For many businesses (us included) Google Drive has become the go-to place for document creation. Whether you’re writing blog posts, creating budget sheets or planning presentations—Drive easily slots into the working day.
One thing it’s not so great for? Organising visual content. If you’re storing images or videos in Drive, you know how difficult it is to actually find what you need. For visual content, we recommend you use digital asset management, like Dash—but we’ll get to that later.
First, here are some tips on how to organise your Google Drive so you can find your documents quickly. ✨
11 tips to organise Google Drive for your growing brand
The better you organise your folders and files, the easier it will be to search through them in the future.
1. Get to know Google Drive’s folder structure
To start, you’ll need to navigate your Drive’s folders. You can access everything you need from your Google Drive home. On the left hand side, you’ll find a series of folder icons. On the top bar, you’ll see filtering options. Let’s break them down.
1- Home: This is where you’ll access all your different folders and documents. You'll find your most recent documents, along with your personal Drive folder (see number 2).
1 - Activity: Go here to find recent activity on your docs. For example, the most recent comments on an article.
1 - Workspaces: A Google Workspace is a collaborative space that you can only get on Google Business Plans. It’s a place for your team to work on documents within a project. Say you’re working on some new website copy—you’d keep all documents, sheets and presentations relating to that website project here. You’ll need to set up a Workspace using your personal Drive account (as opposed to a Shared Drive, which is set up by your company, but more on that later).
Here’s an example of some documents living in my new products Workspace. I’ll use the brand, Planto, that we’ve created for demo purposes. This Workspace is titled ‘Rubber Plant launch’.
Scoot down this article to learn more about Workspaces.
2 - My Drive: This is where all your files live. It’s every document that you personally create and, without proper organisation, can get messy very quickly. I recommend organising everything into sub-folder. Do this by creating sub-folders by right-clicking > new folder.
2 - Shared Drives: This is a shared space owned by your company - as opposed to a smaller Google Workspace owned by individual team members. To create a new Shared Drive, right-hand-click the folder and select New Shared Drive. To add team members, click Manage Members on the top right. Drop folders and files from My Drive to make them accessible to your colleagues.
3 - Shared with me: Go here to access files that a team member has shared with you.
3 - Recent: Your most recently accessed files.
3 - Starred: You can add important docs into the starred folders by right-clicking a file > add to starred.
3 - Bin : Anything you send to the bin will be automatically deleted after 30 days.
2. Use naming conventions
Start as you mean to go on with naming conventions - an easy trick that’ll save you a lot of time in the long run.
Let's use our house plant brand, Planto, as an example. You’re working on copy for a new product that’s due to launch in three months. You create separate Google docs for your product descriptions, email and social media copy. For ease, you simply name your documents ‘product copy’ or ‘Instagram captions’. You then share them with your marketing team who don’t actually need to look at them until closer to launch. Cut to three months later and it’s lost somewhere in their shared drives, and nobody can remember the name of the doc! 😧Okay sure, you’ll be able to find it again... eventually. But by agreeing on naming conventions with your team, you’ll cut down all that time spent searching.
Here’s an example of how you might organise your Google docs for a product launch:
[Name of product] Rubber Plant - [Type of content] email copy
[Name of product] Rubber Plant- [Type of content] website description
[Name of product] Rubber Plant - [Type of content] social copy
As long as everyone sticks to the naming conventions, it should be easy to locate the documents again.
💡Btw, if you’re managing visual content in your marketing team, we highly recommend getting a marketing asset management tool, like Dash, to help you find and share images, fast.
3. Set up an approval process
Say you head up Planto’s marketing team and have the final say on the product launch copy. You can ask your copywriter to send an approval request in Drive.
To do this, the document owner will need to be in the document and head to > file > approvals. They’ll then need to search for your name and send you a notification with the option to add a message and due date.
📝 Note that any edits made during the approval process will cause a new notification to be sent.
4. Organise ‘shared with you’ folders
When someone sends a file to you, your ‘Shared with me’ folder can become a dumping ground of random documents.
Google has tried to organise the chaos by showing you ‘suggested’ files first. These are often documents you’ve recently opened. The rest are listed by week, month and year.
Organise these files by adding them to your ‘My Drive’ folder and subfolders. You can do this by dragging and dropping the file into your folders on the left-hand side. Or right-click a file and select ‘create a shortcut to Drive’. From here you can choose which folder you want to send it to.
5. Use numbers to organise your sub-folders
Google Drive automatically puts sub-folders in alphabetical order. So, try a numbering system to help prioritise the most important folders.
Right-click the folder, select ‘rename’ and add your numbers
6. Colour-code your folders
For the visual thinkers, why not colour-code your folders to liven up your Drive?
Right-click on the folder and select ‘change colour’. There are only a few to choose from, so it might not be ideal if you’re hoping to use your brand colours.
7. Add emojis to your folders
Another tip to improve the look of your folders - add emojis! 🤪
Right-click your folder > rename > add an icon by using the emoji shortcut on your keyboard:
Windows: Windows button + full stop
Mac: Command + Control + Space
8. Create a workspace for files you’re currently working on
A Workplace is somewhere you can access all your most frequent files without moving them from their original location. It’s like a project folder full of shortcuts to the relevant documents. This is handy if you want to keep all the working docs for your upcoming product launch in one easy-to-find place. You can also invite team members to your Workspace, ideal if you’ve got multiple colleagues working on the same campaign.
