URL Slugs for SEO

URL Slugs for SEO: A Comprehensive Guide

URL slugs aren’t slimy creatures that have somehow made their way into your browser. Instead, they are the part of the URL that comes after the first backslash. 

What’s more, they matter enormously to anyone wanting to improve their website’s SEO. 

This article explores URLs and their relationship to SEO. After reading it, you should understand what slugs are, how to craft them effectively, and the common mistakes to avoid. We also discuss multilingual approaches to URL slugs and various tools that help you analyze them. 

So, what is an SEO slug? Let’s find out.

URL Anatomy: Breaking it Down:

URLs look like long strings of words, dots, and backslashes in your browser’s search window. But they aren’t random. Instead, each part communicates valuable information. 


The first part of the URL is the protocol, sometimes called the “scheme.” It defines how the browser can access the web resource.

The most common (and Google-preferred) scheme is HTTPS. Older sites often use HTTP, which doesn’t offer the same high-security standards. 

The “www.” part of URLs indicates the website uses one of these two protocols. However, it is no longer a requirement for typing web addresses into browser search bars.


The domain is the part of the URL that identifies the website address. For example, “mysiteauditor.com.” It is different for every site on the web. 


The path, the last part of the URL, refers to a specific function of a piece of content. It helps webmasters organize their site’s pages logically or using content management systems. 

Paths aren’t always essential. However, they are beneficial when you have many time-dependent pages. 


What is a slug in SEO? 

The slug is essentially the same thing as the path. For example, it is the “pricing” in “mysiteauditor.com/pricing.” 


Finally, the parameters are additional search terms queried during the search. Google uses these to direct users to highlight information on web pages it believes are helpful. 

URLs separate the path/slug and parameters with the equals sign (=) and each additional search term by an ampersand (&) symbol. For example, you could have: 

  • mysiteauditor.com/pricing=search1&search2

UTM parameters are valuable when you want to track marketing campaigns. These follow the channels prospective customers use to arrive at your site. 

Characteristics of an Effective SEO Slug

Slugs aren’t just tools you use to structure your site indexing. They are also helpful for SEO. 

That’s because they contain information Google uses when ranking web pages. 

Here are some SEO slug best practices:

Length Considerations

First, you should consider the length of your slug. Generally, the shorter, the better. 

Search engines can handle long URLs. However, there are limits on the number of characters they will display in search results. Cutting them off reduces the information users have to inform them whether they should visit a page. 

Readability Factors

Readability is a factor, too. Search engines want URL slugs that make sense to their users. 

For example, suppose you sell sneakers on your online store. The URL slug: “myecommercestore.com/sneakers” is better than “myecommercestore.com/product93749.” 

However, readability can extend to longer URL slugs. For example, bloggers often use extended slugs for blog pages, getting rid of unnecessary joining or filler words like “the,” “an,” “in,” “and,” “by,” and “with.”

For example, suppose a blogger wants to create a URL slug for a blog entitled “The Secrets of Effective Slug SEO” and doesn’t have a content management system that does it for them automatically. 

One option would be to write the entire title in the slug, separating each word with a hyphen (-). However, a better approach for SEO might be: 

  • www.myblogsite.com/secrets-effective-SEO

This slug captures the essence of the blog post title while providing Google with the information it needs, eliminating bloat. It also reduces the length of the slug, helping it fit into search results. 

Relevance to Page Content

Including keywords in the URL may also be helpful for SEO. Search engines can use them to identify a page’s topical content better.

For example, a slug on a shoe ecommerce URL saying “product93749” isn’t helpful for users or relevant to the page content. However, one containing the word “sneakers” would be. 

Try to think of URL slugs as labels for search engines, telling them what’s on each of your pages. Arrange them to allow web crawlers to index pages naturally and include keywords as mini summaries of what users will find on your pages. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

As discussed, URL slugs can be potent SEO tools. But, as with any other strategy, always exercise caution. Getting it wrong could cause a loss of ranking. 

Here are some common mistakes you should avoid: 

Overuse of Keywords

Keyword stuffing in URLs isn’t as dangerous as in your page content, but it doesn’t provide any Google-related advantages either. According to the company’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst and Search Relations team lead, John Mueller, it has “no effect, positive or negative.”

