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Webmaster General Forum

spaces in file names

 5:20 pm on Apr 27, 2001 (gmt 0)

ok - I know that we should avoid spaces in file names where possible but how big a deal is it really?

I have 200 image files that have spaces in the file names thanks to one of my clients and I really don't have the time or patience to rename them all. If I have to rename them does anyone know of a search and replace that will work on file names?



 5:49 pm on Apr 27, 2001 (gmt 0)

Yes I use one just for that purpose and it works perfect for that and many other tasks.

It's called NameWiz.

here [softbytelabs.com]

You can do a find and replace for spaces with underscores or whatever else you want. Add prefixes, name by sequence both alpha and numeric.


 6:19 pm on Apr 27, 2001 (gmt 0)

thanks msgraph - worked like a charm. You just saved me hours of work.


 6:35 pm on Apr 27, 2001 (gmt 0)

Your welcome. It saves me about 3-4 days of **** work per month.


 6:37 pm on Apr 27, 2001 (gmt 0)

>how big a deal is it really?
Apache will choke on a browser request that has a space in it.


 7:54 pm on Apr 27, 2001 (gmt 0)

Hello everyone, my first post! I'm a 4 year veteran who consults frequently on the art of SEO.

I'd like to take a moment and thank "ihelpyou" for coercing me to make a presence here!:)

In regards to spaces in file names, here is a tip that I recently posted at my site...

We all know that your file names, directories, sub directories, images, style sheets, and any other naming reference within your web site should be named using an appropriate keyword or phrase.

There have been numerous discussions on whether to use hyphens or underscores. It really doesn't matter to the spiders, they see both as the same (a space). But, think about the end user. When you have a hyperlink that uses an underscore, what do you see in the link? A space. You don't see the underscore because it is obscured by the link underline. Believe it or not, some people might mistake this for an actual space.

Using hyphens eliminates this issue at the same time separates your keywords and phrases for those spiders who do not stem words. Lycos is a prime example of not using word stemming. They can only pick up terms in url's and file names if there are hyphens or underscores separating them. Pay close attention to searches in Lycos. Look at the words that are bolded! (Aha, you didn't know that did you?!)

Another issue is using actual spaces in file naming. I'm sure most of you know that this creates the %20 in your link and that % sign may be a dead end for spiders.

I see quite a bit of this with large websites and can't believe someone would overlook such an important part of directory structuring and organization.

To summarize; use hyphens to separate your words in all file naming structures. Use appropriate keywords and phrases for naming. Use all lower case for naming. Do not use actual spaces at all.

Use this technique along with optimization of all the other zones, and you've got a winning formula! It also makes for a very easy to navigate directory structure.


 9:13 pm on Apr 28, 2001 (gmt 0)

Welcome to the board Pageone.

>whether to use hyphens or underscores.
>It really doesn't matter to the spiders,

Spiders, No. However with indexers, there is a major difference.

There was a search engine in december that dropped pages (ink) left and right with underscores. There was one in January that downgraded pages using them. During most of 1999, Alta cranked up those pages using underscores while doing nothing with hypens - now it is just the opposite with underscores being stripped entirely from the name (not transposed into a space). Underscore has historically outperformed the hypen.

They treat the two differently because domain names can have hyphens but not underscores, and vice-versa.

I wouldn't use a space in a filename because there are so many agents and servers that will have a problem with it.


 9:18 pm on Apr 28, 2001 (gmt 0)

Thank you for the welcome Brett. Interesting information on underscores outperforming hyphens (historically that is).

What is your preference when developing a file naming structure?


 3:50 am on Apr 29, 2001 (gmt 0)

Related question here:

I'm doing a site at a community that doesn't support hyphens in either the site name, directories or file names. The choice is between using a site name of pages.domain.com/keyword_keyword/ or pages.domain.com/keywordkeyword/
and naming directories /keyword_keyword/ or /keywordkeyword/

A lot of the typical users at that web community will, indeed, misinterpret the underscore versions to be a space, so it would not be the most user-friendly version for using there.

I've taken both user names, and have to make a decision which to use. I don't believe any redirects will ever be usable, from one version to the other, except meta refresh or perhaps a javascript redirect.

Which would, at this point in time, be more search-engine friendly from a ranking point of view?


 4:03 am on Apr 29, 2001 (gmt 0)

>>When you have a hyperlink that uses an underscore, what do you see in the link? A space. You don't see the underscore because it is obscured by the link underline. Believe it or not, some people might mistake this for an actual space.

What does this have to do with renaming image files with spaces to whatever you want to put between them? This has nothing to do with SE Ops. And if it did how many peope actually place links on their page to the actual file name themself. For example here is an on page link as is,

[blahblahblah.com...] ????????

Not many people put those kind of links on their site and if they do I donīt think they are worried about SEO right?

