Single Keyword AdGroups (SKAGS) – How to deal with low quality scores and high cost per acquisitions

by | Feb 22, 2018 | PPC

One of the main problems advertisers run into when launching campaigns on the Search network is low quality keyword scores. Low Google Quality Scorequality keyword scores can quickly ruin a campaign with the biggest issue being higher cost-per-clicks, which in turn increases your lead acquisition costs.

When you launch a campaign, it’s difficult to tell which keywords will generate impressions, clicks, and conversions, so it’s a fishing expedition until you find the winning keywords.

The more unique keywords you have in an AdGroup, the less relevant each keyword is to the ads in that group. Google’s system quickly recognizes this and begins to penalize keywords it feels are “not relevant” to the ads, even before the ads start to receive impressions.

Low quality scores noticed immediately after launching campaigns

If the quality of your keyword scores fall to 3/10 immediately after launching your campaign, and you see the rarely shown due to low quality scorenotification, it’s most likely because you are using keywords “not relevant” to the ad according to AdWords. Your cost-per-click (CPC) then rises due to the low quality, thereby increasing what you pay per acquisition.

Fortunately, all is not lost! You can bring these keyword scores back into Google’s good graces. In the first example, I’ll show you how we accomplished this for a luxury fishing campaign.

Below is a list of keywords the resort placed into an AdGroup named “private fishing charter”:

+charter +boat +fishing

+deep +sea +fishing +charters

+private +fishing +charter

+chartered +fishing +trips

+offshore +fishing +charters

+salmon +fishing +charters

+off +shore +fishing +charter

+costa +rica +fishing +charters

+clear +water +fishing +charters

+international +fishing +charters

The keyword +salmon +fishing +charters had a quality score of 3/10 immediately after launch, despite a decent click-through-rate (CTR) of 2.38%. Judging from the CTR, even though Search users find the keyword relevant to the ad, it’s a different story to the AdWords system.

While all the keywords in the AdGroup are related to “fishing charters,” they are loosely related because the list is made up of different types of fishing charters. AdWords recognizes this and feels they all cannot be related to the Ad. As a result, some of the keywords are then immediately given low quality scores.


AdWords Low Score

Here are the two ads that are triggered by the keywords:


Triggered Keywords

Single Keyword AdGroups can improve your quality score after one click!

Single Keyword AdGroups (SKAGs) are the best way to improve low keyword scores. A SKAG is a regular AdGroup with the exception of having only one keyword. It may or may not consist of multiple ads. The ads must have the anchor keyword in the ad copy.

Here’s a birds eye view of a newly created SKAG AdGroup based on the “salmon fishing charter” keyword.


SKAG AdGroup

Notice how the keyword is present in both ads. This signals to the AdWords system that the keyword is extremely relevant to the ads in the AdGroup.

After just one click, AdWords immediately gives the same keyword in the new AdGroup a quality score of 8/10! It’s not unusual to see a drop in CPC by as much as 30% thanks to this improvement. You can expect to also see that drop reflected in your cost per acquisition (CPA).

As your campaign begins to generate impressions, you want to pay close attention to the Average Position. In this case, its 2.6. The idea is to keep the keyword/Ad in a healthy position so you maintain a strong CTR.

I suggest bidding more aggressively in the beginning. The AdWords system will continue to re-evaluate how the keyword is performing, and will begin to put more weight on the CTR your keyword/Ad is achieving as time goes on.

Below is an example of the keyword inside the new AdGroup with a quality score of 8/10.


Example Keyword

Using single keyword AdGroups on the Google Display Network

The problem on the Google Display Network (GDN) is no different: CPAs that are too high, but unlike the Search network that gives your keywords a quality score, there’s no such thing on the GDN. I suggest using your CPA goals as a benchmark for keyword performance.

In most accounts we come across, the advertiser has dozens and sometimes hundreds of loosely related keywords in the same AdGroup with a couple of ads on the GDN. It’s impossible to have that many keywords that relate to one or two ads.

You want to look at it from a GDN user’s perspective to see the problem with this setup.

Let’s say the user was browsing the web and begins reading content that gives information on “how do you choose a company to buy shares in?” and your Ad which reads “learn about the most profitable investments” was served on that page. While your ad is related to the overall theme, it’s not exactly of interest to the user at that very moment.

When you have multiple keywords per AdGroup, your ad will be shown using this example:

Multiple Keywords AdGroup

Some might argue the reader is open to the general idea of investing so the ad is relevant. This is absolutely correct; however, if you’re looking to increase your conversion rates and bring down your CPAs, you’ll want to serve an ad that’s even more targeted to the content.

Here’s what that setup would look like in a single keyword AdGroup:

Single Keyword AdGroup

By having the single keyword, “investing in shares” in the AdGroup above, AdWords is serving the Ad to the users who are most interested in the topic of “investing in shares” and no one else. Having multiple keywords per AdGroup cannot achieve this level of relevancy.

It may be hard to justify creating a single AdGroup per keyword especially when you have dozens or possibly even hundreds of keywords. One way to save time is to launch your campaign with multiple keywords per AdGroup and allow them to start generating traffic.

Once you see which keywords are generating the majority of the impressions and clicks, you can then create a new SKAGs for those specific keywords and an Ad to go with each one. We recently used this strategy to cut CPAs by roughly 43% for an international client!

Another advantage we noticed was increased impression share. AdWords seems to give more reach to keywords when they are the sole keyword in the AdGroup. My theory is that the system can find better pages and content that related to individual keywords compared to many keywords in the same group.

Remember, anything you can do to make your campaigns more relevant always wins in AdWords.