How to Supercharge your PPC With Single Keyword Ad groups

In todays article I’m going to be taking about one of the most effective ways to improve the performance of almost any Adwords account. If your Quality Score and click through rates are not as high as you would like them to be, then the chances are they you are having problems with relevance and this is what single keyword ad groups solve.

Ask yourself this question, do you often find it difficult to write an ad copy that makes sense with all of the keywords within the ad group? If the answer is yes then single keyword ad groups are going to be a goldmine for you.By implementing single keyword ad groups on accounts we have consistently been able to generate:

  • Increases in CTR by 14%
  • Decrease in cost per conversion of 21%

Sam Owen from PPC Hero also published a case study based on the performance increase that Audi found when they implemented single keyword ad groups in to their PPC accounts. There results were as follows:

  • Increase in CTR by: 22%
  • Reduction in cost per lead by: 50%
  • Increase in leads by 106%

You can read more about that case study here. Thats not too bad for a technique that will take you a few hours to complete. However before i go into how to create single keyword ad groups I will explain the problem that your having with relevance and why single keyword ad groups are the solution

You Have a Relevancy Problem.

The chances are you are probably suffering from a relevancy problem, even if you don’t know it yet. In fact you can be forgiven as Googles guidelines actually suggest that you should have between 10 to 20 keywords per ad group, but if you analyse accounts you will find that this is far from optimal and if you have several keywords per ad group you are leaving a lot of money on the table.

In fact if you have more than one keyword per ad group you are leaving money on the table.

Let me explain why with the aid of a digram.


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

If you look at some of the keywords, for example “PPC Agency” the advert would not alight very well with this keyword as the advert is written for people searching for “PPC Management”.

The problem is that when there is a mismatch between the advert and the keyword your CTR is always going to suffer which will results in two things. Less qualified traffic to your website and secondly your Quality Score is going to drop. Which is a big deal as for every time your Quality Score drops by 1 your cost per click is going to increase by around 16.7% according to data from Wordstream.

What Are Single Keyword Ad Groups

Single keyword ad groups are very simply an ad groups that contains only 1 keyword. The beauty of this is that as only one possible keyword can trigger your advert you can make your adverts incredibly specific to the keyword within that ad group that is triggering it.

Here is what each one should look like:


Image Credit: Unbounce 

The 80 /20 Rule and Single Keyword Ad Groups

One thing to bear in mind is that creating single keyword ad groups do take time. You need to write two adverts for every keyword that you have, so even if you have a very small account with 1000 keywords you are going to have to write 2000 adverts.

This is a good opportunity to apply to 20/80 rule to save you a large amount of time which still making a very significant impact on your accounts performance. We have found from our own studies that between 80% of impressions and conversions come from your top 10-20% of keywords, so we would suggest that add your top 20% of keywords and search terms as single keyword ad groups.

As a rule of thumb at Clicteq we usually add any keyword or search term that has got 2 or more conversions as a keyword in its own single keyword ad group. We also separate these into their own campaigns so we can quickly see and analyse our top performing keywords. Our account structure will look something like this

  • General campaign | Exact Match
  • General campaign | BMM
  • ** Top performers campaign | Exact Match
  • ** Top performers campaign | BMM

How To Create Single Keyword Ad groups

STEP 1. At account level navigate to the search terms report. This can be done by going into the keywords tab and then to search terms sub tab, as shown in the screenshot below. Make sure that your look back window is set to 30 days.


STEP 2. Click on the download Icon as shown below. You should then see a grey box open.

STEP 3. Make sure that the format is set to Excel CSV. Click on the Email and schedule report section to expand it. Once you have done this select only me from the send to options. With regards to frequency for larger accounts (£10K spend per month) set this to weekly. For smaller accounts set this to the first day of the month and then click download.


STEP 4. Open your report in Excel. The first step is to order your document by the number of conversions. To do this click Data along the top menu in excel and then select sort. Sort the sheet from largest to smallest based on the number of conversions.


STEP 5. Delete the total rows at the top.

STEP 6. All search terms that have 0 conversions should be deleted so you are only left with search terms that have converted.

STEP 7. Copy and paste all of the search terms that have only converted once into a new sheet within excel. 

Creating new Single keyword ad groups

STEP 8. Sort the data based on the Added/Excluded column. This can be done by going to Data > Sort. Then selecting the column Added/Excluded and ordering by A-Z as shown in the screenshot below.

All of the terms that have converted more than once that have none in the column are good candidates for single keyword ad groups because they are still in ad groups with several other keywords so the match between the Advert and Keywords will not be perfect yet. Copy those to another sheet.


