You might have read the word “slug” in WordPress SEO guides, or articles with tips on improving traffic to your site. But do you really know what a slug is? If you’re not familiar with WordPress or websites your first thought might be a slimly little garden pest. However, a WordPress slug is not the same thing.
Today we’ll answer all the questions you might have about what is a WordPress slug, how to set or edit your slugs in WordPress, plus how to use SEO slugs to rank better in search results. Let’s get started!
What is a Slug?
Starting from the beginning, let’s make sure you know what a WordPress slug is. When you create a post in WordPress the URL for the post is automatically created based on your title. So a post called “WordPress Slugs Are Cool And Fun” may look like:
The slug the last bit of the URL “wordpress-slugs-are-cool-and-fun”.
Permalinks vs Slugs
It can get confusing with WordPress since your permalink is a URL and a slug is also a URL. But permalinks and slugs are not the same thing. To simplify, here is a quick comparison of the two.
A permalink is your url structure and defines how links are made on your website. Permalinks are set globally from Settings > Permalinks.
A slug is the last section of your url that identifies a specific page on a website. Slugs are set on a per page, post or taxonomy basis.
How to Set & Edit a Slug in WordPress
Changing your WordPress Slugs is really easy. However the process is a bit different depending on what you want ot change the slug for. Here are a few common slugs you might want to edit.
When you create a new post or edit an old one you will see the permalink url right beneath the title. By default WordPress will add your full post title with dashes filling in spaces. Simply click the “edit” button to customize or change the slug for your post (ideally using the slug SEO tips we list in the next section).
Similar to posts, when creating a new page or editing an old one you can find the slug field right below the title. WordPress will automatically fill in your full page title as the slug.
By default categories will use the “name” you enter as the slug, or you can enter a custom slug. In our example above you can see we shortened the Miscellaneous category’s slug to just be “misc” instead. But usually your category names will be short and specific to begin with and you won’t need (or want) to change them.
Tags work just like categories and will use the tag name as the slug. You can of course customize this, but most often it’s not necessary.
WordPress will use the author’s username as the slug by default. This is a core feature built into WordPress. So for our above example, with a username of “username”, the author link would look like this:
There is not currently a built-in way to edit or customize an author slug other than creating a new user with a new username. So if you want to make changes to author slugs you will need to use a plugin. One option is the free Edit Author Slug plugin which allows you to change both the permalink structure (the /author/ part of the url) as well as the slug (the username) for author pages.
How to SEO Optimize WordPress Slugs
Now that you understand what a slug is and how to change it let’s dig into slug SEO. Here are some quick and easy tips you can use to keep your WordPress slugs clean and optimized.
1. Use Keywords in Slugs
Keywords are a huge part of SEO, so it should make sense that if you want to SEO optimize your slugs you should be using keywords. An article on “My Great Grandmother’s Best Banana Bread Recipe to Use Old Bananas” is much more likely to rank for the keyword banana bread recipe if the url is best-banana-bread-recipe as opposed to my-great-grandmothers-recipe-to-use-old-bananas.
2. Keep Slugs Short and Relevant
Keep it simple and to the point. You want your url slug to be easy to remember for readers if they want to link to it, as well as easy for search engine bots to understand when crawling your site. Slug should be related to your post title and target keywords – neither of which should be long anyway.
3. Strip Out Unnecessary Filler (or Stop) Words Like “the”, “is” and “a”
Going along with the last point, you can easily shorten slugs by removing stop words or unnecessary words. Think of it as writing in shorthand – only keep the words you need to get your point across. This means getting rid of words such as: the, if, and, or, but, as, with, etc.
For example, we shortened our post “SEO Optimization for WordPress Slugs” to use “wordpress-slugs-seo” for the slug. We removed “optimized” as we didn’t feel it was necessary and “for” since it is a filler word.
4. Avoid Changing Slugs in the Future
Once you publish a post, page, category or anything else it’s best to just leave it be. Making changes to your slugs in the future can result in 404 errors if you do not correctly redirect your old url to your new url.
Hopefully our guide has helped you better understand what a WordPress slug is, how to set and edit slugs in WordPress for your content, and how to really SEO optimize WordPress slugs. With these tips you should be able to really optimize your site urls for SEO:
- Use keywords
- Keep slugs short
- Strip out unnecessary filler (or stop) words
- Avoid changing slugs
But if you have any other questions about WordPress slugs, or if you have your own tips or slug optimization tools that you think we should add let us know. We’d love to hear from you.