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Blog Marketing Tips #2: Increasing Traffic with Killer Slugs




Blog Post SlugsThis is tip #2 in my series of “Blog Marketing Tips Even the ProBloggers Won’t Share” series. See tip #1: How to Optimize Blog Post Titles.

In tip #1 I warned that changing your blog post slugs–also known as permalinks or post URLs–is to be avoided, once you’ve published your blog post. While you can use 301 redirects if you do need to change your slug–more on that later–even that can have an unfortunate effect on your post’s ranking in Google.

In this tip, I want to share with you a practice that I often use here on Marketing Pilgrim–optimizing my slugs before I hit “publish.”

Tip 2: Optimize Your Blog Post’s Permalink (aka”Slugs”)

1. Change your default slug – while you often hear that most blog publishing platforms are “search engine friendly” out of the box, there’s one configuration that is important when setting up a new blog: change the default way post slugs are created.
If I had launched Marketing Pilgrim with the default slug structure my post URLs would have looked something like this:

marketingpilgrim.com/?p=123

Yuk! WordPress would have used a numeric value to represent each blog post. Instead of using rich keywords in my slug, traffic generating buzzwords such as “marketing,” “blogging,” and “tips” would have been reduced to “123”. Not very helpful–for my readers or Google.

Instead, it’s important to pick one of the more search engine friendly slug structures that instruct WordPress to pull the post title–which you worked hard on in tip #1–and use that as part of any blog post URL.

Here’s a screenshot of the WordPress option for Marketing Pilgrim:

Blog Post Permalinks

Notice how we used a “Custom Structure?’ OK, don’t necessarily follow that. While Google-friendly, we structured our slugs in a way that help with an old switch from Blogger to WordPress. Most of you will be just fine selecting “Date and name based” (or the equivalent for your blogging software).

Warning: While you might be tempted to use a slug default that shows only your post title you may want to think twice, if you have aspirations of seeing your blog syndicated in Google News. One of the requirements for entry is to have at least three numbers in your slugs, so that Google can identify your posts from your other blog content. Using “myblog.com/my-post-title” would likely preclude you from Google News. At the very least, you should use “myblog.com/2008/my-post-title”.

2. Optimize individual posts – with the basic slug structure in place, your post slugs are going to be very Google friendly–they include the keywords you use in your optimized post titles! :-)

But, what if you find yourself publishing a post that is ten words long and most of those words are “fluffy”–meaning, they don’t help you much in Google? This is where the “post slug” box in WordPress is your friend. You’ll find the post slug box to the right of your blog post–when viewing your posts via WP Admin “Manage>Posts.”

Here’s what to look for:

Custom Blog Post Slugs

(Note: If you don’t see the input box, you might need to hit the “+” sign next to “Post Slug”)

Any string of words entered will be used as that posts URL/slug/permalink. The best format for entry is to use “keyword-keyword-keyword”–hyphenating each word. Why hyphens? It helps Google to separate and understand each of your keywords. Your goal is to enter keywords that are a) highly relevant to your blog post, and, b) likely to be searched for (a lot) on Google.

Here’s an example of before and after.

If I had let WordPress decide on the slug, I would have gotten this:

Before: marketingpilgrim.com/2007/08/youtube-rival-finally-named-hulucom-almost-in-beta.html

Far too long and far too many irrelevant words. Instead, I entered my own slug and used this:

After: marketingpilgrim.com/2007/08/hulu-beta-invite.html

The result? When Hulu launched the beta of its online video service, Marketing Pilgrim was #1 on Google for “hulu beta invite” and #2 for “hulu”–both brought considerable traffic to the site.

3. Don’t get trapped by lazy slugs – it’s one thing to optimize the slug for your new blog post, but you can still take it one step further. Whether you’re writing a blog post, or creating a new page for your blog, think about its future use.

What do I mean? Let me show you with a real example.

Remember tip #1 I wrote?

