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9 Digital File Naming Mistakes That Are Hurting Your Productivity

For any business, when it comes to organizing your digital workspace, your digital file naming (or electronic file naming) convention plays an important role in how easily you can find, access, and know what your file is, without opening it. There are some common mistakes that many people seem to fall into and we're going to tackle them here!

Imagine this: You've just created the best course for your business! It's taken you a long time to edit and perfect your specific tone, show off your expertise in your topic, a few witty jokes you'd never remember again, and the best images, and you just know it's going to be a real winner with our audience. It's late, so you shut it down for the night and you'll do one last review in the morning before you launch and solve all your audience's problems!

What a glorious way to start a day, am I right? You're pumped for tomorrow! Morning rolls around and you fire up the computer to do one last review and you go searching for the PDF file you created. What was it called again? Did I name it “Best Course EVER”? Nope, that's not it.

3D illustration of a cardboard box with files emerging from a laptop screen, depicting digital files. There is a lot of files in the box.

As you sift through your files, you realize your naming convention has been, at best, haphazard. Each file's name is a cryptic puzzle of dates, incomplete titles, and ambiguous terms like “draft” or “edit.” Worse still, you've used different formats for each product, making it impossible to guess how you named any given file.

Have you been there before? I have. And it sucks! So let's review 9 mistakes to avoid when naming your digital files.

Basics of Digital File Naming

What is Digital File Naming

Digital file naming is the process of assigning a unique name to a digital file. This name helps to identify and distinguish the file from other files. The name should be descriptive and relevant to the content of the file.

Why is Digital File Naming Important

Digital file naming is important for several reasons. First, a good file naming convention helps you increase your productivity by reducing the time spent looking for files that are not named in a way for easy access. In general, it's a step towards keeping your online business organized.

Second, is searchability and SEO for your files online. This is how people find you (blog posts, photos, etc.) when doing an organic search. A well-named file with SEO keywords will help get eyes on your content through platforms like Google.

Woman at a home office desk using binoculars to peer at her screen as a funny depiction of SEO and getting eyes on your content.

Scalability is another benefit, a well-established file naming system will help lay the framework for easier expansion.

Lastly, good electronic file naming also allows you to expand your business, by making it easier to bring on partners or virtual assistants, because if you can't find your files, they won't be able to.

Check out this blog post “Easy Tips for How to Organize Digital Files and Folders” for more digital content organization tips!

Mistakes to Avoid in Digital File Naming

Using Inconsistent Naming Conventions

Using inconsistent naming conventions can make it difficult to find files, especially when working on a project with multiple team members. What is the difference if a document has “draft” or “edit” in the name? Is “Image” or “Photo” the same thing?

Keep file names consistent. Perhaps all blog posts have “blog-post” in the naming convention. Simple and consistent.

Overly Long or Complex Names

Overly long or complex names can make it difficult to read and understand file names. Here is an example of a long and complicated file name:

2024-03-31_Project-Alpha_Team-Meeting-Notes_Revised-Final-Version_After-Feedback_from-Jane-and-Mark_Incorporating-Changes-Discussed-on-Last-Call_with-Additional-Research-Data_Approved-by-Management.docx.

Keep file names short and simple, while still conveying the necessary information.

Overhead view of a person working on a laptop with a speech bubble graphic showing an overly long file name, juxtaposed with a homey work-from-home setup including coffee and a 'WORK AT HOME' sign.

Vague Naming

Vague naming can make it difficult to find the right file when you need it. A good example of a blogger would be:

Blog-Jan-2024.doc

Be specific when naming files and include relevant information such as what it is (ex. blog post), date, blog post title, etc.

Special Characters and Spaces

Special characters and spaces can cause issues when it comes to file naming. Avoid using special characters (!, #, %, etc.) and spaces in file names, as they can cause problems when trying to open or save files.

Instead of spaces or special characters, use hyphens. Ex.: blog-post.

Ignoring Date Formats

Ignoring date formats can make it difficult to sort and find files by date. Is 06-05-03 May 3, 2006, or is it May 6, 2003, or any other combination?

Use a consistent date format, such as YYYY-MM-DD, to ensure that files are easy to find and sort. Also, make sure that if you're using a date it means something like the day a blog post is published.

Not Planning For Scalability

Not planning for scalability can cause issues down the line when it comes to managing large numbers of files.

