Creating standards, structure and conventions for your filenames is a best practice seen across many companies. This makes sense: developing a concise, meaningful, and easy-to-remember naming convention for your organization’s assets has many benefits. It helps you to find your files easily, preserve your files in the long term, use and reuse your files across multiple channels, and also helps maintain the integrity of your content.

File-naming conventions

Thankfully there are a lot of resources available online from the academic world that delve deep into file-naming standards. Some great examples include Standford Library's Best practice for file-naming, as well as the Digital Information Management Program of the State Library of North Carolina which offers a thorough guide on file-naming online.

In addition to these resources, there are a few things you should always keep in mind when creating a file-naming convention for your digital assets:


Put simply, codes are abbreviations often used in filenames to give information about the file. Many organizations use them to help keep track of assets stored on shared network drives, but this practice is also useful to help identify files if they are ever misplaced, or if the metadata becomes corrupt/lost.

Think about which of the following categories members of your organization may use when searching for assets in the DAM:

Unique Identifier Time Location Content
ID, UPC, SKU Year Region, Continent Theme, Topic
Product Name/Number Month State, Province Program, Initiative
Project Name/Number Season City, Site Department

You can create simple codes to represent the values of each category you highlighted, as shown below:

Category: Value Example
ID: 01020304 01020304
Month: January JAN
City: Boston BOS
Event: AllBrands Conference AllBrands
Department: Marketing Mark

These codes should be concise and meaningful. The best naming conventions utilize the principle of parsimony.


Part of an effective file-naming convention includes the order in which codes appear. What will make most logical sense for your organization?

There are a few other formatting tips that you should consider when creating your file-naming convention:

  • Use hyphens, underscores, and/or different letter casing to delimit the value codes
  • Don't use spaces or other special characters (i.e. &, *, @), as they can disrupt the scripts used to import files into a DAM

Keyword Tag Conventions

Keywords or tags are (usually, not always) non-controlled lists used to provide additional information about a file. This can become problematic if you have a very large list of keywords without rules on capitalization, spelling, etc. Take a look at the following recommendations for formatting keyword tags:

Term Recommendation
  • Proper Nouns
  • Personal Names
  • Locations
  • Events
Capitalize first letter of each term
  • Nouns
  • Adjectives
Choose whether or not to capitalize
  • Acronyms
Maintain acronym—do not spell out fully

Hashtag Conventions

Filenaming for tags Filenaming for tags Filenaming for tags Filenaming for tags Take control of your digital assets with file-naming conventions

When creating and using hashtags to promote your organization and its assets, consider the semantics of the hashtag. For example, these tags all have very different meanings for different user groups:

#digitalassets vs. #digitalassetmanagement vs. #reDAM vs. #DAM

Depending on the context of the tag, #digitalassets could refer to assets that are intrinsically valuable to an organization or individual, or may relate to financial assets (as it used in the fintech sector quite frequently.)

A tag such as #DAM could refer to a digital file repository for routing, sharing, finding and effectively managing your digital files. On the other hand, it could just refer to, well, an actual dam—of the beaver variety. So worth keeping in mind!

In addition to semantics, you should also think about the target market, the channels you intend to use for the hashtag (i.e. Instagram vs. Flickr vs. Twitter), and the general web presence of your organization.

Further information

So there you have it. These tips and tricks for developing and using file-naming conventions can be applied in a number of different ways, depending on the needs of your organization.

Interested in learning more about file-naming conventions and metadata to make the most of your files? Then you might like 3 Steps to DAM migration and The librarian's guide to building a taxonomy for digital asset management. You can also learn more about how to optimize your digital files for SEO, which includes some handy advice on boosting the value of your content.

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