Here’s my original post title: “Blog Marketing Tips Even the ProBloggers Won’t Share: Tip #1″

Practicing what I preached, I’ve now changed that post title to be more “Google-friendly.”

It now reads: “Blog Marketing Tips: How to Optimize Blog Post Titles”

Now take a look at the post slug.

Optimized slug: marketingpilgrim.com/2008/03/optimize-blog-post-titles.html

Doesn’t match either the original post title or the optimized version, does it? Instead, when I first wrote the post, I knew that I wanted the post to rank for keywords related to “optimize blog post titles.” By thinking ahead, and optimizing the post slug, that page is currently #1 on Google for “optimize blog post titles.” Sounds genius, but as you can see, it was really quite simple.

4. Changing old slugs - whether you want to change a single post slug or all of them, don’t even attempt to do so without the help of a 301 redirect. While you might think that changing your slugs is a good idea–after all, let’s get some great keywords in there–you can damage your Google credibility (sacrificing any inbound links) by changing a post slug without telling Google.

How do you safely change your blog post slugs? You use a 301 redirect to instruct Google that you’ve changed the location of the post to a new URL. How do you do that easily? If you’re a WordPress user, you install the fabulous Urban Giraffe “Redirection” plugin and make sure you have the following box checked:

301 Redirect Blog Posts

Now, you can change your slugs, safe in the knowledge that a 301 redirect will be automatically created. Be warned! Just because you tell the search engines where a new post lives, doesn’t mean they’ll always be smart enough to get there–so use 301 redirects with caution, not free abandon!

5. Repurpose your content - there’s another great reason for changing your post slugs. It’s a tactic that, once I share it with you, you’ll start seeing the crafty bloggers using. We use it here on Marketing Pilgrim. What’s the tactic? That’s the subject for tip #3, but I’ll only share tip #3 if enough people ask me to–these tips take a lot of work to compile you know. ;-)

Do you have any tips to share on blog post slug optimization? Do you want to see tip #3? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks!

  • http://www.ginside.com/ Jonathan Dingman

    Andy,

    I’m completely with you on this one. I started doing this a couple months back.

    I will almost always set a different slug than what my actual title of the article is. I’ve seen some huge SEO benefits for this and seen my traffic increase because of it.

  • http://www.charmehosting.com SEO web hosting

    Thanks for the tips. I didn’t know about the three number requirements from Google and the 301 plug-in. Sometimes I forget to change the slug to replace what the title field produces and I realize after the fatc that was a big oversight.
    Great article.

  • http://problognews.com Ed Sutherland

    Andy: I’ve bookmarked this article (which I don’t do often, what with thousands of bookmarks already.)

    Your piece enlightened me on two points:

    Google News needs at least two numbers in the URL (I’d thought the permalink needed to end with numbers.)

    Also, the Giraffe 301 redirect link was perfectly timed, now that I know I need to change my permalink to domain.com/year/mo/day/cat/post.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @SEOwh and Ed – there’s a lot of confusion surrounding the use of numbers in permalinks and Google News. Some say that the numbers have to be unique, but I’ve found that not to be the case. You simply need to have at least three numbers–which is what we have.

  • http://problognews.com Ed Sutherland

    @Andy: Just changed my permalink and shortened some amazingly-long slugs to richer keywords — and the trackbacks followed right along. That bit of information was worth the price of admission. :)

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Ed – great, just make sure the old pages 301 to the new ones. ;-)

  • http://sageblogger.com/ Vlad

    Andy,

    Just my curiosity. What is your warning about “minimum requirements” to be included in Google News based on? I am not trying to be a smart ass. I have just recently decided to move my blog to a new domain, however retained “name” based only urls.

    I am presuming your are speaking for your experience. How often does Google News syndicates the posts from this blog? What does it in terms of traffic?

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Vlad – there are a number of things Google News requires, in order to be included. It’s a very strict process and I don’t have all the details.

