SKAG Strategies

AutomationDigital MarketingAutomationAISKAG

Put a real SKAG strategy into place automatically.

A SKAG is a “single keyword ad group”. A SKAG is a method Google Ad gurus use to optimize Google Ads. The idea is that it saves you money and gets you more relevant targets for the ads you are serving up.

There are some great writeups on the method. KlientBoost has written the best one that I’ve seen. But there are also those that think SKAGs are outdated.

One of the core features of the Aderator is the ability to automatically generate SKAGs. There is some forms to fill out, but its less work than any other method to create them. Plus, we add the benefit of suggesting a bid price. Our strategy is simple: You pay less to Google to get more results.

The Strategy

The Aderator SKAG strategy works as follows:

  • Select a Campaign
  • Select the Keywords you think relevant
  • Create a template for the ad shown
  • Generate the SKAGs
  • Monitor Performance

Let’s explain each of these steps to make it more clear:

Step 1: Select a Campaign

Let’s assume you have a campaign running. That campaign will already have phrase match, exact match, and broad matches within it.

  • Broad Match - When some subset of our keywords are in the users search, our ad will show up.
  • Phrase Match - The keywords should be in the same order how the user typed them, plus some more text. So if we want to serve ads when the user types in “Big Blue Bus” then if they type “Big Honkin’ Fat Blue suede shoes Bus” then our ad will also sho.
  • Exact Match - Only if the user types in exactly what we specify. Nothing more, nothing less.

Obviously Broad matches will get your ad shown more. Then Phrase match, and Exact Match will be shown the least.

When we query all the search terms that set off our ads, then we can see which ones got clicks, which ones got conversions, and how many impressions each ad got.

Our SKAGS will now be built from this list of keywords!

Step 2: Select the keywords that are relevant

From this list you will see all the strange things people type, including misspellings, exotic searches and other things. It can be somewhat entertaining to go through this list.

You can select two things here:

  1. Terms you want to make SKAGs from
  2. Terms you want to negate

You may find there are keywords that keep showing up that have nothing to do with your business. Shut those off so you don’t spend money on this junk!

But the other words can be gold! Suppose you are selling disco balls. If your ads keep showing up for the game “Disco Elysium” you probably want to negate that keyword on a broad match.

However, if you find someone was searching: “where can I spend a lot of money on a disco ball” and you got 4 conversions out of it, then for goodness sakes, let’s SKAG that keyword!

Step 3: Create a Template for the Ads

The most effective SKAGs have the keyword in the Ad copy. We can make most of our ads the same, but have one part of the headline change to match.

For example, suppose I’m running an ad for high end travel. My company is called SuperDuperAdventures. I can make an Ad template that looks as follows:

SuperDuperAdventures | < keyword > | Luxury High Adventure

Then I can fill in that <keyword> with each Ad I create. This gives me a bulk way of loading ads. Obviously, we may need to refine a bit on some of them. For the “where can I spend a lot of money on disco balls” we might instead change that to be “Luxury Disco Balls”.

Step 4: Generate the SKAGs

At this point you’ll have to select which Campaign you want to put all of these SKAGs under. In the past, we normally select the initial farming campaign and append it with SKAG, or some other designation.

This part is all very time consuming if you do it manually. The point is, this is a simple exercise you can go through once a week looking at previous words that were generated from search results. Each week your campaign becomes more optimized.

With our SKAGs, we only put exact matches in, give the campaign a reasonable budget and over time take budget from the original farming campaign and move into the SKAG campaign.

This is impossible to do manually. However, using the Aderator can do this for you and allows you to spend 5 minutes a week optimizing.

Step 5: Monitor performance

There are two points to evaluate performance:

a. ROAS

How much revenue did you get for every dollar spent on advertizing? The goal is to have a big number. SKAGs can tell you this.
You may find that some SKAGs don’t pay off. For example, if you have a SKAG that is called: “How to make disco balls”, that may or may not be your market.

With SKAGs we should see in our campaigns higher ROAS than in the farming campaign.

b. Cost Savings

How much money did you not give Google? This is a huge number as well. We can evaluate this by taking the total cost spent on a keyword in the past. Every time that keyword is called in our new SKAG we can subtract the difference. This will show us how much less we paid Google for that keyword to render our ad. Since we are better targetted, the cost should go down.

