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Slug: What is It and How to Optimize It?

If you run a website and publish articles on it regularly, you must have come across a ‘slug’. Don’t worry, we are not talking about the shell-less gastropods in your garden, we are talking about the small part of your URL which plays a crucial role in your site’s optimization. In this post, we will discuss slugs and how you can optimize them to get great results for your website.

What is a slug?

A slug is nothing but that part of any website’s URL which helps identify a specific page on a website in a manner that is easy to read. A slug is always written in a form that explains the content of the page. You can check out the URL of this article. It says https://nsouly.com/slug-meaning. The slug in this scenario, is the word ‘slug meaning’.

WordPress slugs

If you use WordPress for the creation of your website, the slug forms the part of the URL which can be edited while a new post is being written. The permalink settings need to be customized properly for this to happen. 

A lot of times, category names and dates are also included in the URLs, however, they do not constitute a slug. Even if you have multiple variables in your URL, only the editable part of the URL qualifies as the slug.

The role of slugs in SEO

A well thought out slug for a website has a great impact on its SEO. A good slug allows you to do these things:

Include your keyword in the slug

The primary benefit of a slug with regards to SEO is that the words of a slug can be changed so that you can include the keywords that you want your article to rank for.  Google uses slugs as one of the indicators to help it determine what the page is all about.

Create user friendly URLs

When people search for something on Google, the URL of a website is also displayed in the search results. Just imagine a search results page or try to think about the last search results page that you saw. You would have probably seen different URLs on the same topic. What that means is that you must ensure that your slug is related to what people expect to see. For example: Our article on marketing automation tools has the URL https://www.nsouly.com/marketing-automation-tools/ , which happens to be direct. If we used a default WordPress slug, it might have looked something like https://www.nsouly.com/?P=123456, which isn’t clear or indicative about the article’s content at all.

How to optimize your slug

Optimizing your slug is very important for SEO purposes. Here are four key steps that you must follow in order to optimize your slug:

  • Ensure that your slug has your keyword
  • While this step does seem to be simple and straightforward, a lot of times, people tend to forget about it. Please ensure that your keyword/keyphrase is always in the slug. It provides a lot of clarity to your page’s content. You can install certain plugins on your WordPress page for SEO analysis and they can let you know if you have the keyphrase/keyword in your slug or not.
  • Manage function words efficiently
  • A slug generated by default tends to include function words such as “the”, “a”, “and” etc. Sometimes, these words might be required in a slug for clarification, but they can usually be left out. A short and sweet slug which conveys the required information is always better.
  • Keep your slugs focused
  • While writing a properly optimized slug, it’s not enough to merely filter out the superfluous function words. You must also try and get rid of any unnecessary words. For example, a slug for this page could also be “slug-what-is-it-and-how-to-optimize-it”. However, it’s long and cumbersome to read. so , we decided to shorten it to just “slug”. However, in your pursuit of brevity and efficiency, don’t forget to ensure that your slug should also make sense.
  • Another important aspect to remember is that a particular slug can only be used once, so ensure that you are using it for the right page. In this article for example, we have used “slug” as the slug. It’s a very specific term and it means that we shouldn’t write another article with slug as the topic. This article is going to be the epicentre of all the information about slugs on this website. Any other slug related article would be an extension of this article. Hence, don’t forget to consider the page’s role on your website when it pertains to the information it’s disseminating. Choose the slugs accordingly.
  • Keep it short and descriptive
  • While the URL of your page is usually displayed in Google search results, it’s also replaced with bread crumbs in some instances. In case you plan to use the URL for future article updates, don’t include too much information in your slug. It’s best to avoid adding dates in your slugs as that gives away its date of publication immediately. When you don’t add the dates in your slugs, you can update the article as and when it’s needed, in order to keep up with newly developing trends. Keeping a short and concise slug also helps with displaying mobile search results. 

Always remember to take all of these steps prior to publishing a post. Thinking of a better slug after publishing your post might tempt you to change it. However, it’s not as easy as going back to the editor and changing it. Well, technically it is, but you need to change the URL and to avoid future 404 errors, you need to redirect as well.

Conclusion: Good slugs help your website

Now that you know what a slug is and how you can optimize it, don’t miss out on working on such a small but important aspect of your site. A good slug can go a long way in your website’s optimization. It’s quite simple as well, so you don’t have to slug it out.

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