted paid search campaigns is one of the biggest benefits of SKAGs.

Now, you might be thinking, “Can’t I just do the same thing with dynamic keyword insertion?”, but let’s be honest, the best way to write ad copy is to be specific.

Writing generic copy and then switching up a word or two to try and make it more relevant is probably better than just writing generic ad copy, but if you really want your ads to stand out, you need to tailor your ads to your keywords.

More Clicks and Conversions

As you can probably imagine, highly targeted ads usually produce more clicks. Highly targeted ads pointing to highly targeted landing pages (another practical option with SKAGs) produce more conversions!

Increased Profit

As your click-through rate and conversion rate increase, how much a conversion or new sale costs you will go down. In addition, Google rewards ads with good click-through rates and landing pages, so your quality score will go up…and your cost-per-click will go down.

The Disadvantages of SKAGs

As you can probably tell, I’m a pretty big fan of single keyword ad groups. However, there are a few drawbacks to SKAGs.

Setup Time

It should come as no surprise that creating a different ad group and ads for every keyword takes longer than tossing a bunch of keywords into an ad group and writing a generic ad or two.

Even after your first big push, whenever you want to add new keywords, it means you have to go through the whole process again.

However, on the flip side, SKAGs are easier to manage and maintain, so while the upfront cost is higher, SKAGs usually require less of a time investment in the long run.

Split Testing Challenges

SKAGs do fragment your data some, which can make it difficult to directly compare results between ad groups, keywords and ads. The same specificity that makes it easy to optimize a specific ad group can make it hard to generalize your results between ad groups.

Most of the time, this isn’t a huge obstacle, but if you’re bidding on keywords with very low search volume, SKAGs can complicate your split testing process.


Single keyword ad groups are one of my favorite ways to structure a paid search campaign. Unlike other approaches, SKAGs allow you to create hyper-targeted ad copy and landing pages that you can easily optimize for maximum profitability.

So, if you’re tired of wandering around your paid search account trying to figure out how to get better results from your ad spend, give SKAGs a try!