AdWords best practices: How to name and organize campaigns

You can name your campaign anything you wish, but using a naming convention  can make it easier to keep track of the campaign.

Without a naming convention, things can get confusing

If you don’t create a naming convention, you’ll wind up making up a name off the top of your head each time. This can seem reasonable at first but will have some painful consequences down the road.

For example, if you are working on a campaign for Aperture Interactive you might name your campaign “Aperture Interactive.” So far so good. Sometime later on you decide to do some A/B testing, and you create a second campaign “Aperture Interactive B test”

Then you decide to A/B test landing pages, and “Aperture Interactive landing page B test” is born.

Later still you have added mobile-specific campaigns, and location-specific campaigns and campaigns focused on different search networks. Things get confusing quickly.

Why bother

With a good naming convention, you can structure all the campaigns in an account in a way that makes them easier to monitor and optimize.

  • Filtering campaigns is much easier with a structured naming convention, quickly providing apples to apples performance information. For example, if you want to compare performance between A/B tests in a particular location, you can set up a filter to do so.
  • Sorting, with or without filters, becomes easier. With a thoughtful naming convention, similar campaigns group automatically.
  • Testing because you can sort campaigns quickly, a good naming convention will help you create side-by-side comparisons of data between different campaigns that you are testing.
  • Reporting on campaigns is less arduous because you can more quickly create reports containing only those campaigns that you want to include within a report.

An example

A naming convention is a structured name that contains information about the campaign separated by a symbol.

For example, consider the following campaigns:

Search-US-Mobile-Broad-Eng-Brand-Condos

Search-US-Mobile-Broad-Eng-Brand-Apt

Search-US-Mobile-Broad-Eng-NonBrand-Condos

This naming convention is built around: Network-Location-Device-Matchtype-Language-Brand-Product

Note: in our convention we use shorthand to reflect most aspects except the product/service. Like this:

S-US-Mbl-Brd-Eng-Brnd-Condos

We’ll write it out for the examples in this post to make things easier to follow.

Tips for building a naming convention

If you implement a bad naming convention you’ll only add to the problem, so it’s worth taking a bit of time to craft a convention that works for you. Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind.

Don’t include variables unnecessarily.

If the account always advertises in one language, you don’t have to have a language component in the naming convention. Similar for locations, branded campaigns, or product (e.g., if the account only sells one type of product), or conversion goal (if the account is only about getting leads, it’s not important to include.

Start with the most common settings.

It’s easier to sort your campaigns if you start with the most common settings first, such as network type. This also means that if you use a variable only rarely, or have to add a new variable later on, it’s easier to add to the end of the convention without upsetting your reporting technique.

Don’t duplicate the account name if you don’t have to.

Let’s say the account is called “Aperture” or similar. Don’t place “Aperture” in the campaign name. It’s amazing how often this happens.

Include capitalization, spacing, and symbol rules in your convention.

If you don’t, sometimes a campaign will be called Search-US-Mobile-Broad-English-Leads-Apt-Brand and other times it’ll be called search-us-mobile-broad-english-leads-apt-brand. It doesn’t matter what capitalization rule you choose, but choose one and document it. Same story for spacing. Consider these two campaign names:

Search-US-Mobile-Broad-English-Leads-Apt-Brand
Search – US – Mobile – Broad – English – Leads – Apt -Brand.

Same story for symbol. Consider these two campaign names:

Search-US-Mobile-Broad-English-Leads-Apt-Brand
Search—US—Mobile—Broad—English—Leads—Apt—Brand

It doesn’t so much matter which you choose. This is fine:

Search&US&Mobile&Broad&English&Leads&Apt&Brand

Just be consistent!

Make shorthand and acronyms part of the convention

You can use shorthand to help keep the names from getting unwieldy. One trick is to remove vowels from a word, so that mobile becomes mbl. Or use the first letters such that G, S, and D to stand for Google, Search, and Display campaigns. Remember you’re not building a secret code. Don’t get too fancy or you might confuse others (and might get lost yourself).

Consider multiple variables.

Think about how you construct campaigns in this account when building your convention. If a campaign is in an account that can use multiple variables at once, you might want a way to reflect that in the name.

For example, a campaign running in San Diego and Los Angeles might have a “SCal” location instead of including the two different locations in the naming convention. Similar story with language and device.

Consider what matters in analytics and reporting.

The tip just above suggested that you might want to use “SCal” as a location convention for campaigns running in LA and San Diego. If you need to analyze this campaign vs. campaigns running in LA and Santa Barbara, make sure you accommodate that.

Take testing into account

A/B testing is an important part of every campaign, so you want to make sure your naming convention to accommodates it. This topic has its own section below.

Document everything!

Write it down! It’ll make it easier for you and everyone else to be consistent. This is particularly important if you decide to use a shorthand such as location1, location2, location3, location4 etc. It is incredibly easy to get mixed up if you aren’t careful.

Keep it simple.

