Reduce Your CPA with Single Keyword Ad Groups

Single keyword ad groups, or SKAGs for short, are still one of the most effective ways to reduce your CPA in Google Ads and boost your Quality Scores.

On average, by implementing single keyword ad groups, we have seen:

  • An increase in CTR of 14%
  • A decrease in CPA of 21%

Not bad for a technique that takes just a few hours to implement.

What are single keyword ad groups?

Simply put, a single keyword ad group is an ad group that contains only one keyword. 

The beauty of this is that because only one possible keyword can trigger your advert, you can make your adverts incredibly specific to the keyword within that ad group.

Because your ads are highly relevant, your CTR increases, your Quality Score increases and, as a result, your CPCs and CPAs decrease.

Here is what each one should look like:


Image Credit: Unbounce 

Why single keyword ad groups work

Most advertisers on Google suffer from a relevancy problem.

In fact, they could be forgiven, as Google’s guidelines actually suggest that you should have between 10 and 20 keywords per ad group. 

But if you analyse accounts that have 10 keywords per ad group, compared to ones that have one, you will see this is far from optimal.

Let me explain why with the aid of this diagram:

Here you see a cluster of keywords around an advert that represents an ad group. Any of these keywords can trigger this advert to be displayed.

If you look at one of the keywords – for example, “Ralph Lauren dresses” – the advert does not align very well with it, because the ad is written for people searching for “women’s dresses”.

The problem is that when there is a mismatch between the advert and the keyword, your CTR always suffers, which results in two things. 

Firstly, less qualified traffic to your website, and secondly your Quality Score drops. Which is a big deal, because every time your Quality Score drops by one, your cost per click increases by around 16.7%, according to data from WordStream.

Instead, you want to create an ad group for each of these keywords with a tailored advert that sends them to the exact right page.

If a user is searching for a Ralph Lauren dress, you want to make sure that they land on a page with just Ralph Lauren dresses.

How to implement single keyword ad groups

Here is a step- by-step run-through on implementing SKAGs.

Step 1. Run a Search Terms report

Go into your Google Ads account and navigate to the Search Terms report after clicking on the Keywords tab.

Search terms report in the Keywords tab in Google Ads.

Step 2. Select search terms that have converted

You need to order your Search Terms report by the number of conversions. You can do this by clicking on the Conversion column header, as shown below.

Ordering by the number of conversions in the Google Ads report.

Now add all the top-performing keywords to their own single keyword ad groups.

Step 3. Add all three match types

You need to add the keyword in all three match types (exact match, phrase match and broad match modifier) to their own single keyword ad group.

Example of adding all three match types.

Step 4. Create specific ads

The final stage is to create ads that are highly specific to your keywords. Here is an example for a training course provider that is selling “3D Studio Max training”.

An example of an ad highly specific to chosen keyword.

You can see that the advertiser has included the exact keyword in the headline and the display URL.

The rest of the ad talks about the USP and brings attention to the call to action, which urges visitors to “learn more now”.

Copyright warning

You have to be very careful here if the keyword you’re targeting includes the brand name of a competitor.

You must make sure that you do not include the brand name within the copy of your ad. Otherwise you are likely to get into trouble for copyright infringement.


The data is clear: single keyword ad groups are a reliable way to decrease CPA and they still work really well in 2020.

In fact, they are my go-to strategy on any account that we take over, as I’ve seen how consistently they produce great results.

If you’re not using SKAG already, I really encourage you to implement it – even if it’s just for your top 20% of keywords, you will see great results.

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask them below!

About Wes

Wes is the Managing Director of DemandMore. He is columnist for several leading marketing publications including Campaign Magazine, Econsultancy and Search Engine Land where he shares his expertise in search marketing.