18 minute read time
The Ultimate Guide To Paid Search Naming Conventions
Structure. Order. All to get an understanding of data.
Naming conventions call on two of the most important skills to run an effective paid search campaign:
The ability to segment.
In this guide, we’re going to cover off all the naming conventions that I’ve used for Google Ads over the last 10 years. This is a mega topic and we will probably have to update this document a few times.
There will always be haters of (new) Naming Conventions
When a new naming convention is suggested, the responses often include
But I like my naming convention!
It looks nice.
I can read it easily.
I feel comfortable with it.
Hopefully you will already have some sort of naming convention in place to organise your biddable media. Here are the two reasons why you need to update your naming convention:
You will make more money
You will save lots of time
And there you have it. A method to save time & make money. Who doesn’t like that?
How will a naming convention save you money?
You will save budget or make more revenue through enhanced data insights. This is what we provide at GOA with our performance marketing automation checks. Yes there are other ways of doing this like Google Ads scripts but we are confident that we will do it better for you.
A few reasons why a naming convention will save you time:
Reporting of macro & micro data - this is so much easier with naming conventions, excel formulas and even better if you have enhanced wizardry which prepares your insights while you sleep.
It makes your campaign easy for others to understand & navigate so less time is spent explaining why things are the way they are.
Filtering - you can quickly take a look at all your campaigns that have X in them, or ad groups that are made up of Y match type. You could use labels but then you have to include every label in your report. Also the labels don’t get passed through to Google Analytics and a few other reasons.
If you don’t have a naming convention in place but you can segment your data effectively at scale, please let me know. I’d be fascinated to know how you do it.
This post is about Google Ads but that’s not to say these principles don’t apply to other platforms. I wanted to show you the level of segmentation that some advertisers will go to with the biggest spenders in the world.
All this depends on you. Well, the advertiser in question and that might not be you.
Questions to ask yourself when planning a naming convention
What's the business & how big is it?
What's the advertising budget?
How much revenue is this driving?
Are you driving revenue, leads, traffic, downloads, awareness or another?
How many people do you have managing this?
What are your business objectives?
This guide will cover search & non search naming conventions. What we are going to cover is:
Segmentation - this is covered in more detail in our how to structure & restructure a Google Ads account
Segments to include in your naming convention
I’m going to cover the segments first, then move onto the different levels you can segment at:
Strategy of the keywords - prospecting, retention, conquesting (bidding on competitors) and more.
Goal of the keywords - lead gen, sign up, branding etc
Search intent - transactional vs informational
Separate out brand. Always do this.
Categories & sub categories:
Categories are usually referred to as generics and often need separating. So separate out your generics into their own campaigns.
Fashion example: separate out generics. So dresses, tops, shoes, hats, cravats, lace onsies and open toed cowboy boots for some examples. Ok those last two are a sub category but I'm trying to find a matching set and it's a nightmare. Best place to look is the website where you are driving the traffic.
Another segmentation is be designers E.g. ‘little miss nasty’ as the designer vs ‘dresses’ as the category.
Watersports example: boating, canoeing, surfing, wakeboarding, sailing
Beverages example: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, milk
Furniture example: bathroom furtniture, bedroom furtniture, home entertainment furniture…….
If you’re not starting to understand types of categories by now, we have a problem. Spend some time on Amazon and read through their sitemap. Now there’s a way to spend an evening……
Product is another type - so shampoo,
Are you going to use the start / end date of a campaign for a promo?
Ad type - image, video, mobile app install etc
Network - do NOT have your search & display in the same campaign. Always include the network so search, shopping, universal app campaigns, video, display network etc
Type of campaign - DSA, RDSA, mobile app installs, mobile app engagement etc
Geography - country, city, region or any other variation if you decide. TOP TIP: use the Google country & language naming convention to ensure standardisation. This also aligns you with Google.
Match type - segment those match types to drive performance
Search partners separate? Yes it’s possible. Another blog post to follow on how to to do this.
RLSA - depends on your strategy
Ad rotation settings
Bid strategy (if using Google Ads bid strategies…)
Campaign URL options
Seasonal based activity. Christmas, black friday, easter, mothering sunday and lots of other quaint celebrations of the gods of retail.
