Do SKAGs Still Deliver Results in 2024?

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Do SKAGs Still Deliver Results in 2024?

Is your Google AdWords account using an outdated structure? As we venture into 2024, it’s imperative to review whether the once-revered Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAGs) are still effective or if it’s time to try alternative approaches.

Recently, one of our clients received advice to use SKAGs in 2024. This strategy may seem sensible to some, but the boundaries of online advertising have shifted considerably of late.

In the ever-changing landscape, it’s crucial not to rest on your laurels and assume your once reliable strategy will continue to be the most effective. It’s a highly adaptive market, and as Google’s algorithms change, so does the way in which advertisers should build their campaigns.

So, do SKAGs still work? How do you build PPC campaigns that deliver results in 2024?

Do SKAGs Still Deliver Results in 2024?

The Rise and Fall of SKAGs

To comprehend the current state of SKAGs, we must revisit their ascent to prominence. SKAGs were conceived out of the desire for precision and control in Google Ads campaigns. By crafting ad groups around single keywords, advertisers aimed to achieve a controlled alignment between the user’s search query, ad and landing page.

In the early days, this detailed precision often yielded improved Quality Scores, higher click-through rates and enhanced overall campaign performance. Advertisers could fine-tune their campaigns to target highly relevant keywords, making SKAGs the preferred choice among paid search experts.

The SKAGs Dilemma in 2024

Fast forward to 2024, and we find ourselves in a different digital landscape. Google has introduced a series of algorithm updates and changes to its advertising platform, including the expansion of “close variants” for keywords. Google’s algorithms are now much better at deciphering search intents.

Introducing close variants means that Exact Match keywords may now trigger ads for a broader range of user search queries. This shift blurs the lines between different match types (exact, phrase and broad match modifier), diminishing the distinct advantage that SKAGs once offered.

The Case for STAGs (Single Theme Ad Groups)

Amidst the challenges SKAGs face, many advertisers are turning to an alternative approach known as Single Theme Ad Groups (STAGs). Unlike SKAGs, which focus on individual keywords, STAGs group related keywords based on themes or intent.

Contrary to single-keyword ad groups, STAG campaigns do not limit the number of keywords. However, these keywords must align with distinct themes.

For example, in a STAG campaign focused on “outdoor gear”, various keywords related to hiking, camping and backpacking can be included, as long as they share the overarching theme of outdoor activities. The focus of STAGs is the search intent, not the exact keyword match of the search, which is much more aligned with the algorithm of PPC accounts in 2024.

STAGs allow advertisers to create Ad Groups with small sets of keywords that share a common theme. This approach aligns with Google’s evolving algorithms and offers a degree of flexibility that SKAGs struggle to match in 2024.

STAGs empower advertisers to capture a broader range of relevant search queries without the constraints of strict keyword isolation.

The Importance of Adapting

In the world of digital advertising, adaptability and continuous refinement is the key to success. While SKAGs were the golden child of Google Ad campaigns for many years, the shifting landscape of Google Ads requires reevaluating their effectiveness. Advertisers must be open to exploring alternative approaches, such as STAGs.

Tips on how to structure STAGs

  • Group similar keywords together where the intent of the searcher is the same. Google looks for intent over keywords, so this approach aligns with the algorithm.
  • Look at your search query report. Are there more keywords you could add to your themes?
  • Don’t use keywords with plurals or slightly different spellings in different Ad groups. This will potentially cause internal competition on which adverts will be shown to users.
  • Consider grouping Phrase and Exact Match to open your pool of what can be matched to intent.
  • Create a solid negative keyword list. This will ensure fewer irrelevant matches. We can’t trust Google’s matching to work perfectly.

Can SKAGs still work in 2024?

As we navigate the dynamic world of Google Ads in 2024, the question of whether SKAGs still deliver results requires a nuanced assessment.

With the introduction of close variants and intent-based AI matching, Google only uses keywords as one reference of the user’s intent; it just as much looks at the user’s behaviour. For this reason, the SKAG approach is now redundant – this is evidenced by search audits that seldom represent a match between keywords and the executed search terms.

Keyword-themed campaigns and Ad groups work in line with Google’s newer approach, which leverages AI and user behaviour. We can’t simply build a structured campaign on only keywords in 2024 – as crazy as that sounds.

Conversion actions and intent are stronger signals – keywords help Google understand the intent. The more information we can provide Google in a structure that fits this algorithmic approach, the better Google can understand the intent we are aiming for. Using narrowly-defined SKAGS simply makes it harder for Google to understand the Ad-group intent.


Ultimately, the success of a Google Ads strategy in 2024 hinges on the ability to embrace change, refocus campaigns on intent and select the best-fit approach for the ever-evolving terrain of online advertising.

Need help rethinking your PPC advertising strategy? Let Disruptiv Media audit your AdWords account in 2024, giving you free insights from a fresh pair of experienced eyes.

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