STEP 9. Sort the remaining search terms that have converted more than once on the campaign column. You will see that several of the search queries will already have been added in the top performers campaigns already as single keyword ad groups, so you don’t have to do anything with these. Similarly you don’t want to add branded terms into the top performers campaign so remove these from your sheet.

You should now have a list of all of the search terms that have converted more than once but have not yet been added to your top performers campaigns.

Step 10. Creating new Adverts for your top performing search queries. To do this please use the Extended adverts template to help you as this will speed up the process.

STEP 11. Select and copy all of the search terms from the search terms report that you have been working on and paste them into the keyword builder column in the Extended adverts template. Your aim is to add these as new keywords in all 3 of your top performers campaigns.

STEP 13. Add them in Exact match to both your exact match top performers campaign and exact match RLSA campaign. Add them in BMM to your BBM top performers campaign. So you will have to paste your search terms 3 times and then change the match type using the tool within the table.

STEP 12. The next step is to move to the Adverts sheet in the excel spreadsheet and start to create adverts for your single keyword ad group’s. You should aim to include at least 2 adverts per ad group.

Here is what you should include in each of the different advert parts.

  • Headline 1: The keyword
  • Headline 2: USP / Features and benefits
  • Description: USP / Features and benefits + Call to action
  • Path 1: Part of the keyword
  • Path 2: Part of the keyword

To help you visualize what you are creating in the spreadsheet, here is the respective elements and how your adverts will look when live on Google.

Here “New York Budget Hotel” is the headline 1. “Best NY Hotel Rates in Seconds” is the headline 2. “NewYorkCity” as part of the URL is path 1 and “Budget” is path 2. The grey section of text starting “book stylish comfortable hotels” is the description.

You will only need to create one set of adverts for one top performers campaign and then you can copy that set for the other two as well.

*One thing to watch out for is you may find a competitor’s brand name as part of your top performing search queries. Make sure that you don’t include this in your adverts otherwise you are likely to violate trademarks and copyright laws. 

Three key rules for writing adverts for single keyword ad groups.

  1. Find the most relevant landing page. Really go out of your way to narrow this down. If you have a keyword such as “men’s blue shirts by all saints” go to the men’s shirts page and use the filters to find blue shirts that are made by All Saints so you get people directly to what they are looking for.
  2. Make the adverts highly relevant to the keyword. The whole point of having one keyword per ad group is so that your adverts are highly relevant. Make sure that you include as much of the keyword as possible in the headline 1 and in the display URL.
  3. Bear in mind best practices. Capitalize the first letter of each word, make sure that the you include a call to action at the end of the description such as “call now”. Focus on benefits not features and finally differentiate your ads from your competitors by including a strong USP which you can find in the onboarding documents for the client.
  4. ONE BONUS – Make sure that you have at least 2 ads per ad group (test everything)!

STEP 14. Once you have written your adverts you need to upload both your adverts and your keywords using Goolge Adwords Editor. To do this open up Adwords editor.

STEP 15. Go to your keywords sheet and copy all of your keywords, campaigns, ad groups and max CPC including the column headers.

Step 16. Click on the keyword tab while viewing your whole account, Do not view the campaigns that you trying to ad the adverts to.

STEP 17. Select make multiple changes while viewing your keywords. As shown below


STEP 18. Select the paste from clipboard and the columns should match up to the ones within Adwords. Once it has done this click process and the keywords should be imported into your Adwords account.

STEP 18. Next go down to Adverts and open Expanded test Ads as shown below.

STEP 19. Select all of your adverts within your spreadsheet and their respective column headers.

STEP 20. Once again select make multiple changes as you did in step 17 for your new keywords.

STEP 21. Click paste from clipboard and the columns should line up. Once you have done this click process and the ads should then be uploaded.

STEP 22. You now need to add the search terms that you have just added as keywords to your top performers campaign as negative keywords in the campaigns that they have come from. This will then channel all of the traffic for these keywords into the top performers campaign.

The easiest way to do this Is to use account level negative keyword lists that are applied to all of the campaigns except from your top performer campaigns.


From the data that we have presented and also that from the case study that PPC Hero put together single keyword ad groups have been shown to be an effective method of increasing your conversion rate and CTR within Adwords. By applying the 80/20 rule you can implement this strategy within a few hours and start seeing results like these in your own accounts.

By far the quickest way to implement single keyword ad groups is to use Google Adwords editor which is why I have included step by step instructions for this. Don’t sit on the fence with this one, take action right now and put your top 20% of keywords into single keyword ad groups, use our template to create super specific adverts and reap the rewards.

