How do ad groups work?

Now that we've covered in detail the two most fundamental parts of a paid search account, ads and keywords, let's move up a level in the hierarchy. As we discussed earlier, ads and keywords sit inside of something called an ad group. But what exactly is an ad group, and why is it important?

As we discussed earlier, when a keyword wins an auction, what it's really won is the right to show one of the ads in its ad group on a particular user's search results page. An ad group's fundamental role therefore is really just to hold ads and keywords, and to bind them together.

Ad groups don't really have that many settings, or relevant features, other than the things that they contain, so we'll only cover them briefly. The main thing to be aware of when it comes to ad groups is that, as we saw earlier when we looked at SKAG (single keyword ad group) vs STAG (single theme ad group) approaches, there are different ways of constructing ad groups.

What do SKAG (single keywords) ad groups look like?

SKAG ad groups are often fairly simple. They'll only contain a single keyword, but can have any number of different ads. Ad groups have to be given a name, and so SKAG ad groups will typically be given the same name as the keyword they contain.

For example, if we're building using a SKAG approach, we might have an ad group called running shoes, and this might contain a single keyword such as [running shoes].

Because all of the ads in a SKAG ad group will match against a single keyword, it's generally quite easy to ensure that they're all relevant to that keyword. You might for instance do this by ensuring that all the ads in our running shoes ad group have a headline 1 that contains Running Shoes.

What do STAG (single theme) ad groups look like?

STAG ad groups come in all shapes and sizes, so there's no simple way to build them. Typically though, they will have a few things in common.

They'll often be named according to the theme of the keywords inside them. So, for instance, you might have an ad group called road running shoes which contains keywords about road shoes; [road running shoes] is an obvious one, but also [best road shoe], [road running best shoe] and so on.

Just like SKAG ad groups, STAG ad groups can have any number of ads inside them. The wide variety of keywords that can exist within a single STAG ad group can necessitate having a higher volume of ads, in order to increase the chances of any of them being relevant. This can quickly become messy, especially if combined with A/B testing (which we'll cover in more detail later), and is one of the reasons I dislike STAG ad groups.

Ad groups: in summary

Ad groups essentially bind together keywords and ads. There are a number of different ways to structure ad groups, most notable single theme (STAG) or single keyword (SKAG) ad groups. While I advocate for the latter, there can be reasons for using the former too.

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