An example of not planning for scalability in file naming could be using a system that only accounts for a small number of files or projects and doesn't adapt well to growth. For instance, you might start a project with file names like:

ProjectReport1.docx, ProjectReport2.docx, … ProjectReport10.docx

Initially, this seems manageable. However, as the project expands and diversifies, you continue to add files:

ProjectReport11_NewSection.docx, ProjectReport12_RevisedAfterMeeting.docx, ProjectReport13_FinalDraft.docx, ProjectReport14_FinalDraft_Revised.docx

Soon, you realize that not only have the numbers become less meaningful (is ProjectReport15 really just the 15th report, or does it cover a specific topic?), but there's also no clear structure to accommodate different types of documents, revisions, or topics within the same project. The system becomes cluttered and confusing as your needs grow and evolve, highlighting a lack of foresight in planning a scalable file naming convention.

Make sure that your file naming conventions are scalable and can handle a large number of files.

Abstract image of a spiral staircase enhanced with vibrant, flowing light trails against a dark blue background, symbolizing scaling your business

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing can make file names difficult to read and understand. “best-pumpkin-pies-october-pies-fall-baking-blog-post” is not likely to gain you any Google points!

Avoid using too many keywords or keyword phrases in electronic file names, as it can make them difficult to read and understand.

Failing to Version Control

Failing to use version control can cause issues when working on projects with multiple team members. I remember working on a statistical spreadsheet one day and I was making some serious progress, in the zone, and getting a call from a co-worker saying they had just finished their part and I could go ahead and do my thing. Wait, what? How were they working in it if I'm working in it?? This was before cloud sharing (yes, I'm THAT old). Like, we actually had to take turns working in files. I digress.

Oh, they were working in the latest version saved by so-and-so in this other folder. I wasn't aware there was another version. It was fantastic (insert sarcasm)! I had just updated an old version and now had to redo all my work in the proper file.

Make sure that you are using version control to ensure that everyone is working on the same version (or newest version if there's no cloud sharing) of a file.

Ignoring Folder Structure

Folder structure is too big of a topic to cover in this blog post, but there is a relation between WHERE a document is filed and WHAT it is named. If you had all your files saved in one or two folders, you would run into issues with too many files in one location and you'll struggle to create a digital file naming convention that is user-friendly.

File naming should coincide with your folder structure, whether that be on your computer/laptop or on a platform like Google Drive.

Download this free Digital File Naming Checklist which lists all the steps to get your file naming conventions cleaned up, allowing you to find your content!

Mockup for a free digital file naming checklist. Green background with a computer and a picture of the checklist on the screen.

Find your digital files easily by using this checklist to revamp your file naming conventions

Get it for FREE!

Update Your Digital File Naming Convention

Did you review your files as you were reading this? Did you catch yourself doing any of these? If you did, don't beat yourself up. I don't have any statistics and I don't think it'll make anyone feel better if I did, but I would wager that most entrepreneurs, including myself, have realized that previous or current digital file naming conventions are not working. So you've changed them. I have. I still do when I determine that my current way isn't as efficient as I'd like.

Pro Tip: There is no hard right or wrong answer on how to name your files. You must do what makes sense for your business, works with your documents, and fits into your folder structure. This will be slightly different for nearly everyone and that's fine.

Remember to keep your file names concise and informative, avoid the use of special characters and spaces, and consider including dates or version numbers in your file names to help track changes over time.

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Additionally, utilizing folders and subfolders can further improve organization and make it easier to locate specific files. Take the time to establish a logical folder structure that works for you and stick to it.

Final note: Pick your digital fine naming convention, implement it slowly looking for efficiencies, and then stick with it. No jumping around changing things willy-nilly!

OK, that's it, go forth and conquer your file names! Join the Facebook group and let us all know how you did. We're a group of like-minded businesswomen trying to organize, document, and increase our productivity!


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Creator and CEO of Organize Your Online Biz, Lindsay Trca

Hi, I'm Lindsay!

A blogger dedicated to empowering women entrepreneurs in the online business world. With over 15 years of experience in process documentation and SOP creation, I specialize in streamlining workflows, organizing workspaces, and optimizing digital tools for maximum efficiency. Join me as we transform your business operations with practical insights and budget-friendly solutions.

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