Brief Aside: Sometimes you can ignore Google’s Recommendations

If you run a manual CPC campaign then Google may warn you that your ads will not show because you aren’t bidding enough. Well, it turns out they actually do. It is not ironic that the company that renders your ads wants you to pay up to a certain price for it to be shown. Certainly Google Cost Per Click has gone up over the years.

Beta Testers Wanted

This strategy outlined in this post is basically what the Aderator does for you. You plug it in, select your campaigns, and it goes to town every week adding new SKAGs and recommending keywords to shut off. This is the product we hope to launch soon. We’d love to know if you are interested in learning more about it. We’re also looking for several customers who would be interested in trying the product out before we get to general availability. If that sounds good to you, please drop us a line at [hello@

Getting Started with Google Ads/Adwords API

APIGoogle Adwords APIGoogle Ads APIAIautomation

The Google Ads/Adwords APIs are complicated but you can do it!

We find the plethora of Google documentation for interacting with Google APIs quite confusing and thought we should clear up a bit of our learnings. Google seems to make the process complicated to weed out hobbyists and make it difficult for common shops to query their own data. We also understand the need to protect data and not let API keys roam in the wild and security is very important to take seriously. However, interacting with other platforms like Klaviyo or Mailchimp are far easier and in most cases you can get sample code running in less than 20 minutes. But fear not! Rewards await those who persist!

Perhaps you are thinking now: Well, maybe we’ll just automate our Facebook/Instagram marketing. Unfortunately the Business Manager Ads API approval process isn’t any better. In fact, Facebook requires you to create a video and send it in showing what you are going to do with the API!

But don’t worry, these three ideas below should help you get most of the way there:

Which API?

The first question when interacting with Google Ads is: Which API do you use? Today there are two APIs that let you interact with Google Ads. They are:

Not confusing at all right? The support documentation clarifies that Google Adwords API will be replaced with the Google Ads API. The Google Ads API, however, is in beta. After a few false starts last year it returned to beta due to some performance problems.

On our end we have been using the Google Adwords API, specifically the python library. In time we will migrate to the Google Ads API, but that probably won’t happen this year given we need something that works in production and not a beta API.

If you are just starting, perhaps using the Google Ads API would be the way to go, unless you are looking to manage a lot of accounts right away.

How to Connect?

The second difficulty with getting set up to use the Google Adwords API, or any future API is to get your application approved. This is another gatekeeping mechanism google uses to almost discourage you to use the API. We first applied around March 9th and received an email on March 11th informing us we weren’t approved. We probably had a few exchanges but the last go around of emails we have showed we were again denied on April 6. This time we kept at it giving them all the information they requested. The gatekeepers finally approved us on April 13th. Once we had this access we could finally use the APIs on our clients and our own accounts. Whew!

How to Test?

With Google Ads you need to create another account as a test account. This seems somewhat silly as the logical thing would be to just create a test account within your current Ads account. Nope. Can’t do that. We created a separate gmail account that we somehow were able to link with our Castle Rock account to be able to test different creations. This is one of the most important things that needs to be done as a developer for perfecting and trying out code. Before we ever launch something for our customers we always test it out on a test account.

If you’re like us, you probably searched inside the Google Ads interface thinking: “That can’t be right, why would anyone design it this way? The docs must be old, there must be a way to create a test account here in this interface.”

Nope. Not the case unfortunately. It’s 2020 and you still can’t do it. But fear not! A simple new account (to help increase the Gmail user numbers) will have you up. Just make sure you create a test account as you only get one shot!

Is it Worth It?

Absolutely. For anybody trying to manage SKAGs or more than one account it is essential. Digital Ad spending will only increase and more and more organizations will be using an analytical method to be more effective with their spending.

Google is all to happy to take your money if you want to give it to them on inefficient ads. For example if you are selling T-Shirts Google would love it if you only bid on the word ‘T-Shirt’. This is a common term and they’ll show your ad all day on that. Nevermind that people may be looking for ‘Make a T-Shirt’, ‘history of T-Shirts’, ‘Surf T-Shirts’, etc which may not be relevant to the T-Shirt you are trying to sell.

Having API access creates a feedback loop for creating more efficient ads. It helps you evaluate what you spent, where it was effective, and change allocation of funds to different more effective ad groups.

