October 31, 2014

Shorten Your Blog Post URLs So You Don’t Look Spammy to Google

One of the great things about using WordPress is that it automatically creates keyword-rich, spider-friendly URLs for your posts (as long as your Permalink settings in the Options tab of the WordPress admin are configured properly). Many times, though, these URLs are TOO keyword-rich. In other words, the URL has too many words in it. That happens if you create a long title to your post, because every word in the title is worked into the URL automatically by WordPress.

But how long is “too long” for a URL? For the answer to this question, I went to the source: Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team. In my interview with Matt Cutts, I asked:

“What is excessive in the length of a keyword-rich URL? We have seen clients use keyword URLs that have 10 to 15 words strung together with hyphens; or blogs – we have seen them even longer there. A typical WordPress blog will use the title of the post as the post slug, unless you defined something different and you can just go on and on and on. Can you give any guidelines or recommendations in that regard?”

Matt answered:

“Certainly. If you can make your title four- or five-words long – and it is pretty natural. If you have got a three, four or five words in your URL, that can be perfectly normal. As it gets a little longer, then it starts to look a little worse. Now, our algorithms typically will just weight those words less and just not give you as much credit.

The thing to be aware of is, ask yourself: “How does this look to a regular user?â€? – because if, at any time, somebody comes to your page or, maybe, a competitor does a search and finds 15 words all strung together like variants of the same word, then that does look like spam, and they often will send a spam report. Then somebody will go and check that out.

So, I would not make it a big habit of having tons and tons of words stuffed in there, because there are plenty of places on a page, where you can have relevant words and have them be helpful to users – and not have it come across as keyword stuffing.”

Based on this new information from Matt, you can see that even your blog post slugs have the potential to appear spammy and “keyword stuffed,” which doesn’t look great for your readers and may end up getting flagged as “spam.” So how can you prevent your blog from appearing spammy?

I’d strongly recommend that you curb the length of your URLs. There are a couple of different approaches to this in WordPress:

  1. Hand-craft your own “Post Slug” when you are writing the post. To do so, simply type in your desired post slug into the “Post Slug” field found on the right-hand side of the “Write Post” page in the WordPress admin (you probably will have to hit the + sign to see the field). You can mirror your post’s title but drop throwaway words like “the” and “and”. You can take the first four words or so of the title as your slug. Heck, you could even write something totally different that doesn’t resemble your post title.
  2. Use a WordPress plugin that will trim your post slugs down to a more manageable size, i.e. to five or six words. There are two plugins to choose from that will accomplish this: the WordPress Slug Trimmer plugin or the Automated SEO Friendly URL plugin.

For more great tips from Matt Cutts, I invite you to listen to my audio interview in MP3 format or read the full transcript. The interview is a little over 30 minutes long, and it has some invaluable advice.

Enjoy, and happy search engine optimized blogging!!!

23 comments for Shorten Your Blog Post URLs So You Don’t Look Spammy to Google »

  1. [...] out this post for further information, including tips on how to configure WordPress to avoid this [...]

    Pingback by WordPressWire.com » Shorten Your WordPress URLs says Google — January 4, 2008 @ 6:31 am


  2. I have an even better tip. For the post title, make it as descriptive and relevant as possible to the content within the article with as few amount of words as possible. Then you wouldn’t have to do double the work.

    Comment by Jeffro2pt0 — January 6, 2008 @ 5:36 pm


  3. But does it actually make any difference search engine rankings? