How to Optimize URL Slug for SEO

An URL slug is the part of a web address that provides a human-readable identifier for a specific page on your website. It’s a simple yet vital component that significantly influences your site’s search ranking and click-through rates.

In this article, let’s discuss what URL slugs are, why they’re important for SEO, and how you can optimize them for better search engine performance.

URL Slug Best Practices

  1. Use relevant keywords but avoid keyword stuffing
  2. Keep it short and descriptive
  3. Use hyphens to separate words
  4. Refrain from having too many subfolders
  5. Use lowercase letters
  6. Avoid special characters and encoding
  7. Skip the numbers
  8. Don’t dynamically generated URLs

What is a Page Slug?

A slug is the part of a URL which identifies a particular page on a website in an easy to read form. In layman’s terms, it’s the descriptive text you choose to identify a web page in the address bar. 

For example, in the URL ``, ‘strangers’ is the slug.

The structure of URL

Search engines and users rely on slugs to understand the content of a page. A well-crafted slug can give an indication of the page’s topic, making it easier for search engines to determine the relevancy of your content against user queries.

Do URL slugs affect SEO?

URL slug itself isn’t a prominent ranking factor, but it helps search engines understand what a web page is about and you can improve its chances of showing up in search results by incorporating the primary keyword in your URL. 

As Google replaced the site URL with breadcrumb, the length of your URL has less impact on the CTR in general.

Google showing breadcrumb instead of URL

However, following the URL best practices is still important because it helps users navigate your website directly and make it easier for audiences to bookmark and share your pages.

A good URL slug is short, clear, and includes keywords related to the content. This makes it easier for people to know what they’ll find on the page just by looking at the URL.

What is the ideal length for URL slugs?

According to Backlinko’s research, short URLs tend to rank slightly better and the average URL length for a top 10 result in Google is 66 characters. 

Image Source: Backlinko

However, I normally try to keep it between 50 and 60 characters, including the domain, slashes, and sub-folders.

How to Optimize URL Structure for SEO

Optimizing your slug is not just about stuffing it with keywords; it’s an art that combines user experience and search engine visibility.

When optimizing your URL slug, you should consider the full URL structure as a whole and  make sure it is user-friendly and simple.

1. Use relevant keywords but avoid keyword stuffing

Incorporate keywords in your URL slug that accurately represent the content of the page. These keywords should be relevant to the topic and help both users and search engines understand what the page is about. 

For example, if your page is about “best hiking trails,” include keywords like “hiking” and “trails” in the URL slug.

While it’s important to include relevant keywords, keyword stuffing makes the slug appear spammy and unnatural, which can harm SEO. Therefore, use only the primary keyword and create an URL slug that is natural and readable.

2. Keep it short and descriptive

As longer slugs may get truncated in search results, exclude unnecessary stop words or fillers, like “and,” “or,” “the,” etc., from your URL slug. Stop words add little value to the slug and can make it longer without providing significant benefits. Removing them helps keep the slug concise and focused on the main keywords.

Usually, I will try to use 3-5 words in the URL slugs. The slug should accurately reflect the topic and main keywords of the content.

3. Use hyphens (-) to separate words

Use hyphens (-) to separate words in your URL slug instead of underscores (_) or spaces. Hyphens are preferred because they improve readability and are treated as word separators by search engines. 

4. Refrain from having too many subfolders

Your subfolder takes up your URL length, so keep it simple.

As a general rule of thumb, try to limit the depth of your URL structure — meaning the number of subfolder levels—to no more than 3-4 levels beyond the root domain. For example, This helps keep your URLs concise and user-friendly.

5. Use lowercase letters

URLs are case-sensitive, meaning that “” and “” would be considered as two separate URLs by web servers and search engines. 

Consistently using lowercase letters in your URL slugs can avoid duplication or display issues that can arise from mixing uppercase and lowercase letters.

In addition, lowercase URLs are generally more readable and user-friendly, contributing to a better user experience and improving the overall accessibility of your website.

6. Avoid special characters and encoding

Exclude special characters like &, %, $, etc., from your URL slugs. Special characters can cause technical issues and may also make the URL less readable and prone to errors. 

When using non-Latin characters in your URL, such as Chinese, Japanese or Thai, the URL slug will be encoded using UTF-8. And it will cause  your URL length to be drastically longer. 

7. Skip the numbers

Numbers make your URLs longer, it’s best to keep your slugs undated and omit any numbers that may limit their relevance in the future. 

For instance, let’s consider a URL slug like “/top-10-seo-software-2024.” While the inclusion of “2024” may seem relevant at the time of publication, it can quickly become outdated as the year passes. Users searching for current information may dismiss this URL, assuming its content is outdated. 

Also, it’s likely that you will update your content over time. In the following example, if you add more items to your listicle, your URL will no longer accurately reflect the content of the URL.

The few exceptions that using numbers make sense would be:

  • Product Pages: Including product identifiers such as model numbers or SKUs can be helpful for e-commerce websites. For example, a URL like “/product/laptop-lenovo-thinkpad-x1-carbon-2023” provides specific information about the product model and its release year.
  • Event Pages: For event-specific pages, incorporating dates or years can be relevant. For instance, a URL like “/events/conference-2024” clearly indicates the year of the conference, helping users identify the most current event information.
  • Historical Information: When providing historical context or archives, including dates or years in the URL can be beneficial. For example, “/history/world-war-ii-timeline-1941” helps users understand the timeframe of the content.
  • Statistical Analysis: URLs containing statistical data or numerical analysis may benefit from including numbers. For example, “/market-trends-2024” or “/industry-report-q3-2023” provide context about the time period covered in the analysis. 

So, when deciding your URL, ensure numbers are used sparingly and in a meaningful way that enhances the understanding of the content.

8. Don’t dynamically generated URLs

Opt for static URLs over dynamically generated ones whenever possible. Static URLs remain constant and do not change unless intentionally modified, providing stability and predictability for both users and search engines.

On the contrary, a dynamically generated URL is created by a web server in real-time, often in response to user inputs or database queries.

For example, a dynamic URL might look like this: “”.

Search engines may encounter difficulties when accessing dynamic URLs, which result in crawling issues and poor performance. 

Is it necessary to update URL slugs for old content?

Updating URL slugs for old content isn’t mandatory and it should proceed with caution. Make sure you set up 301 redirects to guide users to the new page after updating your URLs. Especially if your content has accumulated backlinks or is referenced internally or externally, changing the URL slug could lead to broken links and confusion.

However, changing URL slugs can be helpful in certain cases. For example, during a website restructuring or when merging content, updating URL slugs keeps everything organised and prevents duplicate content issues

Users can navigate the site easily, and search engines can understand the changes better. This can boost visibility and user experience as a result. 

Final Words

A well-optimized slug can significantly improve your website’s SEO performance. Remember to keep them concise, relevant, and timeless for optimal results.

By following these best practices, you can create SEO-friendly URL slugs that are easy for search engines to understand and index, as well as user-friendly for human readers. 

So, don’t overlook the importance of url slugs in your SEO and also don’t forget to regularly review and update them as needed.

Aubrey Yung

Aubrey Yung

Aubrey is an SEO Consultant with 5+ years of B2B and B2C marketing experience.