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Google AdWords

Guide to AdWords Account Structure: Set Up and Best Naming Conventions

We preach a few core tenants of successful PPC advertising on the AdHawk blog.

First, is setting clear goals for your paid advertising strategy and understanding how you will track performance against those goals. At a basic level, that means properly setting up conversion tracking to follow the KPIs specific to your business.

The next core tenant is having an organized account and campaign structure inside Google AdWords.

It may be most effective for the short term to get campaigns up and running ASAP. But the next time you try to run a new ad or dive into your account in search of data, you’re going to end up feeling like this poor guy:

Source: Giphy

But that’s why we’re here: to nag you about your messy room like your mom did growing up because we care, and we know you’ll understand once you listen. First, we’ll cover why this is so crucial, then we’ll dive into best practices for each step in the account structure hierarchy and the upkeep strategies you’ll need to keep it nice and tidy.

Why should I take the time to carefully structure my AdWords campaigns?

Your paid ads can’t be like that miscellaneous drawer we all have in our kitchen. You know, the one packed with broken rubber bands and cereal box toys from the 90’s. You’re paying for these ads, so it’s important to manage them with care, but we know things get out of hand sometimes.

Organized accounts will save you time and money. Untangling a million wires each time you want to check in on your sales, leads, and traffic all the time is probably not the best use of your time.

Imagine you have one bad ad among a sea of amazing ads. Naturally, you want to get rid of that bad ad without pausing the rest. If that’s hard to picture, think of the IT guy who was told to find the one bad connector in a mess of wires. He can take the time now to organize and save himself countless hours in the future, or fumble through it for an hour every time. Which do you prefer?

tangled ad campaigns fixed
Source: imgur

Should you start from scratch or reorganize existing ads?

If you are currently running AdWords campaigns, you do not need to start from scratch, nor should you. You should always use your past results to inform future decisions.

A good place to start is to read Grace’s tip below and check if that applies to your current AdWords account:

adwords-pro-tip-grace-campaign-structure (1)

If you’re starting to realize you’re in need of an overhaul, you shouldn’t be too worried about “losing” data by making a structural overhaul. Even if you delete ads, ad groups, or campaigns, you can change your view in AdWords from the default “All Enabled” or “All but Removed” to “All”. This will let you see past results on aggregate.

We suggest you walk through these steps, consider how you would integrate existing ads into a better structure, sketch a few things out pen and paper style, and make a plan of action before you go purging campaigns and building out a bunch of new stuff.

Let’s dig in!

Basic AdWords Structure


Account Level Structure


At the top of the pyramid is your account. This includes your email, password, billing settings, and company information. (Here’s how to set up your AdWords account if you haven’t already.)

You can also allow a 3rd party to manage your account under an MCC (My Client Center) account. An MCC account is an umbrella account that manages multiple AdWords accounts. MCC’s are used by third party advertising software companies like us, bid managers, consultants, agencies, and more.

When you grant a 3rd party access to your account, you can choose between four account access levels

  • Administrative access: Manage all aspects of the account and give people access
  • Standard access: Make changes to campaigns and give people email only access
  • Read only access: View campaigns and run reports.
  • Email only access: Receive account alerts and reports via email.

We’ve put together a guide detailing how to set up, manage, and manage your AdWords accounts if you’re interested in learning more.

Campaign Level Structure


On the campaign level, you can manage your budget, and choose where your ads will show up. There are several ways to structure your campaigns contingent on what kind of business you are running, so take a step back and think about what your high-level goals are.

First and foremost, each Campaign has a type. We won’t dive into setup or best practices today, so I included links to various resources to learn more:

  1. Search Network – Search network set up guide
  2. Display Network – Display network set up guide
  3. Shopping – Ecommerce shopping set up guide
  4. Video – YouTube ads set up guide
  5. Universal App – Universal app download set up guide

adwords campaign types new interface

This is a built-in top-level campaign structure that groups your campaigns by the type. After that, it’s up to you, so here are our favorite campaign categories that will allow you to easily keep track of your ads and leave room for growth!

Brand, Non-Brand, and Competitor Keyword Search Campaigns

Indicating whether your campaign is bidding on branded or non-brand keywords is a great way to separate your search campaigns at a high level.

Use a mix of both broader non-branded keywords to acquire more customers and branded keywords to drive conversions. People searching your branded keywords are more likely to convert because they’re actively searching for your band with high intent.