Help is out there

While we realize this process is difficult we are happy to help walk you through getting an API set up for your organization and customizing a solution that meets your needs. Castle Rock AI is focused on automating AI for digital marketing and we have a variety of ways to tackle difficult problems with an analytical approach. We are math people that specialize in working with creative folks. This is where the true power of connection with customers comes. While analytics, statistics and math is nice, you need true content to connect. Targeting the content to the right audience is where we come in!

Digital Marketing Automation

AutomationDigital MarketingAutomationAI

Every organization needs an automation strategy for digital marketing.

In digital marketing we strive for all channels to deliver a consistent and engaging brand experience. If you have a retail store this should also be part of the entire experience. This makes your brand more powerful and engaging and helps you stand out from the noise.

Our digital strategy combines three channels:

  • Email campaigns
  • Search Engine
  • Social

Each of these channels requires thousands of man hours to optimize. Each channel is constantly changing. Each channel takes years to master.

Automating these systems as much as possible is the way you can turn your ad spend into big returns.

A Typical Scenario

Imagine you are launching a new campaign. You go into Google Ads and configure a new campaign, a new ad and guess a few keywords that might be relevent. Then you do the same with some new Facebook Ad Sets and a few key groups you think might be interested in the offering. Finally, you look through your email list and come up with some way to target the right people.
Once you set it, you have a few problems: Are you targeting the right people, how do you know? What channel is the most effective and how do you tell? What changes do you need to make to adjust the campaign to make sure it’s optimized?

Just worrying about this alone is enough to occupy the entire day, every day. You still need to come up with the right ads, a relevant landing page, and do your regular job. Even still you may not be getting it right.

Become Data Driven

The benefit of these digital marketing platforms is that they generate a ton of data. Data in turn can be useful for making decisions. The issue is the data generated by each platform is contained within that platform. Google Ads and Facebook Business Manager don’t offer a single place to retrieve data and analyze it. Your options can be to use Tableau or some other sophisticated tools, but that is more than most people can really do. Not to mention they are somewhat cost prohibitive. Another strategy we use is we store all of the data in a data lake that is then crawled by algorithms we’ve written to make sense of it.

The point is, future decisions on where and how you spend your advertising dollars should be driven by the data. If you aren’t using it, you are going to lose to your competitors who are using data to make the decisions.

Algorithms

Once the data is collected we can write simple steps that tell us: Which campaigns are successful, which are not. Then we can find better demographics. This is an iterative process that we can do every day with computers. They are very good at repetitive tasks. Once you have algorithms you can have several ideas of what you can do next:

  • Create a new campaign targeting men 18-24 years old on coastal cities
  • Make sure we only target mobile devices
  • Advertise only on the weekends on Google and advertise weekdays on Social Media

You can start to get very granular with your advertising. With this process we can save money on ineffective campaign words.

This also allows us to find new customers by analyzing the terms people are clicking on and the demographics of the people. Then we can understand our next steps.

Automation

Once we know where to go, we need to automatically update our campaigns, ads, demographics, and keywords. Both Google, Facebook, Klaviyo and other platforms have free “APIs” that allow computer code to talk to them. Getting access to Google and Facebook APIs is quite a complicated process and they don’t make it easy. However, given a few weeks you could get access and then a computer program could take the output of your algorithms and apply them to your campaigns.

One example we did: We had a generic farming campaign that generated a few conversions. Each time the conversion happened, we created a new Ad group from that keyword, turned it into an exact match, and negated the keyword from the former ad group it was in. We also knew how much we needed to pay for this keyword, saving 100s of dollars a day across several campaigns. We were also able to get very granular.

Repetition

The great thing about automation is that it doesn’t mind doing daily mundane tasks. Once a system is in place you can let it run for several weeks and evaluate the performance. We’ve seen dramatic increases in ROAS through analyzing giving us a 10x+ return in our investment.

The road ahead

Going forward you will need to have some sort of automation strategy for your digital marketing efforts. Many people use Ad agencies to perform some of these efforts. What we have seen is that a few of these agencies run a “set it and forget it” ooperation, updating Ads on a monthly to quarterly basis. We encourage you to speak with your ad agency and ask them how they are automating your campaigns.

At Castle Rock Data we work with agencies and clients to automate their ad spending processes. Our clients have been very happy with our work and we are looking forward to helping more people maximize their investment in digital ad spending.