URL Slug: The Definition and Why They Matter for SEO?

SEO is now an indispensable part of our lives since everyone encounters the term SEO in some manner. Indeed, it is a subject that is important enough to be such a big part of our lives, given that what it can cause to regarding many things. Of course, such a huge topic has lots of different aspects, and when we look at it, we see that every element has its place while building a successful SEO strategy. Today, we will talk about what is an URL slug, and how they are a part of SEO. We will be focusing on what it is, how it works, and how big of a difference it can make regarding your SEO strategy.

Without further ado, let’s see what the big deal about URL slugs is and more.

URL Slugs: An Overview

URL slugs refer to the end part of an URL. In other words, if you were to visit Screpy’s frequently asked question site, which has screpy.com/faq/ as URL, the slug part would be faq/.

What is URL Slug
What is URL Slug

The WordPress community coined the word used for this technical term. They first started utilizing slugs to identify particular pages of a site. URL slugs typically preferred to be short and clear due to their connection with SEO.

In more technical words, you can observe URL slugs after the directory and before any extra parameters/fragments in an URL. In a given website, URL slugs will be different for every different page while other components of the URL stay the same.

URL slugs might sound a little too unimportant for someone who is not a knowledgeable person in this area, but they certainly are.

How Are URL Slugs Relevant for SEO?

But, how come something so small can play a role in SEO success?

URL slugs are relevant for SEO success not only for technical manners but it is also matters for communication with website visitors.

You should keep in mind that URL slugs do not have a direct influence with your website’s rankings, but it has an indirect and strong influence.

Google’s Spiders

The first relevance of URL slugs to SEO success is due to the search engine algorithms. Search engines, including Google, can and will see what your URL slug is, and they will get a meaning out of the URL slug.

The URL slug of your website will play a role in Google’s indexation. The search engine spider, which is a piece of software on a search engine, will overview every single page on your website to categorize it and put it on a database.

In fact, your URL slug will be the first thing that search engines will read. So, you might want to put more effort into your URL slug, considering the significance assigned to it by spiders and search engine algorithms.

While Google’s spider is indexing your website’s pages, it will always consider the pages’ URLs. Those URLs will play a role in identifying the attributes of your page. Given that spider indexes your URL, it is safe to say that your URL slug plays a crucial role in this indexing process.

Google Spiders and URL Slugs
Google Spiders and URL Slugs

The search engine will rank results after they had been indexed, meaning that your rankings will definitely be influenced by your URL . For example, you might include one set of keywords on your URL slug and another one on your main heading.

Can you guess what happens? The search engine will offer your website in both keyword set queries.

Visitors’ Experience

Another reason why URLs are important is not only about technical issues due to Google’s algorithms, but it is about the visitors’ experience. If you ever used a search engine, you should know that you are able to see the full URL of the results.

Here is a scenario: you Googled “leash training for cats,” and there is a result that has the exact same heading. However, the URL is something like www.catsarethebest.com/can-cats-eat-watermelon.

Would you click on that? Most probably no. Because the slug is irrelevant from the heading, you can easily assume that the content you are about to click is about whether if cats can eat watermelon or not (they should not, by the way).

Additionally, your URL can tell a lot of other stuff to your visitors. If your URL slug is composed of a set of random numbers and letters and is way too long, it would most probably creep people out.

Explore More: What is UX and Why It Matters

Those kinds of URL slugs are often viewed as unsafe, and people would not want to click on them.

Almost every up-to-date website has a proper and short URL slug, and those that do not have such slugs are mostly websites that have viruses. Many people have experiences where they click on URLs with long and meaningless slugs and regretting it.

URL and UX
URL and UX

Even though your website does not have such a function to spread viruses, it might look like so as long as you are not optimizing your URL.

So, it is safe to say that the significance of URL slugs is not solely based on SEO success. They are an important factor regarding the decision-making process of your possible visitors.

You would not want to lose our visitors, especially when they are very close to clicking on your website.

Keyword Use

As we mentioned earlier, Google indexes your website by taking your URL into consideration.

If you didn’t know by now, Google’s ultimate goal is to offer relevant and informative sources to its users. What they mean by this is simple: if your content matches the query, you will be ranked high. If it does not, you will not.

