Your AdWords Account Needs Naming Conventions

AdWords accounts are like homes. You spend a significant amount of time within both, and over time, you come to know them intimately.

It’s easy to forget how much you know about your home — that is, until you have company over. For that duration of time you are instantly a home expert (or, well, at least an expert on your home).

Hypothetical Guest: “How do you turn on the TV?”

Hypothetical You: “There are two remotes on the side table. Use the grey one.”

Hypothetical Guest: “Why won’t your bathroom door lock?”

Hypothetical You: “Lift the handle while turning it to the left.”

Hypothetical Guest: “Why do you have an 80% negative bid adjustment from 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.?”

Hypothetical Me: “Because my mom always told me nothing good happens after 10:00 p.m., and the data said she was right.”

…wait, what?

The point is, you know your home better than anyone else. The same is true for your AdWords account. You know the structure, how certain adjustments have affected performance, and overall why things are the way they are.

But what happens when you leave on vacation?

At home, you might leave a note with instructions for a friend or neighbor to look after things while you’re gone, along with some cash to thank them for their help.

Hey bro,

Thanks again for helping out. Jenny and I should be back in a week (assuming neither of us accidentally drink the water). Here’s a quick list checklist for you:

  • Bring in mail.
  • Water the plants (NOT the cactus!)
  • We installed a doggy door last month so Bella lets herself out now to do her business — just make sure she has food and fresh water.

Audios bromigo!

p.s. there’s beer in the fridge if you get bored.

p.s.s. Bella’s favorite TV show is Cops.

That might be enough to get you by at home, but when it comes to AdWords…well, we’ll get to that in a second.

What Is a Naming Convention (And What Does That Have to Do With AdWords)?

Naming conventions (or naming schemes) are agreed upon rules for naming things. Within AdWords you have the ability to name a variety of attributes, including but not limited to:

  • Campaigns
  • Ad Groups
  • Labels
  • Automated Rules

You’re free to name these attributes whatever and however you want. Google provides virtually zero guidance on naming conventions, and perhaps rightfully so, since the process of naming something seems so subjective. After all, that’s what turns a house into a home — personal tastes that influence design and decoration decisions, giving each place its own unique flare.

But frankly, the more you subject the naming structure of an AdWords account to your “personal tastes”, the more of a pain in the ass you make it for everyone, including yourself.

An AdWords account’s naming structure shouldn’t be left to inconsistent whims. That makes it hard to navigate and difficult to understand, not only for the person who has to manage it while you’re on vacation, but plenty of other instances as well.

  • Inheriting AdWords Accounts — If you’ve ever inherited an AdWords account, you know how important it is to use an intuitive naming system. Make it easy for whoever might receive your account in the future.
  • Large AdWords Accounts — The larger an account is, the harder it is to remember how campaigns are structured and why they were structured that way. A good naming scheme can remind you of why you made structural decisions and what you were thinking at the time.
  • Old AdWords Accounts — Old accounts have a lot of history. Proper naming conventions can indicate if a campaign is seasonal, why specific ad groups or keywords are paused, and so on.

For these reasons (and a couple more yet I’ll cover towards the end), you actually don’t want your AdWords account to be like a home. You want it to be a cookie cutter condo on a generically named street.

Basically, you want it to be predictable.

How to Determine a Naming Scheme

You’re probably expecting me to tell you exactly how to name the attributes within your AdWords account. Please know that I would love to do just that, but unfortunately, I can’t.

Now before you light your torch and grab your pitchfork, understand that it’s not from a lack of desire. I want to give you an easy answer, it’s just not possible.

Naming conventions will vary depending on the theme of an account. A large corporate account will follow different naming conventions than one focused on local lead generation, and both will differ from an ecommerce store. That’s fine. They have different goals, and their accounts will reflect accordingly.

The important thing to remember is this: How you determine a naming scheme matters, but it means nothing without dedication to its implementation. You have to put it into practice consistently and without variance.

With that said, I understand that many people would appreciate and benefit from an example. Let’s use the most obvious applicable attribute within an AdWords account: the campaign name.