By contrast, the effects of keyword stuffing on Bing search results may be outright catastrophic. Several years ago, the Microsoft-run search engine posted its policy on URL keyword stuffing in full, changing its spam detection algorithm that saw a traffic reduction of 75% to the spammiest sites.

However, even if no direct ranking consequences of keyword stuffing exist, it is still a bad idea. Simple page URLs tell visitors where they are on your site. More complicated ones make navigating harder, leading to confusion. 

Irrelevant Numbers and Characters

It is also good practice to avoid including irrelevant numbers and characters in your URLs. Again, these risk creating confusion and don’t provide helpful information to users or search engines. 

For example, don’t write “product89460.” Instead, use an accurate descriptor, such as “oak dining table” or “tax accounting software.”

Also, avoid using special characters unless they are a standard part of URL protocols. Not adding “#,” “%,” “>,” and “$” to your slug to ensure search engines and browsers continue to understand your site. 

Lastly, fight the temptation to include excessive numbers in your URLs. While you might understand your codes, Google and users won’t. 

Only use numbers as a last resort or if you have thousands of pages. Keep descriptive keyword-based slugs on every page, even if you repeat yourself. 

Leaving Auto-Generated Slugs

Finally, don’t leave your content management system (CMS) to auto-generate your slugs for you (unless you trust your system). Software often uses non-intuitive labeling approaches that go against best practices. 

For example, some auto-generators simply apply a blanket approach to all websites, assuming you will go in and make edits later. 

Others use deep learning to garner more information on the content of your web pages. These can be closer to the mark, but like all AI-generated content, require careful review and editing. 

Therefore, always review your slugs manually, checking they make sense for the relevant page. Ensure they are consistent and maintainable. Many webmasters get into trouble with cryptic URLs when they become outdated or their website structure changes. 

Don’t date your slugs. Users might perceive the content as old, even if it is evergreen.

Slug Modification in Different CMS Platforms

URL Slugs Optimization

Content management systems have various tools that let you customize your URL. These differ by platform. 

Squarespace lets you edit slugs in the Pages panel. Go to the symbol and click “page settings.” Then, update the URL in the URL slug field and click “Save.” 

WordPress offers more flexibility. To change the URL, go to your WordPress Site Admin area and click Settings >> GeneralFor pages, start on your Site Admin dashboard and go to Pages>>All Pages. Clicking this option will bring up a list of your site’s pages. Below each page is a blue-highlighted option to “Edit.” 

Clicking this option will bring up the classic editor (if you are using it). You can use this to change the path on the link for the web page in question. Once you enter the new URL, click “OK” and “Update.”

Wix also lets you change your page URL. Start by clicking on the “Menus & Pages” on the left-hand side of the editor. Then, click the relevant page and the “More Actions” (…) button. Click “SEO Basics” from the menu to view the slug field. (You should see the phrase “What’s the URL slug (last part of the URL) for this page?)

Wix has a clickable checkbox that lets you automatically redirect to the new URL once you republish your site. This option is helpful if you already built links to the old page. 

You can change slug and path settings in Drupal by heading to Configuration>>Search and Metadata>>URL aliases. This option lets you select a custom slug for your page or content node. Joomla’s approach is similar. Go to Global Configuration>>SEO Settings and enter the slug into the relevant field. 

Finally, Shopify also lets you change product page URLs for ecommerce stores. To do this, log in to your Shopify Admin dashboard and click Products. Then, select the product from the list whose URL you want to change. After clicking Edit, a box will appear containing the item’s URL handle field. Rework it and make the changes permanent by clicking Save.

Practically all website platforms and CMSs give you the ability to change page URLs. Once you republish your site, the changes will go active, and Google should index them after a few days

You can use index checker tools to see if Google indexed your pages already. If indexing fails, try linking to the page from other already-indexed pages.

Cultural and Linguistic Considerations

Creating URL slugs for a domestic audience is complicated. But getting it right for international users is more challenging. 

For example, Western countries use the Latin alphabet. However, your audience might use other scripts, such as Kanji, Cyrillic, and Arabic. These aren’t typable using a standard QWERTY keyboard.

