WordPress Post Slug: Use It Efficiently

By Daniel Scocco

I never paid much attention to the post slug feature inside WordPress, until recently when I submitted a guest post to Brian over Copyblogger. The post was titled “Six Common Punctuation Errors that Bedevil Bloggers.” The URL, however, was http://www.copyblogger.com/punctuation-mistakes/.

When I saw that I realized the potential of this little feature. So simple, yet so useful.

If you publish a post on WordPress without specifying the post slug, it will create a URL that is equal to the post title (provided you are already using an optimal URL structure). Most of the times, however, that URL will not be search engine optimized.

You probably want to write your headlines and post titles with humans in mind. After all, you need to make them catchy and motivate the reader to check the rest of the content. The same is not true for URLs. While a clean URL structure that contains a description of the page might benefit even human users, usually they are more relevant to search engines.

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That is where the WordPress post slug feature comes into play. On the little box that appears on the right of your text editor you can manually set the URL structure for that post. As you can see from the example I mentioned, Brian knew that many of the words used in the title of the post would not be used by users searching for similar information. He decided, therefore, to use just the keywords “punctuation” and “mistakes” in the URL.

When crafting your post slug try to focus on the keywords that are used on popular search queries, and remember that the fewer keywords you use, the higher their relative value.

Some people were already aware of this trick, but I think it was worth sharing.



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66 Responses to “WordPress Post Slug: Use It Efficiently”

  • Claire Bone

    Thank you for the explanation of the slug. I am just starting blogging and when I was trying to make a Pretty Link it asked what was the slug. I have been trying all day to find it, and when I did what to put in it. Thanks everybody for the posts, I sure learned from everyone!

    Slugging on,……..

    eClaires

  • Kermit

    I know I am late to this post, but I am building a new blog and as I was entering the categories, I once again pondered the use of the slug. It is an item that has never been clear to me. Should I use a hyphen, should I use an underscore, or should I run the keywords together?

    Your post at least gives me some insight into the potential power of slugs – thank you! There is surprisingly very little out there about slugs and their use.

    I think Dave may be right – only testing will tell if it matters how I configure them.

  • steve

    Good information here, I have just created a wordpress blog and the features and functionality look mind numbingly complicated when compared to the livejournal account options that I have, so this little explanation was welcomed, thank you 🙂

    Steve

  • jan geronimo

    Valuable advice to help the search engines find my blog. Question: I’ve got 150+ posts behind me. Should I bother tinkering with them to carve out the stop words and thus hopefully make them more web search friendly?

  • Dave Doolin

    Excellent article on WordPress post slug. Slugs have been a hole in my knowledge… and some of my URLs show it!

    As for who’s correct, Daniel or, uh, Daniel… I’m going to throw some fuel on this and say: Without testing, it’s simply opinion.

    In any case, thanks again for the article and hosting the conversation. I definitely learned something.

  • Jane H

    HelloNingbo,

    Darn if you’re not right! Very important post of yours. That’s so unobvious of WP! Everything else is checked by default, except that, and you’d never know there is such a thing and where to find it.

    The default post slug seems to be the post name (with hyphens between words). I am using post #s for my URLs (ex. /?p=503) and not permalinks with words. I’ve now modified the slug and the URL is still my post #, not the slug, so we’re ready for Daniel’s excellent advice about focusing on key words to work.

  • HelloNingbo

    THANKS for this useful post !

    @Jane H: In fact I also looked for this “post slug” options 🙂
    But in WP 2.7, it is hidden by default, so you must first click on “screen options” (top screen), then a menu scroll down and then you can select it.
    Be careful that it will display the field at the bottom of the page.

    Now honestly I don’t really see the difference between “post slug” and “permalink” (?) When u change one, the other changes too (!)
    So I prefer to modify the permalink by editing it. Handier as just located under the main title on top of page…

  • Jane H

    I am looking everywhere and do not see anything for Post slugs. I see category slugs, and tags, but no post slugs. Have things changed for 2009?

  • Gerald SEO Tips Blog

    This is very useful especially if you want a post to go viral and the default url is really long. It’s can be good to shorten it to something simple using the post slug.

  • Will Cottrell

    Thanks Daniel, very useful.

  • John Edgley

    It’s probably just me, but I can’t find how to edit the slug either in new or old pages in 2.6…. there’s nothing under the title – the only edit button is for the timestamp, and I’ve been through the advanced options…

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Pokerlover, if you use WP 2.5 you will find this right below the post title, click on “edit” there.

  • pokerlover

    Is slug a plugin or why do i not have it on my admin page?

  • Cody

    Oh the tricks you learn. How did I miss this?

  • sorryle

    I’m a blogger from China. Chinese words in the url will be encoded, so i always use post slug.

  • Chris

    I was just like, until this week I ignored that little “post slug” option in the right side bar of the page. Then I wrote an article with a long title and tried the post slug and immediatley saw the potnetial benefits in it. I will be using it from now on for all new posts!

    Chris

  • Jamaaludeen Khan

    I knew very well about this, but never really thought of implementing it in a meaningful way. This is good advice and I appreciate it.

    @ bmunch, yes I think one will have to watch out of slug clashing. When you let WordPress handle it, you have nothing to worry about, but when you go and edit each slug, you might find yourself using a slug you used a while ago and forgot about.

    Like anything, using this effectively will take some good self-management. 🙂

  • Michael

    Now I know what that is for, just tried it out quickly on my last post. Great now I can have good titles for humans.

    Thanks for pointing that out.

  • Nathaniel

    That’s so awesome! I wondered why making a post with one title and then changing it later on produced a url with the old title. Then a quick look at one of my most recent posts showed that the slug field was filled in. This means that when left blank, wordpress fills in the slug field for you.

    I’m going to use the heck out of that! That is amazingly useful… especially when my titles tend to be so long and the urls can get really messy. Thanks a million!

  • Lana

    Daniel, thank you for clarifying the issue. I meant to say something like this, but messed up in conveying it. And your explanation added to my understanding of this subject, too.

  • Daniel

    Not trying to argue, just trying to clarify the point so other readers will not get confused. I am glad you asked the questions so I can address the points that are not clear to you specifically.

    1. The more keywords you have in the URL, the smaller the relative value of each of one. Suppose Google places an algorithmic value of 10 on the URL factor of each site (just an example). If you have 10 keywords there, each of them will receive a value of 1. If you have 2 keywords, each of them will receive a 5.

    2. I never talked about using the post slug to make URLs more user friendly. My purpose of making them shorter is not to make it easier for users to type (which I know happens rarely) but rather to increase the value of the important keywords while removing the non essential stuff from the URL.

    3. When I say optimized here I am also referring to search engine optimization. However, that does not mean keywords research and going after them, exclusively. When you improve a small detail of your URLs which will bring more search engine traffic for one specific post, you are search engine optimizing that post.

    That is why the post slug if useful, and useful to make your posts more search engine friendly. Even if changing your URL with the post slug would improve your organic traffic by only 1%, add that up for hundreds of posts and you can see that over the time this would have a strong effect on the amount of traffic you get from search engines.

  • Lana

    Everybody, thank you very much for discussing these topics. I am a novice in blogging (1 month). Following your recommendations I just changed my permalink structure and from now on will watch my “post slug” box. I’ve read in a book, that when choosing keywords and search phrases you should not include “stop words”, such as “the”, “a”, “on”,”in”, “of”, “be”, “me”, “and”, “I”, because Google considers it irrelevant to its search results and ignores it. Also, to refrain from including it in Meta Titles and Meta keywords, links, header tags. Of course, they should be present in the post.

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