  • Jordan McCollum

    Wait a minute. Killer slugs? Andy, that’s just sick and twisted. ;)

    Hooray for Redirection. Have I ever mentioned how much I love it? ( ;) again.)

  • http://www.marketingbystephanie.com Stephanie Cox

    Great tips!
    I’ve just started a blog and I’ll be using your tips for sure!

  • http://sageblogger.com/ Vlad

    Andy,

    I never have, and probably never will have any of my blogs picked up by Google News. But I guess one can dream…

    For several press releases I used on PRWeb I can tell that traffic from Google News can be significant. But I was wondering how does that compare to actually having a blog post syndicated by Google News?

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Vlad – traffic from a Google News syndicated post can vary depending on its placement in Google News. Let’s just say I’d rather be in than out. ;-)

  • http://www.technogumption.com Tom Beaton

    Does that plug in create 301s if you change the permalink structure?

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Tom – I don’t actually know. Maybe test it on a new blog to make sure, before rolling out on an existing blog.

  • http://www.trishalyn.com TrishaLyn

    This is a great series…please keep the tips coming!

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  • http://seologia.com.ar Seología

    Very neat article. Could you post a solution to WordPress 2.5 screwing up the PAGES thinking they’re POSTS once you use a custom permalink structure? Many thanks!

  • http://blog.ourchurch.com Christian Web Trends

    Andy, thanks for this article. I’ve been blogging with WordPress for more than 2 years and never realized you could customize the slug for each post.

    I’ve always used the predefined date and name-based permalink structure, but I’m curious…

    – Is there any particular reason you don’t include the date (in addition to the year and month) in your permalink structure?

    – Is there any benefit to ending your permalink structure with .html

    – Paul

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Seologia – sorry, I’ve not explored that bug yet.

    @Christian WT – As I mentioned, the structure I used–no date and .html–was to facilitate a migration from Blogger. There’s really no issue with including the date or excluding the page extension.

  • http://www.rankmyday.fr/ya-le-bon-lien-et-le-mauvais-lien-25.htm Rankmyday

    Tanks a lot for providing the redirection plugin ! Saved me a lot of time…

  • http://www.slmkt.com Nicolette Beard

    These are excellent tips for WP but what about other blogging platforms, Typepad in particular?

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Nicolette – I don’t use Typepad, so can’t offer any help. Does it offer the ability to change your slugs? The advice above is cross-platform, but you may need to adapt the implementation to your specific blog software.

  • http://beyondbeautybasics.com Paul Baranda

    Every WP install that i do one of the immediate tweaks that i do is that I change the permalink slugs to just display the postname. You have control over keywords when using postname permalinks. I am also a firm believer that keyword rich permalinks get great results and rankings. Also to keep in mind that the order of keywords used in the permalinks can affect your rankings as well.

    Paul

  • http://www.alert2media.com shane

    Thats true..

  • http://www.ordinaryordinary.blogspot.com TropiGal

    Please, please, please tell more. I am complete neophyte, and I am fascinated.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    Thanks all for the feedback. Another tip will come this week. :-)

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  • http://www.tlmarketing.net Tom Lindstrom

    Nice tips, thanks for sharing.I will look into this.

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  • http://www.bruise-control.com Nicolette Beard

    For you Typepad users out there, I think I figured out how to do something similar to what Andy’s talking about. It requires some design decisions because making changes to the “slug” aka the file name URL, changes the look of the page.

    On the TP template above the write post window is “Title” window. I’ve never used it because it places extra large text above the blog post, but it does serve as the “Title” tag for the post/page.

    When you “name” your post, not to be confused with the title, this then becomes your slug. It is limited to 15 characters including spaces. Once you’ve named your post, you cannot go back and change it. You can, however, go back and add page “Titles,” if you want more keyword relevance.

    Another thing about TP, the category pages are default page titles in the search results, so at the very least, you want to be naming your categories with keywords.