Example: You run ads for a local boat dealership. The focus is on lead generation in the form of phone calls and email inquiries. All inventory is available on the website, but the mobile experience is pretty bad. Your target demographic seems to be men at 30 years of age and up.

Imagine inheriting this AdWords account from whoever managed it before you. You log in to see the following campaign names.

AdWords Naming Conventions Example

What do you think they mean? If I had to guess…

Brand | All Devices | Search

^This campaign targets users who search directly for the name of the business. It’s running on all devices because the nature of a branded search indicates high intent, regardless of device type.

New Inventory Generic | Desktop Only | Search

^This is a search campaign running only on desktop. It’s promoting new inventory for the dealership, though it’s unclear what “generic” means — it could mean the keywords target generic search queries like boats for sale rather than specific boat models like starcraft mx 23 lp. Alternatively, in contrast to the next campaign, it could mean the campaign excludes any geographic keywords.

New Inventory Geo | Desktop Only | Search

^This is another search campaign running only on desktop, but probably targets geographic terms in the keywords. The creator of the campaign might have seen higher conversion intent with queries that contain geographic terms (e.g. boats for sale pensacola fl). In that case it would make sense to segment geographic from non-geographic search queries (i.e. “generic”) and allocate budget to the geo-specific campaign first.

Keywords & Demographics | Desktop & Tablet | Display

^This is a display campaign running on all but mobile devices. The targeting overlays either contextual or audience based keyword targeting with demographic bid adjustments, most likely age and gender to favor men over 30 years of age.

Can you see how a lot of these details were clearly indicated in the campaign name? Depending on your situation this particular naming style might be overkill, or it might not be enough. Here are some of the details you may choose to include in your campaign names.

  • Theme — What is the campaign about? Does it contain branded keywords? Are the keyword generic or appended with geographical terms?
  • Device — Which device types is the campaign running on?
  • Network — Search, display, or video? If search, does it include search partners?
  • Location — Where are you geographically targeting?
  • Demographics — Who are you targeting? Men or women? How old? Single or married with children? What income group?
  • Match type — Some people run search campaigns by match type. Is this shown in the campaign name?

The list goes on. It’s up to you to decide what makes the cut, then roll it out across your account(s) — and not just for campaigns names, but audience names, and video ad names, and automated rule names too.

Document Your Naming Scheme

Once you decide upon a naming scheme, it’s important that you document it somewhere other people can reference. This can be as simple as creating a procedure in your process management tool. If you don’t have a process management tool, document your naming conventions in a Google Doc or print them out on a piece of paper.

The key here is that you write (or type) them down. Until your naming scheme is documented, it’s like a goal or dream that you’ll accomplish “someday” — there’s nothing to hold you accountable.

Documented naming conventions can be referenced. They make work easier for everyone, but there’s something that makes them especially appealing to agencies: They’re scalable.

BONUS: Naming Convention Benefits for Agencies

Unless you have ambitions to grow a digital marketing agency, I’m afraid that’s all I have for you. For those of you who do have aspirations to grow an online marketing agency, we’re not finished yet.

It’s no secret that many agencies have found success by focusing on a particular niche or industry. The theory behind this, at least in the eyes of potential clients, is that if all you do is healthcare marketing (or automotive marketing, or financial marketing, or whatever), you must be pretty damn good at it.

Of course, those who have a decent amount of AdWords experience and have seen the campaigns created by these “specialized” agencies know that, more often than anyone would like to admit, that theory is bullshit. The agency’s choice to focus on a specific industry is little more than a strategic positioning decision, a marketing stance that feeds on susceptibility to authority.

I don’t think agencies do this on purpose. I think they genuinely believe their campaigns are superior. Your agency doesn’t have to be this way. With the proper approach, not only can you run ridiculously successful campaigns, but you can do what 99% of other agencies can’t. You can launch winning campaigns from the start.

Extremely Important & Notoriously Unsexy: Aggregating Data & Rapid Deployment

Maybe you intentionally decided to target the dental industry, or maybe it just so happened that your first client was a dentist, who referred you to another dentist and they became a client too. Intentional or not, a few accounts later and you’ve earned a reputation as “The Dental PPC Marketer” (I’m using dentists as an example, but the industry doesn’t matter. You could target accountants, or lawyers, or whomever you like).

