How should you structure your search campaigns when using responsive search ads (RSAs)? We cover all the ins and outs of RSA campaigns to put you on the road to success, plus learn why SKAG is dead and you should be using STAG.

Lets talk about the elephant in the room.

SKAG is dead.

There is no longer a need to do single keywords ad groups ( SKAG) when building out your search campaigns. The only exception might be for your top 3 converting keywords. Even then, it’s the exception, not the rule. Automation is here and more data in less campaigns and ad groups is going to make your life easier for 99% of businesses and ad accounts.

Putting a single keyword in an ad group to write a custom ad text to ensure a high quality score made a lot of sense in 2009 – 2015. You could even argue that maybe it makes sense for 1% of businesses today but those are the exception still.

Why Is SKAG Dead?

When Google launched close variant keywords in 2014, it changed what keywords were going to match each customer search. No longer did we have 100% control over matching searches to keywords. Once that control was taken away, SKAG died.

The one things we can guarantee is that change is constant in paid advertising. Agencies and marketers who built their business on SKAG had to make changes in their business and ad accounts that amounted to turning around the titanic.

Every brand has a slightly different ad account structure and there is no one size fits all. Even as an agency with 95% of brands covering everything from ecommerce to retail and direct-to-consumer, we know that if something is working it works, and you don’t try to fix what is not broken. This includes an ad account structure that is not how we normally think about building out ad accounts. We also know that if our normal framework doesn’t work, we should change and test out other campaign structures to find success.

What Is Replacing SKAG?

Something called STAG!

It stands for Single Topic or Theme Ad Groups (STAG). Hence the acronym STAG.

Single Topic/Theme Ad Groups (STAG) is where it is at. STAG is going to:

  • Make your life easier
  • Allow you to focus on strategy
  • Help Google collect more data faster

When you group your keywords by a topic or theme, it lets you make someone’s search intent match the right ad copy. Plus, when you look at the campaign and ad groups in that campaign, you know what search traffic you are going after.

What does SKAG look like in practice? Here is a good example:
Your business sells iPhone cell phone cases in every colour and shade under the Pantone colour book. Maybe red is your most popular colour and not black.

Under SKAG, you could have given each colour and shade their own ad group (which would be a nightmare to manage). A campaign for the colour red might look like:

Campaign: iPhone Cases Red
Ad Group 1: Red iPhone Case
Ad Group 2: Strawberry iPhone Case
Ad Group 3: Flame iPhone Case
Ad Group 4: Fiery Red iPhone Case

Lets assume that the above ad group name and keyword is one in the same. Once Google introduced close variants, you would have started to see flame searches match to the keyword with the highest quality score instead of the ad group you may want. You can add in negative keywords but that continues to create more work.

Under STAG, you would consolidate all those red keywords into one ad group for red searches:

Campaign: iPhone Cases Colour
Ad Group 1: Red iPhone Case, Strawberry iPhone Case, Flame iPhone Case and Fiery Red iPhone Case

What I would also do is consolidate all the campaigns based on colours. That way I have just one campaign based on colour searches and each ad group represents one colour search.

Campaign: iPhone Cases Colour
Ad Group 1: Red iPhone Case, Strawberry iPhone Case, Flame iPhone Case and Fiery Red iPhone Case
Ad Group 2: Blue iPhone Case, Sapphire iPhone Case, Celtic iPhone Case, Aero iPhone Case and Light Sky iPhone Case

Now you go from having a dozen campaigns (one for each colour) and dozens of ad groups within each campaign, to having just one campaign and a dozen ad groups. STAG makes this 100% easier to manage and you can also consolidate your collection of data so Google can learn faster. The more data you can feed Google, usually the better and faster. It can learn about your audiences and what you are trying to achieve.

This is just one example, but you can start to see how STAG is changing how we build out and manage ad accounts. Now the question starts to become: How do we think about STAG with when using responsive search ads (RSAs)? Additionally, what impact does match type have, if any, on STAG?

Google is not letting people make extended text ads (ETAs) come June 30th of 2022. Which means that your only option is going to be RSAs. How do you think about match types?

Breakup Keywords By Match Type?

Here is what we find works well with ecommerce and direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands. You need to think about traffic levels and data collection first before you think about match types.

If STAG is all about data collection and making our lives easier, then we should continue that framework as we think about match types and RSA. You can break out your ad groups into two buckets:

  1. In a low volume campaigns
  2. In a high volume campaigns

Low volume campaigns would be from a click lens and not from impressions. Clicks are what leads to data collection. It’s not a hard and fast rule but anything under 200 clicks/month would be considered low volume.

When we have a low volume campaign, we tend to put all match types in one ad group as that makes sense when traffic is low. Combining match types means you consolidate traffic. Consolidated traffic also means you consolidate your data which feeds Google. This would make it easier to optimize and not have too many campaigns to manage. The opportunity cost with campaign maintenance is real.

Now when you have a high volume campaign, we tend to break out ad groups by match type as that works better when you have tons of traffic. This way, you can attempt to funnel traffic with negative keywords. Harder to do with close variant match but still possible today.

The above situation is 100% focused on when you build out ad groups having exact match and phrase match keywords. Broad match is great and it can work for some brands but it is not the match type we launch an ad account with.

Generally speaking, we breakout broad match into their own campaign for testing, especially with high volume campaigns. You can test mixing broad match into a low volume campaign but you want to make sure the traffic you are getting makes sense.


Now that we know SKAG is no longer with us and, a vast majority of the time, ad accounts should be structured with Single Topic/Theme Ad Groups (STAG) in mind. How long this structure type will last is anyone’s guess and if Google does decide to get rid of keywords… that changes the game.

If you are looking for more information on building out ad accounts. Check out a post we wrote about using Google shopping data to build out your search campaigns.