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All About Slugs (Not the Slimy Kind)

You don’t need to pay attention to your post slugs — but there could be real traffic benefits if you do.

When we start writing a new post, WordPress automatically creates a URL for the post using our blog’s address, the date, and post title. Great, now you don’t have to worry about your post’s URL, right? All taken care of.

Not quite. You don’t need to lose sleep over your post URLs, but paying some attention to the post slug — the bit of the URL after the address and date — can have a nice traffic payoff.

“I’m still not sure what a slug is!”

The slug is the bit of your post’s (or page’s) URL that describes what that specific post is about. Here’s the URL of this post, with the slug in bold:

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/post-slugs/

If I’d used the URL that WordPress auto-generated for me based on the post title, the slug would have been:

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/all-about-slugs-not-the-slimy-kind/

They both get the job done, but one is short and easy to read, while the other is long and unwieldy. Think about what the auto-generated slug would look like for “Perennial Favorites: Should You Connect Your Blog to Your LinkedIn Account?” or “Recommended Reading: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” and you’ll start to see how easy it is for post slugs to bulk up.

“I’m still not sure why I should care.”

First, it makes an easy-to-remember, easy-to-share URL, and lets the person with whom you’re sharing the URL — or the person who sees the link out in the wild — understand the focus of your post quickly. And when we know what we’re getting into, we’re more likely to click.

More importantly, Google likes a short, focused slug that contains the key words describing the post and not a lot of fluff. Slugs are important to search engine rankings; the fewer keywords your slugs contain, the more highly they’re valued. Google is smart — it knows that a long title and slug have lots of filler words (from a search engine standpoint), so it gives the words less weight.

Let’s look again at what the auto-generated slug for this post would look like:

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/all-about-slugs-not-the-slimy-kind/

It’s full of words that make for an interesting title but are meaningless from a search perspective: all, about, not, the, slimy, and kind. If you were looking for information on post slugs, you wouldn’t search for those terms and the Google Wizards know it. Make your titles as fun, funny, titillating, or descriptive as you want — then edit your slugs to make them succinct and focused.

“I’m convinced. How do I edit my slugs?”

Simple. If you’re writing a post (or page) in the classic editor, the URL appears just below the title field — click “Edit” to change the post slug:

slug-2

post slugIf you’re writing in the new visual editor, you’ll find the post slug under “Advanced Settings,” the last option on the right-hand side of the page. “Slug” is the first field — enter your text, and it will save along with your post text.

The slug will depend on what you’re writing about, but here are a few ground rules:

  • Keep it short — five words or less — and limit it to words that actually describe what the post is about.
  • Remove “stopwords.” Words like the, in, a/an, is, and it don’t tell search engines anything about the focus of your post, so they’ll be filtered out. You want to keep your slug focused, so don’t waste a word on something that search engines will ignore anyway.
  • No punctuation. Slugs are lowercase letters and numbers only. Punctuation will be automatically removed, which could leave you with meaningless words (“doesnt”).

It only takes a second to edit your slug, but Google will thank you!

Note: Changing the slug of a post that you’ve already published means that all existing links to that post will stop working. Make sure you update all links with the new URL if you decide to retroactively modify your slugs.

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  1. Great tip. So I want to do it to all my posts retroactively, but what’s that about existing links no longer working? What links? Tabs? Categories? Photos? Just want to make sure before I make a mess of things.

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    1. If you update a post’s URL, any existing links to that post will break. So, links you’ve shared on Facebook or Twitter, posts or blogrolls by other people that link to you, etc. Anything that depends on the old URL will no longer work. Your tags and categories don’t change.

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