Do the words “Page Slug” make you think of something slimy and unpleasant? Or maybe they sound more like a well deserved jigger of scotch taken to celebrate a finely crafted post? Well… no.
“Slug” is actually an old printer’s term.
Back in day, when we were drunk with the smell of printer’s ink, a printer’s slug identified where a book was printed. More recently, in book layout software like InDesign, a slug will carry information, such as title and date, in some non-printing meta code.
Today, WordPress has adapted this usage to refer to “Page Slugs.” They are the part of the post/page URL that appears after the domain (and date or category when present). The permalink URL of a WordPress blog is highly customizable, and your blog’s set up may differ from Information Sells. But if you click on the title of this post, and then check your browser’s address bar, you should see something like “ghostleg.com/blog/2008/09/stop-bad-slugs”. The page slug is “stop-bad-slugs”.
Now look at the title of this post. It is similar, but not identical. Why the difference?
Readers notice the title. You want readers to be so intrigued by the title that they click through to the post. So you try to make it clever, catchy, and still keyword rich. (Good luck with that).
What Google sees is the slug.
Here’s the problem: Google is never intrigued. Google is cranky and thinks you are trying to cheat with every keystroke. To drive a stake through your cheating heart, Google invented “stop words.” If you use a “stop word” in a search, Google completely ignores that word, as though you’d never typed it at all. If Google doesn’t see a word, there is no value in using it in your Page Slug.
If you are concerned with Search Engine Optimization, WordPress has handed you a gift. The ability to customize permalinks means that your page slug and your post title – two vital areas for SEO with conflicting needs – can differ. You can add adjectives and adverbs to lure your readers while ruthlessly stripping away stop words to appease Google.
Page slugs can be customized by hand (the permalink is displayed on your edit screen, directly below the post’s title) or you can use various SEO plug-ins to do the work for you automatically. Whichever method you use, get in the habit of examining your page slugs for stop words as well as keywords before you publish your post. (You really shouldn’t change the permalink after you publish.)