Of course, there are many other components of ranking high on Google. However, if your URL slug has the same or similar words in people’s search queries, it means that you are one step ahead of those who do not have them.

So, this means only one thing: you need to use keywords on your URL slug.

This is how URL slugs are relevant for SEO.

However, we must mention that this does not mean stuffing all the keywords on your URL slug is a wise thing to do. It definitely is not.

Just like the rest of your content and SEO struggles, this has to be meaningful for both search engine algorithms and your visitors.

There is a certain strategy for everything when it comes to SEO. Sure, there can be differences for different situations, but in general, you would want to play the game by the rules if you want to be successful.

How to Optimize Your URL Slug for SEO?

Up to now, we are hoping that you understand the significance of URLs. They are an essential part of SEO success, and they play a big role in visitors’ decision-making processes.

Optimizing your URL slug is not a big deal, technically. However, you should know what works for URL slugs and what does not.

Doing what seems right might not be the best solution. We said it once, and we will say it again: you should play by the book (at certain topics) if you want to achieve SEO success.

Of course, different websites have different requirements, and giving very specific directions to follow would not be the optimal path. Instead, here are some of the most important components that you would want to consider regarding your URL slug.

Stop Words are Not Your Friend

If you want an URL slug that will help you to step up from other websites and have a higher ranking, you should avoid using stop words.

To clear things up, stop words are words such as “how, or, is, are, why, that…”

Using them will not be useful for optimizing your URL.

Why?

Because Google ignores them.

And there is a reason behind that. When a person searches for something, they tend to use those stop words. For example, a person who wants to know how to do something would most probably start their query by “how.”

Stop words are just… words that everyone uses constantly. And Google knows it. They do not have a value in terms of narrowing down the results.

As you may remember, we mentioned Google wants to offer the most relevant and informative results. Stop words do not have an informative value, and they do not help to narrow the search query.

In other words, stop words do not help Google to deliver the most relevant and informative results. If you focus on a certain set of keywords that include stop words, you might want to stop there and think again.

A crucial thing to note here is that you should only remove stop words if it makes sense.

If the URL slug is meaningless or the meaning alters without the stop words, then it might not be a good idea to get rid of them. Just like all the other details in SEO, your goal is not to maximize or minimize what is offered but to optimize it.

For example, there can be a slug such as /how-to-not-improve-bad-habits/. Without the stop words, the slug would be /improve-bad-habits/. The meaning slips so much, doesn’t it?

Make Them Readable

Another important point to use the URLs for your benefit is to make them readable.

We mentioned that how people can see your URL slugs as the search engine results are listed and how long and complicated URLs can change their minds.

URL Slug optimization
URL Slug optimization

If your URL slugs are not readable due to many different letters and characters getting into words’ way, then it is a bad sign. Your URL slug should be a clear message regarding what is going on in the webpage.

People will not only look for your heading, but they would want to see that your URL is relevant, too. If there are special characters and meaningless numbers all-around your URL slug, this would not be a good sign for your readers.

Be Wise with Keywords

We mentioned how Google’s and other search engines’ spiders read your URL slug before anything else.

And if you remember our example of how Google will offer your website in two different search queries in a case where you use two different keywords set on your URL and your heading, you should know.

The use of keywords on your URL can help you a lot.

URL and keywords
URL and keywords

Giving search engines context regarding your content is one of the most powerful SEO strategies. Since we know how much significance Google’s spiders give to the words you use on your URL slug, you can optimize it.

You need to make sure that the search intent is clear and know the most important keywords for your content.

For example, suppose that you have a webpage where you explain the best places in the world. If you remember what we talked about stop words and the significance of keywords just now, you should predict that a good URL slug must mention the words best, places, and world.

If you do include those keywords on your URL slug, you will give Google an immediate clue about what your website is about. So, the possibilities of your results rank higher on a search query such as “what are the world’s best places” or “world’s best places” will increase.

Giving a clue to Google regarding what your content is about is a big deal, and you should benefit from it as much as you can.

However, there is a limit to that.

Now that you know keywords play a nice and powerful role in increasing your results for Google, there might be a natural instinct to fill your URL with all the keywords related to your content.

Well, that is a bad idea. You would want to use the most relative keywords for informing Google about what is going on without confusing the algorithm with something else. Additionally, it would be best to keep your URL slug short, which we will discuss in the following heading.