To create a workspace in Google Drive, click ‘Priority’ and scroll down. Select ‘Create Workspace’ and give it a name. You’ll then be presented with a list of files to add to your Workspace. You can also add files to your Workspace after set-up by right-clicking any file and selecting the ‘Add to Workspace’ option.
9. Add descriptions to image files
When you use the search bar to find a file in Google Drive, it’ll pull out certain words from within your documents. Perhaps you’ve written a blog post about a new product. You can search the name of the product, and it’ll show you the documents where you've mentioned that word.
Be warned that Google Drive can’t do this for your images and videos. ❌
That’s because it can’t search the metadata of an image (like Dash can). That’s one of the reasons why we’d recommend keeping your visuals in Dash.
But, if you’d rather they live on Drive for now, the best workaround is to add descriptions to your image files. To do this:
- Go to the file or folder you’d like to add a description to
- Right-click the row it’s in and you’ll get a pop-up menu
- Click the ‘View details’ option
- You’ll see details about the file or folder
- Scroll to the bottom and click the pencil icon to add a description
You could use the description box to add context to your images. For example, this image is captioned: “Photo of living room, featuring plants above fireplace.”
10. ‘Star’ ⭐ important projects
Underneath your folders, you’ll notice a ‘starred’ folder. This is where you can store important documents that you want to access quickly. To star a file, simply right-click on a doc and select ‘add to starred’. This is ideal for in-progress documents or important files that you haven’t had a chance to read yet
11. Delete files that are no longer needed
This may seem like an obvious one, but it’s easy to overlook. Make sure you delete any Google Drive files you no longer need. That product copy you wrote three years ago? It’s only going to clog up your folders so get rid!
To delete a file, right-hand click on it and send it to ‘bin’. Your file will be permanently deleted from the bin after 30-days, so if you make the wrong decision, you’ve got plenty of time to restore it.
How to search for files in Google Drive
If you’ve got folder structures and naming conventions in place, searching should be a breeze. But that’s not always the case. Especially if others aren’t following the same process (or if you’re relying on Drive for managing images and video 🤭).
This is when you might need to add some extra steps to your search.
Search using filters
Google Drive has filters to help narrow down your search. Here’s what each of them does. 👇
- Search using filters: Google Drive has filters to help narrow down your search. Here’s what each of them does. 👇
- Search by type: Search by file type including; photos & images, PDFs, audio files, docs, presentations and spreadsheets.
- Search by owner: As the name suggests, you can search by the owner of the file. You can select ‘owned by me’, ‘not owned by me’ or type in someone’s name.
- Search by ‘includes the words’: This is where Google Drive can scan your documents and find a specific word. If I type ‘Rubber Plant’, it’ll show me all those product documents I’ve created.
- Search by ‘item name’: Here you can type in any word that might be included in the file title.
- Search by location: Search in a specific folder to narrow down your search. You can also use the checkboxes ‘bin’, ‘starred’ and encrypted’ to look through multiple locations.
- Search by ‘date modified’: This is where you’ll search Google Drive by date. You can filter through documents that have been edited in the last 7 days, 30 days and 90 days. You can also input your own custom date range.
- Search by ‘awaiting approvals’: Find any document currently awaiting your approval.
- Search by ‘follow up’: Look for files that have actions assigned to you or files you’ve made suggestions and comments in.
- Search by file size: When you’re looking to free up space in Google Drive, head to ‘storage’ beneath your folders and sort through your files by size. You can also see how much storage space you’ve got left.
Google Drive vs Dash: what’s best for visual content?
As I’ve already mentioned, Google Drive is no good for organising and searching your visual content. That’s product images, brand graphics, video ads and more.
Instead, you should be using a DAM tool like Dash. 😇
You see, Dash can actually search the content of an image. AI can detect objects within an image, and custom tags will help you organise your brand’s product images. So when you search for a keyword, it will immediately show you relevant results.
Say I want to find an image with someone holding a plant in Planto’s Dash. I can type ‘hand’ into the search bar.
I can also use custom filters and fields on the left-hand side to narrow down my search. For example, I can do a quick search by product image type, plant care level and plant category.
It’s for this reason we see a lot of customers move from Drive to Dash to organise their visuals. Take ecommerce brand, Filling Pieces. They have loads of product images they need to share with their teams and resellers. Google Drive wasn’t able to do the job effectively:
“Before, when we were using Google Drive, there were no naming conventions. There were too many people uploading content at the same time. I decided it was time for a completely new system with a really good UX. I wanted to be able to type in the product name, see results and order by category. Google Drive is just not very visual. It’s messy.”
Here’s a peek at FIlling Piece’s Dash:
But it doesn’t end there. Dash also helps you get your images ready faster by letting you download images in different formats. You can pick from a selection of preset crop sizes for social media, and create your own dimensions - perfect if you want to get an image ready for your website or email templates. Plus, if you’re an ecommerce brand working with external partners, you can set up public portals to get visuals to your retailers and agencies quickly.
As you can see, Dash is much better equipped to deal with your visual content. It’ll help you get more value out of your assets and will free you and your team up to get on with the work you were hired to do. If you want to find out more about digital asset management, take a look at these handy articles:
If you’d like to try Dash for yourself, you can sign up for free for 14-days. No strings attached! 🙌