6th December 2021

Hiding in the leaves – the Hagakure method in a Google ads strategy

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Mark Thelwall
Planning Account Director
Read time: 6min
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Lose the SKAGS, supercharge your ads.

Whilst a novice Japanese language student (日本語の学生) I spend a bit of my free time learning new Japanese words and phrases – mainly making sure that I’m well equipped to order a ビール or two when I can finally travel to Japan. That’s why introducing this best practice Google account structure to clients has been a delight for me.

葉隠/Hagakure means hiding in the leaves, according to one of my go-to Japanese learning sites. The interesting thing here? Details are far less “hidden” in the Hagakure Google account structure compared to Google account structures of the past.

Large scale, complex PPC accounts have become the norm over time and whilst these have often been effective, they are also  HUGE structures that are hard to navigate, with thousands of campaigns and even more keywords.

Old school, traditional, PPC accounts felt pretty granular anyway, but a move to single keyword adgroups (SKAGs) increased the granularity.



Hagakure Adgroups


The role of SKAGs was to ensure that you deliver the best experience per keyword in the account. So, if someone searches for a specific term, let’s make sure it has its own landing page, ad copy, bid modifiers and so on. But with 15% of searches in Google being brand new, never before seen, queries – can we really continue to rely on this model?

Rest assured this is not going to be a throwback to 500, multi-keyword adgroups, with one ad and landing page per adgroup. The landscape has evolved and data is more important than ever. We need account structures that maximise the algorithms if we want to make the most of data, AI and machine learning.

This is where the Hagakure structure comes in.

Hagakure is also the title for the Book of the Samurai by Yamamoto Tsunetomo. Initially used to talk of the warrior’s path, it’s been adopted here to name the “new path” for Google ad strategies.

While the methodology isn’t entirely new, we’ve been having great success with it over the past year or so with our clients at equimedia and felt it was time to share the success and best practices.

The premise of the Hagakure method is to:

  • Simplify account set up and structure,
  • Increase the amount of data within each campaign,
  • Allow the data to feed Google Ads machine learning,
  • Maximise the impact of smart bidding.


Hagakure Adgroups 2


The graphic above shows a simplified example of how this might look in practice.

  • Campaigns and adgroups are grouped on URL structures as opposed to keywords. Your campaigns can be product-led (e.g. Trousers), but each adgroup is grouped to a different URL from that product mix (e.g. adgroup 1 .com/blue-trousers).  
  • The keywords within these adgroups make use of Google’s match types, rather than focusing on only [exact] match terms. By utilising phrase match, especially since Google’s latest update, we are able to attract more volume, and therefore more data to each campaign.
  • This means you need a watertight negative keyword strategy, to make sure visibility and impressions remain relevant.
  • Finally, you need an adgroup dedicated to Dynamic Search Ads, to pick up the “low search volume” keywords, rather than having them in the account.

In return, not only do you get a Google ads structure that doesn’t make your eyes water, but you have one that allows greater efficiency. This is efficient for both the performance of your PPC budget as well as your team. More time can be focused on strategy and the next big testing idea, rather than reporting on an overly complex account.

But it also means increased profitability. With the extra data, we enable Google’s algorithms to learn faster, meaning our RSAs, DSAs, bidding strategies and audiences all optimise more quickly and effectively.

The even better news

To top it off, this isn’t all just a theory. As I said before, we’ve held off sharing this best practice until we were certain that it works.

We’ve seen great results for our clients including:

  • 220% increase in conversions
  • 14% reduction in CPAs
  • 36% reduction in CPCs,

when comparing the Hagakure structure to “traditional” account structures. So, now we’re certain, it’s the way to go.

There are some limitations on this structure including the number of impressions needed per URL to get the best results and available volume to feed the machine learning. But our team are on hand to talk you through this and discuss how you can best achieve your business goals through your digital marketing strategy.

So, if you’d like help getting started with a restructure to the Hagakure method, or if you want to improve your current strategy then please get in touch.