Keep your URL Slug Short

The length of your URL is one of the most important things to consider while optimizing it. There are several reasons why keeping your URL short is important for your website.

First of all, a short URL slug means that the search engine will be able to read it faster and more easily. As we mentioned in the former heading, using lots of keywords would confuse the Google algorithm, and in this case, it would lengthen the time for Google to analyze it.

In fact, both factors are related to each other. If you use too many keywords, it would lengthen the URL slug and make things harder for search engines in addition to confuse it.

There is not a strict rule for how long an URL slug should be, but there is a rule of thumb that you might want to follow if you want to have better results. In general, people who want to optimize their URL slug prefer a maximum length of 50 to 60 characters for the whole URL.

It is clear that it is not always possible to have a maximum of 60 characters on your URL. However, it might be wise to use this information as a baseline, and you might want to work on optimizing it.

You might not understand the significance of URL length, so let’s talk about the statistics that Google gave us. According to Google, if there are two identical websites and one of those websites has a shorter URL than the other one, it will rank higher.

Can you understand it now? The URL length directly influences your website’s ranking.

Beyond that, shorter URLs look more attractive than longer ones. People would not want to read a long URL slug to see what is going on.

An on-point, simple but efficient URL would be your best friend in this case.

At this point, you can see that how different aspects of URL slugs are all interconnected. We mentioned how URLs with meaningless texts and numbers (and hence, longer URLs) are not a good idea. Now, keeping your URL slug short should make more sense to you.

Additionally, we mentioned that how using stop words on your URL slug is a bad thing. Removing any stop words from your URL will help you to shorten it, too. Your URL slugs still need to be descriptive, and you do not have to use the complete same words you use on your heading on your URL to be descriptive.

Make your URL Slug Future-Proof

It might sound like a good idea to include dates and numbers on your URL slug. But when you think about it, it really is not.

Imagine you have a webpage where you have an article about “best hairstyles of 2021.” Now imagine your URL slug is /best-hairstyles-2021/. Perhaps it is a good idea at first, but what will happen as time passes, and now it is not 2021 anymore?

Would your website still be relevant? How many people would search for the best hairstyles of 2021 in 2022 or at a later date?

You would want to keep your URL slug in a way that would not be affected by time or any other variables you can think of.

Another example can be given from the number of items on your content. 

So, imagine a scenario where you have the 25 best hairstyles. Then, some time passed, and you want to remove some items or add new items to your list. Will you remove and add in the equal amounts so that your URL slug can still be /25-best-hairstyles/?

While it can be a solution, the situation might not be allowed. Perhaps you need to add ten more hairstyles and do not remove anything. Since a good website needs to be updated every now and then, the chances of you encountering a situation like this are high.

So instead of using the 25 best hairstyles phrase, you might want to stick with only “best hairstyles” URL slugs. By minimizing the easily changeable variables on your URL you can make your content open to change and make your URL more descriptive.

Lower-cased URL Slugs are the Best

Another thing to consider while optimizing your URL slugs is using lower-case.

Anyone interested in URL slugs knows that lower-cased URL slugs are the most common ones because they help you avoid duplicate content problems and 404 errors.

Lower cased example
Lower cased example

If you want to decrease the chances of people creating incorrect links that would lead to your pages, you might want to stick with the lower-cased URL slugs. Additionally, lower-cased URL slugs would make it easier for your visitors to adjust the URL. You would want to make things easier for your visitors, wouldn’t you?

URL slugs are one of the most essential SEO elements that you should pay attention to. The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about URL slugs that might help you.

FAQ

Why is it called a URL slug?

It is called a URL slug because it was inspired by a news media term slug, which refers to a shortened name given to an article for internal use only.

Why is URL slug significant?

URL slug is essential because it contributes to the SEO success of your website by giving it a personal address and explaining what is going on in the content both to Google and visitors who see it on the search engine results page. In other words, URL slugs are your way of telling the search engine what your web page is about and help them to index and rank it.

What is a URL slug example?

An example for an URL is this: twitter.com/home. Here, the bold part is the URL slug.

How to have a good URL slug?

There are many things that make an URL good. One of the major components of a good URL slug is to have essential keywords, being short, and being readable. Of course, each website is different, and they might have different needs regarding URL slugs.

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