Do you have single keyword segmentation? One keyword going it alone in the big bad world. If so, include that as the theme but include it somewhere in your naming convention if you want to reference it….
Time zone - targeting a new time zone... I would segment this at the account level because this is where you set the time zone. TIP - if it's a soft launch or a test then segment them into their own campaign for ad scheduling. Also helps with sitelinks at rules
Ad delivery – search vs accelerated
Negative keywords – campaign or ad group level
Budgeting – don't limit by budget. You might need to for a prospecting campaign, YouTube or another campaign.
Testing is another one that can result in a segmentation
Creating your naming convention
Ok so now you’ve split your business into a million different segments in your head.
Like I said above, this all comes down to a few key factors and all these should go into your naming convention. You need someone who understands your biddable channel:
Your different business functions
How much budget you have
How much search volume is available
How many markets you are competing in
How big your team is (the bigger the structure, the more
We have a separate articles on keyword generation & setting up your campaigns. I will include one of the most important points from that article:
DO NOT CREATE A KEYWORD UNLESS IT HAS SEARCH VOLUME CURRENTLY.
Don't create every single exact variation. You will have a ridiculously big account and it will be nightmare to manage. Also to download! Create exact & BMM keywords and do regular search term reports.
Caveat for that is if you are planning on creating search volume for it. e.g. as part of a large branding campaign you ask consumers to search for something. ‘Bonsai kitten playing with badgers’ or something useful like that.
Anyway back to the naming convention.
One advertiser I worked with has thousands of products, across many large categories. In a ridiculous amount of markets (70+ I think). They have a very specific naming convention across many different levels. This is for all the reporting that's required. They also have segmentation needs. All this results in a different set up to an advertiser that has one or two brands across one country.
One GOA client has hundreds of thousands of products (SKUs) across a huge range of categories. They have a to take this into account when thinking about how they want to slice their data.
So the main points to keep in mind with your naming convention. This is when starting out your structure or a restructure.
Segment as much as is required
Ensure that you have a tight keyword & ad copy relationship.
(What about landing page I hear you cry? Of course, don’t forget about landing pages ever. Address this when creating exact match keywords. Make sure they go to a relevant landing page. Test the landing page they go. Again, another article)
- Analyse the effectiveness of your investment. Find actionable insights which improve your performance. This is what GOA does! Our company....
Also, a note on the keyword / ad group segmentation. Segment your ad groups as much as you need. I know a few agencies that have a 1 keyword to 1 ad copy policy. I only go that far except for a few keywords. No more than 10 keywords per ad group (GOA policy check). Split out the keywords that you want to focus your testing on.
MCC naming conventions
MCC usually equals my client centre. If you don’t know what one of these things in then think of it as a folder for all your Google Ads accounts.
MCC structure is a blog post for another day. Or maybe not. Anyway, there are limits in place (lifted from this post, thanks Shaun S Google Employee):
An MCC can have only 85,000 total accounts in the hierarchy.
Connect an individual child account to a maximum of five different MCCs
An individual child account can have a maximum of four MCCs. e.g. Master Client MCC → Sub MCC 1 → Sub MCC 2 → Sub MCC 3 → Child Account
An MCC can only have one Parent MCC at a time.
If you are drowning in MCCs, you hopefully how to fix it but if you don’t know then reach out to me here. I'm not going to publish all my secrets.
Make it logical. Depends if you are an advertiser or not. Region, business function etc.
EMEA - GOA
UK - GOA
Google Ads account naming conventions
Same as above. Country. Product etc.
Campaign naming convention recommendations
Key segmentation considerations at the campaign level:
You can only segment some settings at the campaign level. Here are some of the main ones again:
Locations - the location you are targeting OR the location you are targeting to sell another location. I’m a hotel in London but I’m also targeting people in Berlin who I’m selling rooms too.
Campaign delivery. We argue search should always be on accelerated delivery to maximise your impressions.
Budget / campaign caps are key consideration if you are going to limit your campaigns in this way. Don't use campaign caps for search. (GOA policy check), but for YouTube or display campaigns…. YES! It is very easy to spend a small fortune in those areas.
Match type - I segment at campaign level. Only use exact & BMM keywords. There are loads of benefits that I will address in another article.
Other campaign level considerations:
Do change the order of your campaign names but BE CONSISTENT.
