Is your Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign generating quality leads for your firm? Consider this. Ninety-six percent of people seeking legal advice use a search engine, and 70 percent of mobile searchers will call a business directly from Google search. That means Google ads are driving more than 40 million calls each month. Are those calls reaching your office? Maybe not. Competition is fierce. Knowing that 78 percent of the top 100 Google search terms are associated with litigation, lawyers have increased their ad spend by 68 percent over the past eight years. And, they are investing big. Twenty-three of the 25 most expensive search terms involve lawyers and litigation. How’s the ROI on your PPC campaign? Up your game by utilizing Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAGs). Here’s how. 

Why Use SKAGs? 

What’s the worst fear of PPC campaign managers? Blowing your ad budget on irrelevant traffic. Avoiding this scenario, and implementing a successful PPC campaign has much to do with your AdWords account structure. As the name implies, using this structure means you will set up just one keyword per ad group. By the way, this is the opposite of what Google recommends. They say you should include five to 20 keywords per group. So why go against the grain? Let’s talk about what defines a successful PPC campaign first. 

As is true of any investment, to increase ROI you need to gain more than you put in. Having an effective SKAG strategy is one of the fastest ways to to increase your click-through-rates and quality scores. While Google is pretty secretive about how they calculate Quality Score, they do say this: “Quality Score is an estimate of the quality of your ads, keywords and landing pages. Higher quality ads can lead to lower prices and better ad positions.” Lower prices and better ad positions sounds like the perfect recipe for maximizing the ROI of a PPC campaign. SKAGs help you attain that Quality Score. Here’s how the benefit chain works:

  • Increased ad relevance leads to higher click-through-rates (CTR).
  • Higher CTR equals a higher Quality Score.
  • A higher Quality Score results in lower cost-per-click (CPC). 
  • Lower CPC results in lower cost-per-acquisition (CPA).
  • A lower CPA means you are spending less and acquiring more leads. 
  • Less money, more leads means higher ROI. 

It’s All About Control

If you are looking for a buried treasure in your backyard, would you rather just be handed a shovel or would you like to be given a map that marks the most likely spot for the treasure. Of course, you would want to narrow down your search area. In Adwords, your treasure is that sweet spot where your keyword matches your user’s search terms. Using a SKAG strategy gives you control over where you are digging for your ad treasure. You might pick your keywords, but you can’t always control search terms. Remember, search terms are what users actually put in their search engines. Keywords are what you guess they might put in. SKAG allows you to make sure the keywords you are bidding on match the search terms you are paying for.

You simply can’t craft a consistent, high performing message without using SKAGs. For example, you might end up showing a slip-and-fall ad to someone searching for a car accident lawyer. Using just one keyword per ad group will ensure this does not happen, and you are not wasting your ad dollars on irrelevant content. A SKAG strategy is the most effective way to weed out under performing keyword phrases. Remember the benefit chain mentioned above? Relevant content is the first domino in maximizing ROI.

To understand how vital control is, marketers often use the term “iceberg effect.” Think about the Titanic. Only a little piece of an iceberg can be seen from the surface. That’s your keyword. The hidden iceberg below represents all those search terms that are driving up your cost per click without turning into a conversion.

iceberg demonstrating the single keyword ad groups idea

You want to keep your keyword to search term ratio as close to 1:1 as possible. If your ratio is too high, discrepancy is too high too, which results in irrelevant ads and wasted money on irrelevant clicks. Using a SKAG strategy helps you control that ratio so that your keywords don’t have hundreds of search term matches (hidden iceberg). Ignoring SKAG will lead to various search terms that trigger the same ad, an ad you built for just one keyword. SKAGs help you build an ad group that monopolizes a single search term (not keyword). This approach increases the relevance of your ads in relation to what users are actually searching for instead of just keywords that you hope are relevant. 

Easy Ad Creation

SKAG gives you the power to create ads that are hyper-targeted. The first step is to create your list of root keywords. These are the shortest tail keywords you are willing to bid on. Next, take your root keywords and multiply them by other synonyms. For example, a personal injury attorney would also use “personal injury lawyer.” Don’t worry about doing extensive research around CPCs or competition on certain keywords. Using SKAG guarantees you start out with a high Quality Score. Simply expand your root keyword list by searching for synonyms. 

When creating your ads, be sure your keyword is in the headline and the path. Headline two and the description is your choice. Your main headline can even be the same for different SKAGs. Just be sure headline two and the description are different enough for you to perform testing. 

Make SKAG ad creation easy and quick with Google Ads Editor. Download it to your AdWords account if you don’t already have it. You can basically clone existing ads so you don’t have to re-write much. Create your first SKAG, then simply clone new copies, changing the root keyword as you go. 