You can name your branded and non-branded search campaigns like so:

Search – Brand
Search – NonBrand

Or separate your non-brand keywords into product types if you have a wide offering and segment out your competitor keyword bidding:

SearchNonBrand – Product Category 1
SearchNonBrand – Product Category 2
Search – Competitor – Product Category 1
Search – Competitor – Product Category 2

Location-Based Campaign Structure

After checking where your ads are showing up and where they are performing best, you can create different campaigns based on location and increase or decrease your bids in those targeted regions accordingly. You cannot manage location on the Ad-Group level, so make sure to be specific as you can get while staying manageable.

If you’re targeting different locations, like your three physical therapy branches in Atlanta, NYC, and Portland you can name your display campaigns as such:

Display – Atlanta GA
Display – NYC NY
Display – Portland OR

Multi-Lingual Campaign Structure

If you’re targeting multiple regions of the world or specific speaking groups within a region, you can also divide your campaign by language like so:

NonBrand – Dutch – SampleProduct
NonBrand – English – SampleProduct
NonBrand – French – Sample Product

adwords-pro-tip-taryn-campaign-name-budgetSeasonal & Time-Based Campaign Structure 

If your ads are performing better on the weekends or a certain day of the week, you want to divide up your campaigns by dayparting, which means displaying your ads based on the day of the week or time of day.

You can also create campaigns based on holidays or times of the year for seasonal promotions like Christmas or Spring sales. This allows you to manage the budgets more easily, build the campaigns far in advance, and compare overall efforts with ease:

Search – Black Friday
Search – Cyber Monday
Search – Before Christmas
Search – After Christmas

Bidding Option-Based Campaign Structure

You can create different campaigns based on different bidding options, such as automated bidding. However, we only encourage you to create campaigns around bidding options if you’re completely confident of what strategies to deploy, since bidding tactics typically change over time.

Ad Group Structure


Ad Groups are sets of similar ads that will show up based on bids on keywords specified within the ad group. Each Ad Group contains one landing page where your ads will direct the user to.

Although you can technically create a maximum of 4 million ads per account, 2-3 ads per ad group will keep things granular yet manageable. To find which ones will perform the best, use the Ad Rotation Settings to gather historical data and optimize your ads.

Keyword Match Types

Labeling your Ad Groups by different match types (broad match, phrase match, exact match, broad-match modified and negative match) will help you identify which keywords you’re bidding on. Naturally, you can also label your campaigns by match type as well.

Remember, negative keywords are used to prevent your ad from showing up on terms you specify. This means you can’t create an ad group with only negative keywords, because you need to specify a keyword to target in the first place.

So, be sure to include at least one match type for your ads to start showing!

How many keywords should I have in my ad group?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions that warrants an unsatisfyingly vague answer, like all things AdWords: it depends.

If you’re just getting started, Google suggests you go broad as a way of doing keyword discovery with 10-20 keyword terms. A smaller number of controlled keywords makes it easier to create relevant landing pages that fit seamlessly with your ads.

As we mentioned before, it depends on the products and services you’re offering. The number doesn’t matter as much as how you’re using them.

The best way to structure your ad groups for search is to familiarize yourself with the different keyword options, using the search terms report to analyze performance, negative keywords to eliminate queries and manual bidding to take advantage of high-converting terms.

Ad-Level Structure

On January 2017, Google announced that all ads will follow a new format called Expanded Text Ads, which nearly doubles the original ad text limit. More text means more variables that come into play for advertisers – like longer description lines and relevant display URLs.

This is why we created an AdWords Expanded Text Tool that allows you to quickly create, preview, test, and export Expanded Text Ads in bulk for free!

What makes a good ad?

Google grades your ads by providing a metric called Quality Score, which is determined by your landing page experience, ad extensions, ad copy, expected click-through-rates, and more. Quality Score plays a huge role in determining where you rank in comparison to other ads you’re competing against.

For further reading, we put together a guide on how to achieve a perfect quality score, which goes more in depth on how everything works.

You’re All Set!

Woohoo! If you have any questions, please leave us a comment below or tweet at us @AdHawk. We’d love to hear from ya!

Marketer's Guide to Google AdWords

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About the Author

Journeyman of the wild wild west of Digital Advertising. Also doubling as an unofficial Taco Bell ambassador. Tweet at me @JonJmPark