Also think about what you want to order it by in the search engine or bid management tool.
TOP TIP - get some agreed abbreviations in there but make sure you have a guide. You need to have everything ready for anyone to take it over.
LESSER TIP BUT STILL USEFUL - what do you want at the beginning of your naming convention? You can sort by this in the interface.
Naming conventions for international campaigns
Country_Language_Product Group_Network_Other filters
A few notes on the above:
I’m assuming that you are targeting multiple countries in one account.
If you aren’t targeting multiple countries in one, then put product group at the beginning.
Other filters depend on your business
Ad group naming convention recommendations
Keyword theme is all important in the name.
You. Must. Have. Tight. Ad Groups.
No arguments. No exceptions.
You want tight keyword groups to ensure that you are showing the most relevant ad to your keyword.
So you have a well segmented set of keywords.
There will be a theme.
Include it in the ad group naming convention.
Potential segments outside of theme:
Transactional vs informational
Sub categories - e.g. red dress, black dress etc but this should be addressed in your well structured ad groups.
TOP TIP 1
Have an account limit on how many keywords you have per ad group. 10 keywords per ad group MAX but this is unlikely. (GOA Policy for this). I guess you could go to 15 if you’re feeling very generous but that is going to be less relevant. Happy to be proven wrong....
Any more and there HAS to be more segmentation opportunities or you need to remove some keywords.
TOP TIP 2
Use your ad group name with the keyword theme as part of your ad copy build outs……..
Ad copy naming convention for testing
I'll go into this more in my testing articles but include important things that you want to report back on:
Ad copy test iteration (check out the other article on this)
Season - AW18 (Autumn Winter 18)
Summer / winter sale
Mid season sale
Flash hat sale
Anyway, label it up. Then set rules to active it. Also set rules to check it’s paused (if they are a big offer). You can do things in the URLs…. You can do things with the rules in Google Ads…...
Promo calendar naming conventions
If you are in eCommerce you will have wonderful promos flying around.
Promos for Google shopping...
If you have a fashion client then you will have promos everywhere!
Use a promo calendar. Here are some column ideas (is this a naming convention? Guess so....)
Date - internal business date, the Monday that the week starts on (w/c date). Some businesses have strange timings. Awful weeks that run Thursday to Wednesday. Quarters that start on weird days of the month and other horror stories. If you are one of these unfortunate souls then get the business week in there or some other identifier.
Territory - if you do a few. If you don't then get rid of this.
Promotion - name etc
Start date - of promotion
End date - of promotion
Detail of offer - offer code, URL etc
Ad copy label - now you see why I put this in here.....
Sitelink information - if required
Other tips and tricks for naming convention that will really help you
(all the tips & a few extras)
Making sure you keep an eye on capitalisation - yes. Sorry, but it can make a difference.
Use the Google country & language naming convention to ensure standardisation. This also aligns you with Google.
Character limits - everything has a limit. Stick to it.
Separators for your naming convention....
Use '-' or '_'
I have seen '|' used without adverse effect.
Also some people like <, >, +.... I find that annoying for some reason, not sure why. There is no explanation. Sorry. Deal with it.
DO NOT USE THESE IN YOUR NAMING CONVENTION:
'~' why are you using a tilde?!?!?!!
? - why are you using a question mark?!??!?!
- - you can see the pattern here.... Why are you using a star?!?!!?
These are special characters in excel. They do interesting things.
If you use this then someone in your organisation WILL BE VERY UNHAPPY WITH YOU. You are immediately on the naughty list & Santa will not visit at Christmas. Puppies & kittens will hate you and attack you. Birds will target you for their toilet trips. Plus some other disasters along that route.
Also, if there isn't someone angry in your organisation about this. Get one. This will help (as long as they're not too angry).
How to create the naming convention in bulk
Turn to your friend excel and good old CONCATENATE.
Include a good separator but don't enrage Santa.
Your naming convention data are in the first few columns.
You have chosen the almighty underscore as your weapon of choice.
This is what I'm referring to in case you don't understand me '_'
One tried and tested naming convention that will work for an international advertiser:
Here is your formula for cell G2
And here is an example using my LaceOnsies for MEN that is killing it:
That’s all we have time for today.
As always, any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org