    For me, it’s a stylistic decision, only because my blog ranks for any number of keywords related to male midlife crisis.

    But I will try this on my new blog, Bruise-Control.com since the audience is much broader.

    Hope this helps anyone who’s continuuing to read this thread.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Nicolette – thanks for sharing the tip!

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  • http://www.holisticnternetmarketing.com Amy Reis

    This was an awesome post, I definitely want to see #3! I, along with many others, it seems, was enlightened to how to do the 301 redirects along with the Google News tip. I was already using the default slug, but did not change the individual posts. Looks like I have some tweaking to do now. Don’t worry, I won’t forget the redirects ;)

  • http://www.squidoo.com/free_marketing_lead_generator__limited_time Peter Blackman

    Got some ideas and learned some new terms from you blog. I am trying to increasing the ranking of my own blog.

  • http://articlewonders.com Raj Krishnaswamy

    I wish I had known these things long ago and learnt it the hard way. As usual, I came to the party a little late!

  • http://marchelism.co.nr Marchek

    wow. new to me.!

  • http://www.guitarticles.blogspot.com Tennyson Williams

    This is why I use blogger. I abandoned a wordpress blog that I had because it wasn’t very user friendly for me and they wanted me to pay for everything that blogger offers for free. I have no problems with my slugs and blogger is owned by google. So even on the rare days that I am not writing a post with SEO in mind, google picks up that post and puts it on the 1st page, generally towards the top and generally within 1-3 days. I’d say that that’s a bad thing except that google is used for 67% of searches. Yahoo comes in second at 27%. Not trying to make enemies here – just offering my perspective.

    Tennyson Williams’s last blog post..String Skipping

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  • http://allaboutstocksandfinance.com Tyler Harrington

    Nice post, thanks for the information.
    How long does it usually take for a new blog to generate traffic. I’ve had my blog for a couple days now, allaboutstocksandfinance.com, and there has been very minimal traffic. How long should I expect to wait?

    Tyler Harrington’s last blog post..Hot Stocks (8-15-2008)

  • http://www.sannayak.com San Nayak

    I just changes one of my post which had a typo in title, i wish i would have “Urban Giraffe “Redirection” plugin” installed already.

    San Nayak’s last blog post..BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Bartlett, Chicago, IL, 60103

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  • http://www.hotelwebsitedesigners.com/ Hotel website design

    This is a really good resource for bloggers. It answers a number of questiosn I have had on my mind and it is very nicely written.

    Good job!

  • http://www.inventorymanagementsoftware.biz puinventory

    Thank you

  • http://www.goodies4free.net Wii

    Great tips. I never really thought about how the permalink would affect my seo. I always thought about the content and keywords and also the fact that I should use words instead of php links but never really thought about what they should be saying.

  • http://tutorialcompiler.com Ali Hussain

    Great tip, i found the .html extension that i wanted to implement on my wordpress. Is there a part 3 to the tips

    Ali Hussain’s last blog post..Color Overlay

  • http://www.bhtraffic.net Tomasz Klekot

    You should also check out Seo Post Link wordpress plugin – it removes unnecessery words like “the” from the slug. Shorter url is better url.

    Tomasz Klekot’s last blog post..The Start

  • http://www.seoin.info Seo Guy

    Andy,

    This is the first post of yours that i have read and must say worth all the effort listening to the friend of my and visiting you blog. You rock man. Thanks for all the great points that you made.

    Seo Guy’s last blog post..Forum Post Exchange

  • http://www.malcolmcoles.co.uk malcolm

    Seo friendly urls are a bit of a myth, SEs don’t care. Do waht you suggest – but do it because humans will react better. Google doesn’t care …

    malcolm’s last blog post..SEO friendly URLs: myth and fact

  • http://www.soccergenclix.net oyun

    Thanks for the tips.

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  • http://www.socceroyun.net/ Oyun

    Thanks