Therefore, you must ensure your CMS supports the proper UTF-8 character coding. It allows users who use non-Latin characters to view your URLs in their script. 

You can also use transliteration, an approach that approximates the phonetic sounds of non-Latin scripts with Latin alphabet equivalents. It can work in some contexts and is becoming more widely accepted, but losing certain words in translation is common. 

Multilingual URL Structures

Various URL slug structures are available for international SEO, including gTLD with subfolders, gTLD with subdomains, different ccTLDs for the root domain, and so on. 

Different ccTLDs are one of the most popular approaches because they send strong signals about the country being targeted. For instance, domain.ca says that the domain is in Canada. 

However, it is also an expensive approach because you have to maintain multiple domains

Fortunately, gTLD subdomain and subdirectory routes are less costly and have a proven track record. These let you create subdomains or directories within your domain, giving you separate URL categories for every language. Subdomains are preferable when you have distinct content on a language-specific version of your site, while subdirectories are helpful when you want to adopt language-specific URLs for your entire site. 

Other Considerations

Other considerations include longer average word lengths in some languages (like German) and whether you should retain “stop words.” Our advice in this case is to follow best practices, copying what high-performing sites in your niche do. 

Slug Redirects: When and How to Implement

Slug redirects send users to different URLs than the ones they request. As such, they are helpful when a webpage changes address.

Webmasters use URL slug redirections for numerous reasons, including: 

  • Migrating a site from HTTP protocol to the more secure HTTPS
  • Performing various types of maintenance on web pages 
  • Merging two or more identical web pages
  • Moving your website to a new domain 
  • Changing category tags or parent pages that affect existing URLs
  • Deleting a page
  • Moving a page from one URL to another

Some redirects are temporary. These are useful when you want to redirect a page for a short time, such as when performing website maintenance. (The web page users land on could say something like, “Please check back when we finish maintenance on our site.”

Permanent redirects are useful in situations where pages change their address permanently. For example, these are helpful when you no longer want to send users to the HTTP version of your site. 

Don’t leave pages without the proper redirects. If you do, it could harm your SEO and domain authority.

You can implement redirects in various ways, depending on your website platform.

One option is to do it through your CMS. For example, Wix lets you implement slug redirects by going to Marketing & SEO>>SEO Tools. Clicking these options brings up the URL Redirect Manager console in the top right of the screen. Click this, select the redirect type you want (single or group), and add the old and new URLs. Press “Save” to confirm the automatic redirect. 

Another option is to use a website plugin. For example, Yoast lets you set up redirects inside the WordPress admin panel. Simply click the Yoast button on the sidebar and select the redirect type you want to set up. On Yoast, this includes: 

  • 301 Moved Permanently,
  • 302 Found,
  • 307 Temporary Redirect,
  • 410 Content Deleted,
  • 451 Unavailable for legal reasons;
  • And so on

Once you select the redirect type, enter the old and new slugs into their respective fields and click Add Redirect. Once clicked, the redirect will go live. 

Lastly, you can implement URL slug redirects using the .htaccess file. This method is more complicated than the others and requires enabling the mod_rewrite module in Apache by adding the code “RewriteEngine On” at the start of the .htaccess file. Getting it wrong can create serious issues for your site, so only attempt this method if you know what you are doing. 

Essential Tools for Slug Analysis

URL Slugs Optimization for SEO

Optimizing slugs by hand can be challenging and time-consuming. Fortunately, several tools are available to streamline the process.

For example, Yoast has features that help you optimize slugs and insert keywords. It also reports on the SEO strength of your URLs, helping you improve their performance. 

Rank Math is another tool you can use. Its algorithm can offer keyword suggestions and quickly optimize slug text. SEMrush has a site audit tool that analyzes various site metrics, including the quality of your slugs. It can highlight missing keywords, duplicate content, and slugs you could shorten. Ahrefs site audit tool does a similar job. 

You should also consider using site auditors. These can crawl your website and look for poorly optimized slugs, providing detailed reports of what’s good and what needs to change. 


Now that you have read this article, you should understand what URL slugs are and how to optimize them. Most experts view them as an essential part of technical SEO, boosting your ranking and helping you rise on Google. Get a site audit today and ensure your URL slugs are performing optimally