When it comes to perfecting your website’s SEO, you’ve got to learn a little about slugs. Unsurprisingly I’m not talking about the little creatures that live in your garden, but the last few words at the end of a URL. WordPress describes slugs as “the URL-friendly version” of the name of your page or post, but what you include and how you phrase them can have a real impact on the reach of your content.
What are slugs for?
Think of slugs as the shop window of your content. It’s a small representation of your page or post that gives an indication of what’s inside. But in this scenario, you’re not looking to attract wandering highstreet customers but the eye of Google’s algorithm.
Each word you include in your slug is a potential search term that Google can pick up and put on a results page. That means crafting your slugs carefully could increase your organic traffic with little effort on your part. Thankfully, there are some good practices you can follow to get your slug in tip-top shape.
Where and how do you set slugs?
Slugs can be set in five distinct places on WordPress sites: on Pages, Posts, Categories, Tags, and Authors. You can edit individual slugs for pages and posts as you create them, but if you have a standard format you want to apply to all newly created pages or posts you can do that under Settings >> Permalink. Slugs for Categories and Tags can be edited in the Posts menu and Author slugs are accessed through Users >> All Users.
Tips For Creating Slugs
1 Keep it simple
If we stick with the shop window analogy, you wouldn’t put all your products in the window because it would be confusing to look at and probably not very inviting. In the same way, don’t try to overcrowd your slug with keywords and concepts. Longer slugs perform noticeably worse in Google searches, negating the whole purpose of a good slug. Choose a couple of keywords from your content that you want to promote, then put those in the slug. The simpler the better.
2 Be descriptive
Just because you’re keeping it short, doesn’t mean you should be vague. Hindenburg Pewterschmidt, a WordPress blogger at Draftbeyond and Researchpapersuk, points out that “just using the date a post came out will be unique but it won’t tell either readers or Google anything about what’s in your post. Make sure it’s clear from the slug what users can expect to find on the page, even if it’s a drastically summarised version.”
3 Use correct formatting
Because they’re part of a URL, writing a slug is different from writing a title. Certain characters don’t work and others that won’t show up. The main thing to remember is to use dashes (-) instead of spaces and avoid using upper case letters. WordPress will usually correct any formatting mistakes for you, but it’s good to bear in mind how your titles will look in slug format as you’re writing them.
4 Avoid duplications
Mark Rylance. an SEO expert at Writinity and Lastminutewriting, explains that “As your content grows over time it can be easy to forget what you’ve written before and reused a title word for word. If you do, WordPress will generate the same slug but put a “2” at the end, or a 3 or a 4 if you’ve used the same title multiple times. As far as Google’s algorithm is concerned, this may well be a copy of the same page, so it’s less likely to rank it in searches. If you want your content to consistently rank, vary your titles and differentiate your slugs.”
5 Try not to change them
If you’ve read through all of these tips and realized your slug game is terrible, avoid going back through all your posts and making changes now. Your slug is unique for a reason: it directs users to your specific page. If you change the slug that original link will no longer work. That means any backlinks you’ve worked on, any references made to you, all of them will result in a blank page or a 404 message. For that reason, resolve to write better slugs going forward and avoid making any changes to slugs once pages are published.