Most people implement a convention with as many variables as they can think of, making it way too complex at first. You’ll be happier going the opposite direction and keeping things simple, then adding as needed.

Get everyone on board.

Unless you are the only person that will touch the campaigns in question, you’ll need your team to understand and use this naming convention. Check with them and see what conventions they are already using (if any).

Understanding alphabetical sort rules

Campaigns sort alphabetically in AdWords, so it’s helpful to take a look at the rules. Here they are, in ascending order.

A couple of things to point out

Nonalphabetical characters precede alphabetical characters. That is, !Google and @Google sort before Google.
Capital letters precede lowercase letters. That is, Google comes before google.
Variables to consider

Here are some possible variables you can consider including in your name:

  • Network – For when you have campaigns across the Google search network (we call it “Google”), Search + Partners network
  • Geo – For when your campaigns target different locations (e.g., US, APAC, CA, etc). You can use time zones as a convention, or national sections (SE, NW, etc.)
  • Goal – For when your campaigns have different conversion goals (e.g., Views, Leads, etc)
  • Match Type – For when your search campaigns are split up by match type
  • Product/Service – For when your campaigns promote different products or services (e.g., Red Widgets, Enterprise, Estate Planning, etc)
  • Retargeting Audience – For when your retargeting campaigns target different audiences

Taking A/B testing into account

Testing is an important part of every campaign, and you can use naming conventions to immediately filter reports to see how one campaign is doing against the other.

You can use any convention that makes sense to you; there’s no rule written anywhere. But some things to consider include:

  • You want to find any campaigns involved in an A/B test, instead of hunting around trying to figure out which campaign is testing.
  • It’s not enough to know that a test is running. You need to understand the test.

Getting tested campaigns to the top of a data table

If you notice the alphabetical sort chart above, the exclamation point (called a “bang” by us nerds) is first on the list. Using this symbol in front of any campaigns involved in an a/b test will make it easy to get them at the top of a sort list.

!Search-US-Mobile-Broad-English-Leads-Apt-Brand

That helps us find which campaigns are testing against one another. One more step.

Understanding how campaigns are tested

A/B testing looks at three types of variables

  • Ad Copy – Headline, Display URL, Description Ad Extensions.
  • Your Landing Page – The page that appears when an ad is clicked.
  • Your Targeting – Make changes to your demographics, devices, geos, etc.

Correspondingly, our convention includes the following:

  • 1HL and 2HL (headline1 and headline 2), URL, Desc, Ext
  • LP
  • Targeting can change depending on the client. Common targeting we use include user list (UL), Device (Mob or Desk), or geo.

We place the bank at the front of the name, to cause it to pop to the top of a table. We add the test type to the end of the name to ensure the two campaigns sort next to one another. For example, if we are testing different versions of headline one, the name is:

!Search-US-Mobile-Broad-English-Leads-Apt-Brand-1HL1
!Search-US-Mobile-Broad-English-Leads-Apt-Brand-1HL2

Two different landing pages:

!Search-US-Mobile-Broad-English-Leads-Apt-Brand-LP1
!Search-US-Mobile-Broad-English-Leads-Apt-Brand-LP2

And so on.

Taking Alpha/Beta campaigns into account

A technique for keyword discovery is to use Alpha/Beta campaigns (also called explore/exploit), in which one campaign (the Beta, or Explore) uses broad match keywords. Using the search query report from the Explore campaign can reveal strong long tail search queries. Place these as exact match keywords in the Exploit campaigns.

If you are using this technique, it can be helpful to be able to quickly sort your campaigns so that you can easily make budget adjustments, analyze reports, etc.

Our convention for indicating Alpha/Beta is to use the bang with a @A and @B suffix. The “@” symbol is easy to see, and it also moves the campaign to the top of a table.

!Search-US-Mobile-Broad-English-Leads-Apt-Brand-@A
!Search-US-Mobile-Broad-English-Leads-Apt-Brand-@B

We can then combine these conventions to A/B test within the alpha/beta context. Now we can test performance between two beta campaigns

!Search-US-Mobile-Broad-English-Leads-Apt-Brand-@A-LP1
!Search-US-Mobile-Broad-English-Leads-Apt-Brand-@A-LP2

Be careful when combining A/B testing and Alpha/Beta

Because the Alpha/Beta technique uses one campaign to build another, be careful how much testing you do within the context of an Alpha/Beta.

If you are A/B testing an alpha campaign, for example, you need to make sure that you send new keywords discovered within the beta to both versions of the alpha. This can lead to mistakes and can skew your A/B test data.

For this reason, we suggest you do not combine A/B testing with Alpha/Beta simultaneously.

If you have built up a good Alpha campaign and want to iterate it, you should defer your Alpha/Beta search analysis until the A/B test is complete. Once the test is complete, update the Alpha based on the test, and then delete the experimental Alpha campaign. Then update the Alpha campaign with any new findings from the Beta.

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