And to the subject of file names let me tell you that you can top the search engines regardless of what your file name is. Yeah they might put it in bold type and yeah they can factor in the domain name, but I've had pages listed at the top like www.domain.com/xzy/10001.html in all the top engines. Search engines could care less what your file name is, content and keywords on_page are what counts.


 7:14 am on Apr 29, 2001 (gmt 0)

Search engines could care less what your file name is, content and keywords on_page are what counts.

Well, excuse me. My first post and you want to flame me? Do you think I would actually make a first post and not share an important piece of information with you?

If this is the type of response I can expect, then you can continue on your merry way and get your top positions the way you do it. I'll continue on my merry way and do it the way it has worked for me since 1996.

File naming is a very important part of SEO. It may not be the answer, but when combined with all the other areas, it adds to the equation.

P.S. Marcia, I'd suggest using pages.domain.com/keywordkeyword/ for the domain and underscores to separate directory and file names. Some search engines do not do word stemming. Without the hyphen or underscore, it cannot read the continuous string of text.

On another note, what about file naming structure for the spiders that are developing image catalogs? Is it possible that there is some importance to the concept of naming your image files appropriately?

Edited by: pageoneresults


 8:15 am on Apr 29, 2001 (gmt 0)

Welcome, pageone. IMHO, ihelpyou sent you to exactly the right place when suggesting that you come here. No, we don't have flame wars here.

When I first came here, not only was I impressed with the level of expertise - the knowledge so freely and generously shared by the membership, a considerable portion of which consists of top professional SEOs, but the level of courtesy, friendliness and professionalism that was displayed in the way people conduct themselves and communicate. I believe the membership has a firm commitment to continue that tradition here.

If ever an infraction should occur, IMO, it's best to move right along and carry on with "business as usual" with sharing information and support.

It seems that when doing a search on a particular member name and examining their history of posts, we can find that people all seem to have a different area of emphasis and interest.

I have to agree that it's a large number of factors all put together that make up an optimized page or site, and since using keywords in URLs is one of the many factors to consider, and also, that wise webmastering practice is to have a consistent convention in file naming, discussion of the use of spaces, hyphens and underscores, in contrast to using run-on words, is one of significant importance. It's a decision I still have to wrestle with, and I'm personally grateful for it whenever a discussion about it arises.

Good point about image catalogs. Considering the fact that there were several days recently during which people were having all the graphics on their sites spidered, and not knowing quite what the outcome or purpose of that is, it's now actually very timely for discussion of file naming for graphics, as well. Hopefully something will be done so that those who do graphics sites will be able to eliminate some of the need for doing extraneous html pages to display some of their graphics.

BTW, I've got a section of a site with tiled background graphics, each one being displayed on a separate html page for full page view, and they were never included by Google - until this month. Most all have lousy filenames, too.

pageone, I've been gradually putting the content on the "underscored" site (it's taking forever to get that site developed), and since I refer some people to do their free business sites there, have to sometimes make suggestions to them for naming their sites, also. It's a volunteer effort for me, to a large degree, dealing with "beginners", giving them a little complimentary advice. The concern is that numerous users who would link to these sites could very likely make an error, even in putting the url on for the link. It's something I've been wrestling with for several months now.

Maybe the wisest thing will be to do the underscored version, and figure out some way to deal with wrong links when the need arises.


 8:37 am on Apr 29, 2001 (gmt 0)

Thanks Marcia, I appreciate your true professionalism. I kind of had a feeling that coming in with such a profound post would possibly cause that type of response. I'm okay with it and I do realize that most here may not know my history or involvement with SEO.


 11:18 am on Apr 29, 2001 (gmt 0)

Welcome to WMW pageone. I too have always used an underscore for page name and directory naming conventions which certainly does not seem to have harmed subsequent rankings.

Inktomi, however, does seem to handle spaces between keywords in naming coventions. Over a year ago, I was instructing someone on SEO basics and several doorway pages were produced and placed in a directory called (of all things)
domain.com/Hidden Links_files/page_name.htm. When the student was asked to clear the directory, they left one page in and this must have been submitted to Ink or linked to off another site because it has been picked up and is ranked in the top 20 for a reasonably competitive two word key phrase, in fact better than other properly designed and optimised pages for the same term. So despite being rather embarrased about this very obvious doorway showing up written by a learner (at that time) - I dare not remove it!

Just shows there are exceptions to every rule.


 4:38 pm on May 11, 2001 (gmt 0)

That "learner page" is in google...


 6:49 pm on May 12, 2001 (gmt 0)

Very interesting discussion! I have always used the underscore character with good results. I would be in a #$@% load of trouble if I ever had to convert them to hyphens.

To add on the "space" in filenames issue, I have noticed some browsers format it in a way that ruins the link and sends the user off to a 404.

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