You built these accounts from scratch. You conducted keyword research, made not-so-educated guesses on the best campaign structures, and did all the hard work that goes into building a new account. It took a long time, and you’re happy to kick your feet up while the campaigns run for a while.

Over time you begin to notice similarities across accounts. Some keywords perform better than others. The same negative keywords keep popping up. Certain words, when included in the ad text, seem to increase clickthrough rate.

All of this is conjecture, and most people leave it at that. None of the accounts individually receive enough conversions to comprise statistically significant data (the average dental office can only handle so many new patients). In order to attain statistically significant data, you would have to manually consolidate the data across each of your inconsistently structured accounts.

That would suck.

Nobody wants to manually aggregate data. It’s time-consuming and boring, so nobody does it. However, by not manually aggregating your data (or more likely, by not being willing to manually aggregate your data), you’re missing the point of running a niche advertising company. You have access to data that cost tens of thousands of dollars. Do something with it.

Step 1: Create an Account Template

Download your accounts and consolidate the data into one big spreadsheet. With all of your data now in one place, determine what an ideal account looks like, then build it using naming conventions that will make the data easier to consolidate in the future.

Here are a few examples of what that means in practice.

  • Create an industry-specific negative keyword list.
  • Use placeholder text for keywords containing geographic terms; this way you can update them in bulk by using a find & replace feature (e.g. replace “city” with “dallas”). The same applies to ad text.
  • Attach labels to attributes you want to easily segment (brand vs. non-brand, geo vs. non-geo).

AdWords Account Template Example
Are you pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down?

The goal is to make a generic account template that, with a few quick tweaks, becomes perfectly personalized for future clients.

Step 2: Use the Template for New Clients

Do you remember building that first client account (we literally just talked about it a few paragraphs ago)? You had no idea how the campaigns would perform — which keywords were any good, how they would perform on different devices, where to set location bid adjustments, etc. You had to charge an expensive setup fee to cover the time that goes into building a brand new account (or worse, you didn’t charge an expensive setup fee but still did the work, devaluing your services by working for less than you’re worth).

That’s over.

From this point forward, create all new client accounts as personalized derivatives of your template account. Since the account template was based on the statistically significant data from your first few accounts, all new accounts built on this framework are practically guaranteed to drive conversions immediately after launch.

But wait! It gets even better!

Copying an account and making a few alterations is a lot less work than building an account from scratch. As a result, you can keep setup costs low, and you can be up and running in few hours. Can your competitors do that?

I understand all of this sounds too good to be true, so let me give you a fair warning: This system is only as strong as the processes you document to control it. You need to document exactly how to duplicate the account template and make the necessary changes.

I’d also recommend creating a process to peer review the account after it has been copied, which should include a checklist of items for someone else (not the person who created the new client account) to go through. This helps with quality control and minimizes errors.

New AdWords Client Account Peer Review Checklist (a Non-Exhaustive Example)

  • Has billing and payment information been updated for the account?
  • Is the account set to the correct time zone?
  • Has each campaign’s geotargeting been changed to reflect the location of the client?
  • Have keywords and ad text in the brand campaign been changed to reflect the client’s name of business?
  • Are all final URLs pointing to the new client domain? Sitelinks too?
  • Have geographic placeholders in keywords and ad text been changed to reflect the location targeting of the campaigns?
  • Has the business’s Google My Business account been connected for location extensions?
  • Is conversion tracking set up properly?

Step 3: Repeat

You have a quality, affordable, scalable, productized service. Now all that’s left to do is repeat the process of duplicating the account template for new client accounts, as well as periodically aggregate the data to further optimize the campaigns (which is now much easier with all accounts sharing the same naming conventions). You can even aggregate the accounts annually to create white papers on trends within the vertical, positioning your agency as thee industry experts.


Naming conventions inside of your AdWords account bring organization to what can quickly become a chaotic mess. For agencies, they have the added benefit of being scalable; for individuals like you and me, they make work easier, which is more than enough reason use them.