What Is a URL Slug?

Aaron Haynes
Sep 25, 2023
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At the time of writing, 71 percent of businesses have staked their online claim with a website, making standing out in search results more challenging than ever. This number sends a clear message: Every facet of your online presence, from the aesthetics of your site to the content you publish, plays a decisive role in attracting paying customers.

Yet, amidst these more apparent elements, there’s a subtle, often overlooked detail: the humble URL slug.

To help you integrate URL slug best practices into your search engine optimization (SEO) flow, here, we

  1. define, “What is a URL slug?”
  2. dig into its importance in terms of SEO and user experience,
  3. and tackle the more technical aspects of URL slugs you’ll definitely want to know about.

What Is a URL Slug?

A URL slug is the segment of a web address that appears after the domain name or any subfolder, separated by a slash (“/”).

Take, for example, the URL “https://loganix.com/blog/why-hire-a-marketing-agency.” In this URL, “https://” is the protocol, which indicates how data is transferred over the web. The domain name is “loganix.com/,” the subfolder is “blog/,” and “why-hire-a-marketing-agency” is the URL slug. As illustrated by this example, URL slugs offer a quick insight into the page’s content for both readers and search engines.

Note: It’s important to distinguish that URL parameters, such as “?page=2”, and hash parameters, like “#section1”, aren’t part of the URL slug. Search engines interpret and handle these elements differently, as they serve unique functions.

Learn more: Interested in broadening your SEO knowledge even further? Check out our SEO glossary, where we’ve explained over 250+ terms.

What’s the Difference Between URL and Slug

While the terms “URL” and “slug” are sometimes used interchangeably, they refer to different components of a web address. The URL, or Uniform Resource Locator, is the complete web address you’d enter into a browser to access a specific web page. As we highlighted above, it includes the protocol (like “https://”), domain name, subfolders, slug, and any parameters or hashes.

On the other hand, the slug is just a segment of the full URL. Referring back to our earlier example, “loganix.com/blog/why-hire-a-marketing-agency,” the slug is simply “why-hire-a-marketing-agency.” It’s the descriptive part of the URL that provides a hint about the web page’s content.

Why Are URL Slugs Important?

The importance of URL slugs is threefold—1) SEO, 2) user experience (UX), and 3) backlinks.

The Importance of URL Slugs to SEO

URL slugs serve as initial guides for search engines like Google to grasp the content of a page. John Mueller from Google has clarified this, stating, “…the words in a URL are used as a ranking factor, but it’s a very, very lightweight factor.” He further explained, “…this is primarily something we might use when we see this URL for the first time and don’t know its content. But as soon as we’ve crawled and indexed the content, we have a lot more information.”

In essence, while the URL slug holds some initial value in helping Google understand the content, its significance diminishes once the content is indexed. The actual content then becomes the primary factor for ranking.

Enhancing User Experience and Click-Through Rates

Building on the importance of URL slugs, having a clear and descriptive slug can greatly enhance the user experience. When users encounter a straightforward slug, they can instantly discern the content they’re about to access. This immediate clarity can boost click-through rates, particularly on search engine results pages (SERPs), where users often skim through URLs to determine which link to select.

Memorability and Linkability

Building on the user experience, a thoughtfully designed slug also enhances a URL’s memorability, proving invaluable for instances like word-of-mouth recommendations or when users intend to return to a specific page. Conversely, a slug cluttered, overly complex, or laden with jargon muddles understanding and offers scant insight into the page’s content.

But the best part—a clear and succinct URL slug lies in its linkability. When other websites or users consider referencing a specific page, a straightforward slug makes the link more appealing and contextually fitting.

Best Practices for Crafting URL Slugs

Crafting an effective URL slug is all about striking the right balance between clarity, brevity, and relevance. Let’s delve into the best practices to ensure your URL slugs are SEO-friendly and user-centric.

Keep Them Short, But Make Them Count

  • The essence of a good slug is brevity combined with relevance. It should encapsulate the main topic or keyword of the page without being overly wordy.
  • Avoid long-winded or complex slugs that can confuse both users and search engines.

Hyphens Over Underscores: The Preferred Separator

  • Hyphens are the recommended word separators in URL slugs. They’re more readable and are treated as spaces, making them ideal for SEO.

Steer Clear of Dates and Numbers

  • Including dates can pigeonhole content, making updates tricky. If you refresh the content later, the date in the slug becomes misleading.
  • Numbers, unless essential, can be ambiguous. Is “10” a number or part of a listicle?

Consistency with Lowercase

  • It’s a time-honored practice to use lowercase letters in URLs. It keeps things simple, avoids potential duplicate content issues, and is generally more readable.

Other Practices to Swear By

  • Avoid special characters, as they can cause issues with some browsers and platforms and often don’t add value.
  • Align slugs with target keywords. If your target keyword is “What is WordPress SEO,” a URL slug like “/what-is-wordpress-seo” is fitting.

The Ripple Effect of Changing a Slug

Although editing a URL slug might seem harmless enough, proceed with caution, as it may have some unintended consequences.

SEO Implications

Editing a slug, especially one that’s been indexed by search engines, can have repercussions. The old URL might have accumulated backlinks and social shares, so changing it without redirects can result in a loss of link equity, trustworthiness, and authority.

User Experience at Stake

Imagine a user bookmarked your page or shared it on social media. Changing the slug without redirects will lead them to a 404 error page, tarnishing their experience and potentially losing their trust.

The Redirect Lifesaver

Whenever you’re contemplating a slug change, always set up a 301 redirect. This ensures that any traffic, backlinks, or social shares to the old URL are seamlessly directed to the new one, preserving user experience and SEO value.

FAQs

Q: What Is the Maximum Length of a URL Slug?

A: The maximum length of a URL slug isn’t strictly defined by a set number of characters. However, keeping your entire URL under 75 characters is recommended for readability and SEO purposes. While search engines like Google can process longer URLs, a concise slug is more user-friendly and can lead to better click-through rates from search results.

Q: What Is the Difference Between Slug and Permalink?

A: A slug and a permalink are both components of a URL, but they serve different purposes. The slug is the segment of the URL that describes the content of the page in a concise and readable manner. For instance, in the URL “example.com/blog/seo-tips,” “seo-tips” is the slug. On the other hand, the permalink is a webpage’s entire, permanent URL. In the given example, “example.com/blog/seo-tips” is the permalink. Essentially, the slug is a part of the permalink.

Q: Does Changing the Slug Change the URL?

A: Yes, changing the slug does change the URL of a page. The slug is a segment of the URL, so any modifications will result in a different web address. For example, if you change the slug from “example.com/products/blue-shirt” to “example.com/products/navy-shirt,” the entire URL has been altered. Setting up redirects when changing slugs is crucial to ensure users and search engines can find the updated page and avoid 404 errors.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Unlocking the potential of URL slugs is merely the beginning. A comprehensive SEO strategy is your ticket to success. At Loganix, our services are meticulously crafted to amplify every aspect of your online visibility.

🚀 Dive into our SEO services and let Loganix be the catalyst for your website’s unparalleled ascendancy. 🚀

Written by Aaron Haynes on September 25, 2023

CEO and partner at Loganix, I believe in taking what you do best and sharing it with the world in the most transparent and powerful way possible. If I am not running the business, I am neck deep in client SEO.