There are so many different terms for digital marketing metrics, SEO tactics, web design, and content creation that it can be hard to keep them all straight, much less optimize all of them.
And, unfortunately, your website’s URL strategy and URL slugs sometimes pay the price for that.
- But what is a URL slug?
- How can I optimize my URLs for SEO?
- And why does it all matter?
This article will give you all the details you need to understand what a URL slug is, how you can use them in your SEO strategy, and ways in which to optimize your slugs going forward.
What is a URL Slug?
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Many marketers new to the digital world or web design find themselves asking, “what is a URL slug and why does it matter to my company’s website?”
A URL slug refers to the end part of a URL after the backslash (“/”) that identifies the specific page or post.
Each slug on your web pages needs to be unique, and they provide readers and search engines alike with information about the contents of a web page or post.
Your homepage URL or website domain name won’t have a slug attached, but all of your other pages will have one that automatically generates as you create a page or post.
However, the automated slug isn’t likely to be as useful as the one you create yourself using best practices and keyword strategies.
Therefore, it’s important to know why slugs are relevant and how to optimize them.
Why is a URL Slug Important for SEO Ranking?
It might surprise you to learn that your URLs have an impact on your SEO strategy.
But, if we think about it, it does make sense.
Have you ever tried to copy a link and found a long stream of random letters, numbers, and symbols?
Not only is it irritating to look at in your search bar, but it looks untrustworthy and might have dissuaded you from sharing or linking to that URL.
Now imagine a search engine coming across that same stream of nonsense.
Search engine algorithms need clear, clean, and optimized content to understand the data they come in contact with.
Having a clean, clear, and short URL slug helps your website visitors and search engines comprehend your pages.
Your URL slug can also be an untapped source of keyword ranking potential.
By including a keyword in your slug, you can target specific terms and, while a reader might not understand the implication, a search engine will include that keyword in your ranking results.
How to Create the Best URL Slugs for SEO
Now that we understand the importance of URL slugs, let’s take a look at the best practices and optimal strategies for your slug creation.
Creating slugs doesn’t have to be an overly complicated or even a deeply strategic approach.
After all, simplicity is key when creating URL slugs and just keeping these tips in mind can help you improve both SEO and readability.
1. Use the “-” Symbol
Using a hyphen in between words in your URL slug will help ensure that your slugs are crisp and clean.
URLs aren’t permitted to have spaces in them, and browsers will turn any spaces you try and use into percentage characters.
You can probably think of examples you’ve seen of URLs with “%20” or something similar included in the slug.
A hyphen or dash in between each word will help you avoid unapproved characters and can help readers understand each word found in your URL.
2. Keep Your Slugs Short
Short and clear slugs not only make it easy for readers to understand what content can be found on each page and help them remember the URL.
They also help search engines comprehend the content.
Experts recommend an ideal URL slug length of between three and five words.
Readers and search engines respond best to short, direct slugs, and this length is also incorporated into search engine results pages.
3. Incorporate Target Keywords
Your target keyword should be in your slug. Period.
This is valid for blog posts and every single page you have on your site.
All of these web pages can have target keywords incorporated into them that help boost SEO for things like your products, services, or locations.
4. Match Slugs to Headlines
If you are posting blog posts or articles, you’ll want to match up your slug to your content title.
It doesn’t need to be an exact match (you want short slugs, remember?). Just focus on the keyword and you should be fine.
For example, if the blog post title is “Everything You Need to Know About Content Marketing”, your slug could be “everything-about-content-marketing”.
The slug is clear, short, has the keyword (“content marketing”), and adapts the title in an objective way.
5. Avoid Dating Your Slugs
Users that see a date from a previous year in your URL slug might think your page is old.
It’s unnecessary information that clogs up the URL and can make your content not only appear outdated but out of style as well.
Would you be interested in a page that has “valuable-SEO-lessons-2012” as its slug?
6. Use Lowercase Letters
URLs are tricky things and often have duplication or display issues.
Like with spaces and percentage characters, uppercase letters can also cause issues with duplicate content or 404-page errors.
7. Update Old Slugs
If you have pages created that don’t follow along with these best practices, you might want to consider an overhaul to update your slugs to have better clarity.
However, keep in mind that slugs are not meant to be constantly updated. In fact, doing so too often can hurt your search engine rankings.
Try starting with a few, lower-performing pages and monitor the result of your rankings.
If the risk is too great for your older pages, adopt an alternative strategy of optimization going forward.
And remember, once you’ve decided on a slug, do what you can to keep it the same!
Wrap Up: URL Slugs Deserve your Attention
Your URL slugs aren’t just a way to communicate page names to your website visitors.
They provide key data for search engines to organize and display your pages.
Knowing how to improve your URL slugs and your overall URL strategy will help you improve your SEO results.
And if you want to increase your SEO rankings, check out our article on Google PageSpeed Insights Analysis!
It’s a great way to learn how to reach the highest score and get more results.