Google AdWords Campaign Structure & Naming Conventions: How to Name and Organic Your PPC Campaigns

Campaign Organization and Naming Conventions

In order to make life easier for everyone, there needs to be rules. For instance, in Canada we all drive on the right side of the road. Kaos would ensue if we each decided to drive on whatever side we wished. It is by all agreeing to that convention that we eliminated a potential conflict. The same is true for many other things in life.

While it is not a matter of life or death, having conventions in our marketing campaigns saves time and removes confusion. This may not increase quality scores but it will increase our quality of work and life. It will also make it easier when campaign managers change.

We have come up with 9 rules to follow in naming campaigns. You’ll find them below one by one with explanations and clarifications.

How to Organize a Google AdWords Campaign for Success!

1. The first word or two of a campaign should be its type

What is the first thing we want to know about a campaign when we first see it? We want to know if it’s a search campaign or some other type such as display, remarketing or shopping. We should not be wasting time figuring out what a campaign’s intentions are by looking at settings or having to remember because we have many clients and the less things cluttering up our minds, the better.
Therefore the very first word of a campaign’s name should be one of the following:

  • Search
  • Display
  • Remarketing
  • Shopping
  • Call
  • Video

There may be other future types (Audio?) or others we can come up with (We have used Mobile before) but these are the basic ones.

We also split up text and image campaigns for display campaigns and sometimes, depending on circumstances, a remarketing campaign. In those cases, I include either the word Text or Images after the name such as:

  • Display Text
  • Display Images

We have also had Display Search campaigns.

2. A colon should separate the type from any further description

Often, just having the campaign’s type is not enough. That can be the case for a client targeting different countries. For example,

  • Search: Canada
  • Search: USA

We recommend using the full name and not an abbreviation, except where there is no ambiguity. For instance, I would not use CA for Canada since it could be interpreted as California. USA can be used for the United States.

3. The descriptive words after the campaign type should be the most important to the least

Say a client sells books and we decide to split campaigns along the types of books such as Crime Novels, History, Science Fiction and others. They also sell in different countries and it is decided to split campaigns along the geographies as well. Should the order be:

  • Search: History; USA
  • Search: History; Canada


Search: USA; History

  • Search: Canada; History

The question is, which is more important, the type of book (the category) or the geographical targeting?

The answer  is that the category is more important and thus should be specified before any other description. What will typically follow the category will be more campaign settings and the only ones worth knowing are targeting options of location and language. It also reads better and when alphabetising, the book types would all follow each other instead of all campaigns targeting Canada being bunched together.

4. When there is more than one word or phrase describing a campaign, use a semicolon

As seen above, a semicolon is used to separate History from the country’s name.
You may think, why use a separating character at all? For that matter, why not a colon as we did before?

The answer lies mainly that computer software can be used to extract a word from a campaign’s name. For example, a client may ask (or we may want to know) how the History books performed, regardless of country or how each category did. The only way to do this easily is with those separator characters. Without them, software could not tell where each one starts and ends.

5. A comma should be the separator should there be a third describer

  • Search: History; Canada, English
  • Search: History; Canada, French

Again, software can easily determine what that word is by identifying the comma.

6. There should be no more describing phrases after the third one

At least, I can’t think of any circumstances where it would be needed. It would probably be overkill and it would make the campaign’s name seem very long.

This means that campaign names should not include any variable settings such as the budget, bidding strategies or even, as I’ve often seen by clients, dates. There is no reason to include those since they are often variable and having a date means nothing. This also includes keyword types; some split campaigns to include only keywords in one match type and show this as part of the campaign name, which only makes sense if you do this. However, I do not feel like building campaigns this way adds any value.

7. Names should be capitalized

It just reads better that way I find.

8. No abbreviations should be used

Note that I used the full names of the languages in the examples above and not their abbreviations. It also makes the use of these words consistent within an account and across all accounts a client may have on other ad networks. It also helps on creating reports. If we want to compile data based on language, we cannot have some campaigns use EN while others use English.

9. Campaign names once set, should never be changed

There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that, at least in Adwords, if the name changes, there is no unique identifier. This means that software has no way to determine if a name has changed. It will regard the new name as a totally new campaign. This means that previous data is now orphaned from any new data. You cannot have this in a database system. Another is that the same can be said of comparing old reports using the original name vs the new name.

Admittedly, this is kind of a soft rule. When taking over a campaign that the client started, there is likely no convention used. You may even see “Campaign #1” and want to change that. However, most times it’s best to just start fresh as the campaign will probably be built so poorly.

Even if we start a campaign fresh, there may be changes in the future for which we did not account for. For instance, a campaign simply named Search may be all we need today but years from now, a business may grow and we may want a Search: USA campaign and rename the original Search: Canada. The preference is still not to change the name in this case as it will be understood that the Search campaign targets Canada.

Group Naming Conventions

Much like campaign naming, groups should follow a convention as well. There are 8 rules here, some are the same as the campaign naming conventions.

1. The group’s name should be the product’s name and thus the keywords in that group

As a general rule, for a search campaign the group’s name will be the same as the keywords used. For example, a dentist may offer teeth whitening, braces and wisdom teeth removal. Each of these should be in separate groups using specific keywords and the group name will reflect that. Just by looking at a group name should tell you the keywords you expect to see in that group.

2. Additional describing words should be separated with a double dash

Sometimes, you may have a product that needs to be sub-categorized. An example is selling running shoes. You may want a group for men, women and kids. The main keyword is running shoes, the descriptive words are men, women and kids. You would therefore have the following three groups:

  • Running Shoes – Men
  • Running Shoes – Women
  • Running Shoes – Kids

A separating character is used to separate the generic term from the other words. The reason we do this is that software can then use that character to build a report, say, how did all the kid’s products do last month.

A double-dash is used because a single dash (hyphen) may be confused with a product name that requires a hyphen such as a brand (Coca-Cola, Q-Tip), model name or regular contracted word.

Why not use some other separating character? I suppose we could. This is just to keep them all unique.

Let’s go back to the bookseller mentioned in the campaign naming convention section. In the Spy Novel campaign, you will have the book Hunt for Red October. As that is the name of the product, that is the name of the group as well.

3. Any other words should be separated by a comma

While it should rarely happen, any further descriptive word in the group should be added at the end, separated from the previous with a comma.

I discourage the use of common adjectives. Normally, things that describe the size, colour, weight or shape is not needed. It may depend on how a site is constructed as well as how many people search this way. There may be some searching for a small round kitchen table but if you have a group for this, best that you can bring that click to a page showing nothing but small, round kitchen tables.

One big exception may be clothing. So we could have the following groups:

  • Running Shoes – Men, Size 14
  • Sweat-shirt – Women, XXL

4. There should be no words in the group’s name that is found in the campaign’s name

There is no sense repeating descriptive words that are found in the campaign name and it would simply be redundant.

5. Names should be capitalized

Just like the campaign name.

6. No abbreviations should be used

The same rule as with the campaign name, unless there is no better way such as using XXL above.

7. Group names once set, should never be changed

You may recall I said for campaigns this is kind of a soft rule. For groups, this is a hard rule: the product’s name will surely never change and thus the group’s name should not as well.

8. For bilingual campaigns, it would be best to keep the same group names in one language

This is strictly for reporting purposes. A product may be promoted in two or more languages. The tendency would be to name the groups in the language we are targeting. Doing so however one would need to link the groups in each language should we want to report on a product’s performance, whatever the language. There may be exceptions to this (I’m thinking books) but it would be more prudent to simply repeat the group names for each campaign in other languages.

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