Use Match Types

Now, let’s talk about how to set up your SKAG. SKAGs use only one keyword for an ad group. However, use multiple match types of that one keyword to maximize relevance. Once you have identified your root keyword, use all the different keyword match types available, except broad match. Why not broad match? Because it holds the biggest chance of an iceberg. You can use modified broad search, though. Exact match types offer the smallest chance of an iceberg. Phrase match is a little bigger chance. Whatever your match types, you’ll still need to monitor the search terms report for possible iceberg. However, avoiding broad match with will eliminate a lot of work and get your SKAG optimized from the start. 

Remember, successful PPC campaigns aren’t about getting your ad to show in front of as many people as possible. It’s about showing relevant content to users that are likely to convert. Eliminating broad match keywords within your SKAG removes the large surplus of irrelevant users that are driving up your CPC and hurting your Quality Score. 

Here’s an example. So, if you choose “family attorney chicago” as your root keyword, your SKAG should look like this:

  • +family +attorney +chicago
  • “family attorney chicago”
  • [family attorney chicago]

Using the three match types in one SKAG has two key effects:

  • If someone searches for a longer tail search term that is triggered by the phrase match or modified broad match, your ad will still show and be the most relevant you have to offer. 
  • The alternative would be to place each match type in its own SKAG. However, that would water down your data collection and make testing almost impossible. 

You might be asking, though, what if my search terms have a longer tail than my SKAG keywords? Simply create another SKAG using those longer search terms. So, let’s say you look at your search terms report and see that users are searching “adoption family attorney chicago.” Create a SKAG with that long tail keyword as the root using the same formula above. Once you’ve created it, go back to your original “family attorney chicago” SKAG and add “adoption” as a negative keyword. This way your shorter tail keywords don’t steal traffic from the longer ones. You’ve just enabled your users to see relevant content customized to exactly what they searched for.  

PPC campaigns are dynamic. You must constantly monitor and track what’s working, and SKAGs are no exception. Ensure your keywords are matching search terms by viewing your search term report weekly. Additionally, find new terms and eliminate ones that aren’t performing. Analyzing your search term report is the best way to identify those naughty icebergs. Use negative keywords in all your SKAGs to prevent overlap. Read more about the search term report and using negative keywords in this recent blog.

Key Benefits of SKAG

We’ve touched on the overall key benefits of SKAG, but let’s break it down into six key reasons you should be using SKAG in your AdWords structure.

  • Get insanely specific ad copy. When you are in control of your search terms and keywords, you can ensure your ad copy is so specific users will wonder how you knew what they needed. For example, a family law firm might have ads targeted to adoption, alimony, divorce, child custody, child abuse, etc. A personal injury attorney might have ads that are specific to car accidents, Worker’s Compensation, slip and fall injuries, civil suits, etc. Relevancy is the building block of maximum ROI.
  • Beat out the competition. The SKAG approach also works on social network campaigns and display ads as well. Segmenting audiences and monitoring what works well and what doesn’t is a strategy that is effective across platforms. Implementing these micro-segments will produce predictable results. Building such as solid account structure requires time and patience, and many of your competitors just aren’t up for the task. Your diligence pays off when users see your ad instead of theirs.
  • Improved metrics. Improving the discrepancy between search terms and keywords improves your CTR, which in turn improves your Google Quality Score. Google rewards you with higher average positions, enabling you to outrank your competitors even if your keyword bid is lower. This all leads to lower CPC and cost-per-conversion, which leads to higher ROI. 
  • Know your potential clients. A SKAG strategy also gives you great insight into who your prospects are and what they are looking for. Armed with that knowledge, you can ensure a strong message match on your landing page. Personalize the client’s experience, streamlining their process from search through conversion.
  • Scale up easily. There’s no need to create entirely new campaigns, ad groups or ad variants when you want to try out new opportunities. Scale up your search presence by using SKAGs. Whether you are hiring a new lawyer and adding a whole new area of law, or you looked at your search terms report and discovered a target area you are missing, simply add a SKAG. Using negative keywords will ensure there’s no internal competition, and allow you to scale up quickly and easily. 
  • Identify areas to retarget. SKAGs help you identify keywords that are showing a low CTR as well as a drop off in conversions. Don’t view these metrics as negatives. View them as opportunities to retarget. If you are a family lawyer and you find that users that follow an ad focused on adoption frequently bounce back when they visit your home page, that’s a big indicator that your home page is not optimized for that keyword. You might offer those services, but your visitors don’t readily find what they are looking for. Use that data to identify weak spots in your web presence.

In a Nutshell….

The average small business wastes at least 25 percent of their total paid search ad spend. The better you can align your PPC strategies with the actual behaviors of real people, the more successful your campaign will be. SKAGs enable you to do just that. They are that map to your treasure. PPC campaigns allow attorneys to reach the right people at the right time, within their geographic region. We can talk marketing strategies for days, but in the end, it all comes down to getting back more than you put in. SKAGs will help you fine-tune your ad approach as well bring in more conversions at the lowest cost.