What is an SEO slug? Simply put, it’s the last part of the URL. See below for a visual breakdown of the URL structure.
Not entirely sure, but I believe the term “slug” became famous with the advent of WordPress. In any event though, slugs should be one of the vital considerations of your SEO playbook.
What Are the Best Practices for SEO Slugs?
Now that you know what a slug, or an SEO slug is, let’s discuss what some of the best practices are. In fact, a lot of these best practices can apply to your entire URL.
- Keep slugs in lowercase: In general, keeping everything in lowercase leads to an efficient site management, and also for SEO. Unfortunately, in some instances, websites can end up having more than 1 URL or slug variation, and that can have inimical effects to your organic performance. Steer clear of mixed case URLs, and keep everything in lowercase.
- Use only static words & numbers in slugs: Avoid special characters, query parameters, or symbols in your slugs. In general, in your entire URL, but especially your slugs. (Note: Query parameters can play a valuable role for a website, but for the intent and purposes of this post, we’re talking about simple URLs).
- Use dashes (hyphens) to separate words and numbers: If there is more than one word or number in your slug (in fact, your URL), it is best to separate them with dashes or hyphens. I’ve seen the usage of underscores too, but I’d say 90% of the internet uses dashes. Plus, technically speaking, it is said that search engines use underscores as a concatenation method, while hyphens as word separators. So going with that, /what-is-seo will, in theory, be read as what is seo. /what_is_seo will be interpreted as whatisseo.
- Avoid the use of a space (again use a dash to separate words): Using spaces in URLs creates two issues. First, it adds %20 in lieu of the space, and depending on how long the slug/URL is, it can add additional confusion to users. I believe the original recommendation to not use spaces was because some browsers couldn’t parse it; however, depending on your technology, it can still potentially cause issues. The best option is to avoid using spaces.
- Avoid long-winded slugs: Keep slugs straight to the point, and avoid having a crazy number of words in your slugs. It really depends on what your strategy is, but generally speaking, keep it short & concise. It also helps you avoid creating ambiguity about the content on your page.
- Include your Target Keyword in your slug: Having your target keyword inside of your slug works as an additional signal to the search engines about what your page is about. URLs are literally one the first things search engines discover.
- Match your slug with the h1 on your page: Typically, if you’re using WordPress, you don’t have to work hard to achieve this, but if you aren’t, make sure the h1 and the slugs match. H1s sort of mark the beginning of the content of your page, an introduction if you will — as they’re the primary heading. Matching the SEO slug with your h1 serves as a double impact in terms of content context to search engines.
- Host your slug under the most appropriate subdirectory: This post can serve as a perfect example. I am writing about what an SEO slug is. Therefore, it would make perfect sense for me to host this under the subdirectory (also interchangeably known as a subfolder) of https://feedthecuriosity.com/seo/. When I do this, I am giving 1 extra signal to the search engines about the relevancy of this post TO SEO.
- Stop Words (debatable): It is said that search engines ignore stop words from URLs. Words like, the, a, an, etc. What I am saying is that you probably shouldn’t worry about it. If search engines want to ignore these, let them. It shouldn’t negatively affect you. Plus, as and when we move closer to voice search, and the growing importance of long tail keywords, including stop words sounds more natural. If anything, using stop words will more guarantee the meaning you want to convey. And lastly, there are tons and tons of ranking factors. You shouldn’t worry about adding stop words if it sounds & feels natural (as in how people will write and speak). I already have tons of blogs with stop words in my SEO slug.
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How Can You Edit and Optimize SEO Slugs?
The answer to this question will depend on your CMS. However, I’d mention the following:
- Avoid changing SEO slugs after a post has been published, earned keyword rankings, and backlinks. If you change it, it will become a brand new URL, so it’ll have to start from scratch to rank in Google (all things being the same). Not to mention other technical action items it will ensue.
- A better option is to get it right the first time you’re creating the page.
How WordPress’ Permalinks Play a Role Here
In WordPress, your SEO slugs are determined through your permalink settings. And granted you can make slight edits to it while creating the post (depending on your permalink setting), it’s vital to understand what’s responsible for your slugs.
If you do not know what permalinks are, I’d encourage you to check out this link. Also, if you need to know how to get rid of the ‘uncategorized’ category in WordPress, you might want to give a gander at a post I’ve written in the past.
In any case, I’d urge you to have your permalink setting in such a manner where you can input proper words without the use of special characters. For instance, my permalink setting is as follows–>domainname.com/categoryname/postname. In other words, from https://feedthecuriosity.com/seo/what-is-an-seo-slug/, SEO is my category name, and what-is-an-seo-slug is my postname (a.k.a my h1). See the screenshot below for my current permalink setting.
Clearly, SEO slugs are very critical for your organic performance. Even more important than that though, in the context of this post, is to ensure you’re supporting your search goals by adhering to the best practices reserved for SEO slugs.
And if you’re ever in doubt on how to structure your slugs, you can always come here, and get a quick refresher!