One of my biggest pet peeves on the internet is how most people name their files and images.
Google reads everything online, and everything is used to help build an index of words with which to match search queries.
Every word used in the content on your website counts. Most of the time, everyone simply thinks the visible written words are all that counts, but there's more to it than that.
Google also read the hidden text on every web page that you add as alternative descriptions for images
. This "alt" and "title" text helps Google understand what the image is about, and those words get index in the search results.
In the absence of the alt and title text, Google also reads the file names of the image and uses that as part of their index. For example, if you have a photo of an emerald and diamond ring on your website, Google will understand what that photo is if the file name is "emerald-and-diamond-ring.jpg" rather than the name your camera gives it by default, say PIC001234.JPG.
In fact, if you search for "emerald and diamond ring" in Google images, you'll see all the top results are photos with file names including those words. Here's a few real examples I just found:
Take notice of how that last one doesn't include the word diamond or emerald. Google understands that "diamond" equates to "engagement ring" and that "green" also equates to "emeralds." None of these images would appear in the results if they were named PIC0001234.JPG.
Now let me turn my attention to downloadable content. With all the research I do daily, I'm always downloading white papers and studies from other companies. Time and time again, I download reports with names like 2_21299_8_FINAL.pdf which are completely useless to me and for positive SEO.
For me, as I look through my hard drive of collected reports, I see plenty of files with unintelligible names, including that 2_21299_8_FINAL.pdf I mentioned above. As it turns out, that 2_21299_8_FINAL.pdf report explains the "8 Content Marketing Mistakes to Avoid." I have to wonder if there should be a 9th content marketing mistake to avoid: bad file name conventions.
Everyone is guilty of this file naming mistake, even the really big companies like Forrester and Neilson!
Although Forrester has been learning... In October 2011, I downloaded a pdf from them that had the file name "Holidays-2011.pdf" when it should have been named "is-your-site-ready-for-the-2011-holidays.pdf" because that's what the report was about. In September 2013, they published another report with the file name "social_media_REPORT_Forrester_Best_Customers.pdf." The name of this report is "Engaged Social Followers Are Your Best Customers."
Personal computers are no longer limited to simple file names to 8 characters with a 3 character file extension. Although Apple computers never had this filename limitation, Windows and DOS were stuck with it for a long time. Perhaps it's that old time limitation that makes people believe their file names still need to be terse.
Between PDFs and product image photos, there's a lot of hidden SEO value that most websites are not capturing. This stuff is easy.
Another place that SEO is skipped can usually be found in your website's store logo. Often times the logo at the top of every page of your website is called "logo.jpg" rather than including your store name. I covered this specific topic in depth a long time ago in the Nugget titled Your SEO is Bleeding Out of Your Jewelry Store Logo
. Please refer back to that for specific details about proper store logo naming, and even file naming usage in email marketing.
I'm a big believer in proper file naming and hard drive directory organization on a personal computer. Unless you have an organization strategy you are likely to lose all your files in one big heap and drive yourself nuts. But when it comes to your website, you should use a verbose file naming convention that clearly explains things to your website users and to Google.
That 2_21299_8_FINAL.pdf file name I mentioned above is the worst offender. There is sits on my hard drive with no explanation of what it is or why I downloaded it. I've scrolled by it dozens of times without paying attention to it. Now that I look at it I remember reading it, but I would never find it again with a file name like that. I've just renamed it to "8-Content-Marketing-Mistakes-to-Avoid-by-ActOn-2012.pdf."
That new file name lets me see the real name of the report, who published it, and when. I knew it was published in 2012 because of the copyright notice within the report.
A forward-thinking content marketing company would have thought of this better file name, especially since "content marketing mistakes to avoid" is a really popular search query. If they had added the company name to the file name it certainly would help long term brand building because I would see that name over and over again as I reference back to my collection of saves white papers.
Forrester learned this sometime between 2011 and 2013 because they now include their name as part of their PDF file names as you saw above.
Let's take this one step further... In addition to your brand name you could also include your website address as part of the file name.
For example, this photo I mentioned above
RC1520EMCU-EmeraldDiamondRing.jpg could be renamed as
You'll notice I added the domain name omigem.com to the end of the name.
Likewise, you could include your domain name in all multimedia file names you have on your website. This includes product photos, store photos, PDFs, and video files. Even though it might not make any sense to you, there are people who download and save multimedia content even if you don't expect them to.
Tagging your file names with your brand name or domain name will help them remember where those downloaded files originally came from. Not only that, but it is a form of brand building.
So where does all this lead us to in this Daily Golden Nugget?
The bottom line is that file naming is very important because there are multiple opportunities for brand recognition. Google uses fleshed out file names to help rank you in results and users will have a better recall of files they have on their hard drive.