Don't put Capital Letters in File Names

The reason you shouldn't use capitals in file names is because, while Microsoft IIS servers can handle capitals in file names, because they are case insensitive and automatically change them to lower case, not all servers can do this, including websites hosted on Apache servers, which are case sensitive.

This does not affect Domain names, as they are not case sensitive, so all hosting servers will automatically change the capital letters in domain names to lower case.

What Can't I Open my Web Page?

Some people write their directory or file names in upper case or mixed case like this:

However, when file names are spelled out with capital letters for websites hosted on Apache servers they produce 404 (page not found) errors. Duplicate content penalties will result because search engines, and particularly Google, will think there are two different pages with the same content. Bad URL formatting results in reduced keyword ranking for all affected pages.

If your site is hosted on an Apache server and you have ever sent a URL similar to the one above to someone and they couldn't open the page, having capitals in the file name may be reason.

How to Fix the File Names

You can 301 redirect those affected URLs or rewrite them via htaccess so they automatically change capital letters to lower case but any redirect can cause a delay of weeks or months for the search engines to sort out and thus further delay keyword ranking. Too many redirects in your htaccess file can also slow down your whole website. Redirects can also cause a small reduction in PR (Page Rank) but then you have to weigh the possibility of duplicate content causing a drop in ranking too.

So it's better to never use capitals in file names, even if you are on a Microsoft IIS server, because if you ever move your site to an Apache server you'll have to rewrite all the file names or lose ranking and traffic.

The same is true for foreign language sites that use extended characters. Best to stick to lower case ASCII characters only.

Underscores will also cause a duplication problem and affect ranking. Use a hyphen instead as search engines consider an underscore as an underscore whereas they consider a hyphen a space.

Why Don't my Images Open on my Web Page

The same is true for images. If you use capitals in file names of your images they may load ok on your computer but after you load them on the server they may not open. Change all image names to lower case and it should fix the problem. Make sure you change the image file name in the HTML also. No need to redirect the images in htaccess to the new location as mentioned above.

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Lori Eldridge
Copyright © 5-18-08- Updated 11-04-20
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