Thank you for reading, please feel free to ask any questions that you may have below.

wesley parker
About wesley parker

Wesley is Founder and CEO at Clicteq. He currently manages a £6 Mil Adwords portfolio across a range of different sectors. He regulally features in leading search publications such as Econsultancy, Campaign Magazine and Search Engine Land. You can follow him on Twitter or connect with him on Linkedin

12 thoughts on “How to Supercharge your PPC With Single Keyword Ad groups

  • I used to setup most of my campaigns 1 keyword per ad group, however, I started to see Adwords triggering ads from undesired ad groups. For instance, if in ad group #1 I had the kw “used cars” phrase match, and in ad group #2 I had “used cars lease” phrase match, off course, I wish that when the word “lease” was used in the search term, my ads in ad group #2 where triggered, but no, Adword’s was triggering my ads in Ad Group #1. This was naturally affecting my CTR and CR, so I started testing ad groups with more keywords in an effort to give Adwords more context on search intent. This behavior keeps happening, but to a lesser degree. How do you handle this with one keyword ad groups?

    • There are two ways to approach this problem Ricardo, The first is to use an extensive list of negative keywords where you would addd “used car lease” as a negative keyword in Adgroups 1 and then add “used cars” as a negative keywords in ad group 2. The other alternative is to work based on Adrank. whereby you increase the bids for the longer tail words and Adwords should show the longer tail keywords first because it has a higher bid x Quality Score = Higher Ad rank.

      • I used to implement option 1, but the complexity of the implementation process made this strategy unscalable. It used to take us huge amounts of time to add negatives at the ad group level with that strategy. How do you handle this?

        By the way, really enjoying your content.

        • Thank Ricardo, It is very time consuming, we tend to just do it for the top 20% of keywords in an account to cut down the work required. I think i might try and create a cross pollination Adwords Script

  • Hi,

    You may or may not have been inspired by this post from 2014

    However, the author of this post suggests the ad group contain the BMM, phrase and exact match of the same keyword in the SKAG.
    +blue +running +shoes +nike
    “blue running shoes nike”
    [blue running shoes nike]

    What is your take on this, and, also, would you consider placing negative keywords in a SKAG as well, to filter out, say, all the other colour variants you do not want this ad group to deliver for.

    • Hey Milos, I’m a big fan of Jonathan Danes PPC articles and that was part of the inspiration, though SKAG’s have been around a lot longer than since 2014! With Phase match being very similar to BMM and our tests finding that phase and BMM perform very similarly we tend to only use BMM and exact match to avoid wasting time that could be utilised in other areas of our clients accounts. Here is an interesting article about this if you are interested about the BMM v Phrase debate –

      Yes we would consider that it is a good idea to utilise negative keywords in other ad groups to channel the most relevant search query into the most relevant ad group. This will help display more relevant adverts and improve your ad performance, although Ad rank and Quality Score should help do this automatically.

  • Hi Wesley,

    An interesting post as usual. I agree with what you said. On my side, I only do it when the coherency is not the best one.

    My first goal when architecturing my campaigns and writing my ads is only the coherency between the user’s search, the keyword, the ad and the landing page. I don’t care about the number of keywords in an ad group.

    Being lead by the coherency, I can create a special ad group for one top keyword. But that’s the unique reason I will do it.

    As you told us and as Ricardo told ud too, it can become a nightmare to manage excluded keywords between ad groups and campaigns if you want to make the best and perfect architecture with unique keyword ad group.

    Leading by coherency and Pareto rules – to focus on what matters -, I constantly see an increase of my campaigns’ performances.

    There is also another point about the Google guidelines: don’t follow them blindly. By testing on the opposite of what they tell us to do, you can have some good surprises. 🙂

    Thanks for your work and your shares

  • Hi wesley
    I am not old in adword learning but dabbling my hand to capitalize on the benefits of it. I want to know when creating new campign for a customer afresh what should be strategy. i generally tend to follow all match type of single keyword under one adgroup with atleast two variation of adverts. I am confused that if i should create keyword match type campaigns with focus only one adgroup and two adverts. which strategy would work as different author and influencers have been talking in different way. As my understanding about SKAG is create one adgroup for perticular keywords with incorporation of all three mathc type and two variation of ads with high bid on exact match followed by BMM and Phrase match. Or should it be creating 300 adgroups for 100 keywords with atleast two adverts against each keywords. Please guide

    • Split your campaigns by match type and still use SKAG. One keyword and one match type per ad group. So you should have 300 ad groups for 100 keywords.

      • Got it and what should be negative keyword strategies for BMM and phrase match adgroups?
        If my keyword is DIGITAL MARKETING EXPERT then how can this be used as negative for them? Should it be in exact negative for BMM and phrase Match?

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