Make Google love your slugs

A lot has been written lately about the importance of having a mobile-friendly website when it comes to ranking on a phone or tablet.

But there is another metric, which is equally important yet often forgotten, that can significantly improve your online visibility – if done correctly.

nc1 - Make Google love your slugs

So what are we on about?

The best website content not only encourages viewers to trust your brand and click through to a sales page, it encourages them to share those posts on social media and send out positive signals to Google that your site is fresh, live and merits a higher ranking on search results.

But what is the difference between good content and a web page that will appear on the first page of search results? Google says it starts with the slug – the URL-friendly version of your post or page title. It’s the part that comes after your main domain name and is shown in red below.

The search giant has long encouraged website owners to use shorter URLs, which in Google speak is a pretty URL. Not only do these take up less room on a search results page, but Google also wants its results to match what users are typing into the search bar. For example, if you were searching for an estate agent in the Scottish town of Dumfries you would most likely type “Estate agent Dumfries”. Google, therefore, wants to encourage website owners to write their slugs for the user and only include the words that carry the most weight.

As a result, a better URL than the example given above would be:

This isn’t a new development, but recent events have prompted Art Division to highlight why removing Stop Words from a URL will help improve a web page’s online visibility.

An update to Yoast – a tool used by Art Division when we build websites on the WordPress platform – now means it automatically strips out stop words from the URLs it creates suggests that this is the way forward.

Art Division has a wealth of experience in improving a business’s online visibility and the creation of pretty URLs, not only improves user experience but also sends out positive signals to Google.

For a list of stop words that Google considers irrelevant when compiling search results, click here.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that your content can’t have an eye-catching title that will get users clicking. Here at Art Division, we recently wrote a post for one estate agent about an apartment in Knightsbridge overlooking Harrods that was on the market for £400 per week. A bargain? Yes. But the property was no bigger than a full-size snooker table. That information was far too much to fit in the slug, which was changed to: tiny-flat-knightsbridge

How to write a Google-friendly slug

When it comes to writing SEO-friendly slugs, the golden rule is to eliminate the stop words. The debate about stop words has raged for the past eight or nine years, but Google has now confirmed that it ignores words contained in a URL that has nothing to do with the retrieval of search results, such as the, an, a, of, or and many.

However, not all stop words contained in the list are irrelevant all of the time.

Google will not ignore ‘New’ when your URL contains the words ‘New York’, for example, while ‘The’ is of great value to your URL if the content is about the classic sci-fi film The Matrix.

The acid test of whether to decide if Google will ignore any word in a URL is to ask yourself:

Does every word contained in my slug contribute to its value?

If we were to turn this question into this blog post’s slug, we’d go for web-content-Google-friendly-URL.

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