How to name web content

Our guidelines for naming web content adapts best practice and Government Digital Service (GDS) standards (external website). The guidelines follow a consistent, predictable format and make content search engine friendly.

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Naming guidelines

You should apply these guidelines in selecting a title for all web content.

  • 65 characters maximum, including spaces, as Google cuts off titles at this length
  • your title should be unique; duplicate or near duplicate content will confuse your reader
  • make your title clear and descriptive: "Report sickness absence" not "Sickness"
  • front-load with the most important information and the words the user is mostly likely to have searched for
  • use active verbs: "report" rather than "reporting"
  • avoid all but the most commonly used acronyms or abbreviations (IT, FoI, 3G)
  • avoid word play; you’ll confuse your readers and Google
  • don't use dates or version numbers unless essential and/or descriptive – for example, a series of statistical reports: "Staff absence numbers 2015 to 2016“ not “July 06 WDC absence v.1 FINAL”
  • spaces between words, not dashes (to meet web best practice, Contensis will add dashes for the file name only)

That's the practice, now read the theory...

Web authors and moderators should understand these concepts and apply them when creating or editing content.

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Why naming is important

Most people use search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo! or internal search) to find what they're looking for. Get your naming right will improve search results.

There a few guidelines that you can follow and a couple of tools that will help. Search engines use titles, summaries, keywords, content  and subheadings to help index content and return search results.

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Web content

The naming guidelines apply too all web and intranet content. It includes:

  • page content (that is, web pages written using HTML)
  • non HTML documents linked to from web pages (for example PDF, Word, Excel, csv)
  • images embedded on web pages (for example JPEG, GIF, PNG)
  • audio files linked to from web pages
  • video files linked to from web pages
  • contact information, forms, hyperlinks

Content "identifiers"

web names

All content has a number of identifiers:

  • file name: this is the web address, also called "uniform resource locator" (URL)
  • title: this is automatically applied the top of a content page
  • menu name: this appears in the "breadcrumb" (You are here: Home / )

The file name identifies the content. File names should be descriptive of the content.

When creating content in Contensis, the file name, title and menu name should be the same. Contensis will automatically add dashes between words in the file name.

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Naming criteria

Meet user needs

Your content should meet a user need (external website). Identifying the user need will help you understand who is looking for the content and the vocabulary they will use.

To paraphrase GDS:

‘User needs’ are the needs that members of the public, businesses or customers have of us. These are our web users.


We all tend to use specific words relating to some of our services. But, the public may not be familiar with these terms. Test out several terms to see which are more commonly used.

Once you know the most popular keywords you can prioritise them in the:

  • title
  • first sentence/paragraph
  • subheadings
  • "metadata" summary

Google Trends (external website) is a good tool that can help you pick the right term to use.

The web team can help you out with internal search terms used to find content on our website and intranet. Google no longer provides search terms in analytics.


Web content can help searchability.

inverted-pyramidMake sure that you use your keywords and title words within the first paragraph. Use meaningful, descriptive headings to divide your content.

You'll improve searchability by using plain English, avoiding jargon, acronyms and abbreviations. Also, follow the style guide as that has good writing tips applying plain English principles.

A good tip is to use the "inverted pyramid". Put the important stuff at the top, including any “call to action”. Leave the detail below.

Keep your content on topic and make sure you're fulfiling a user need.



In addition, each piece of content has associated “metadata”. Metadata is descriptive information about content.

For web pages and pdfs, we recommend that you use a short description of your content to fill in the "Description" box  under the "Metadata" tab in Contensis. Remember to use your keywords, write in sentence format and end with a full stop.

You can add keywords too. Since you've already identified these, this should be easy.

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Web content advice

The web team and the rest of the Communications team are here to help you write better content that meets user needs and applies good practice.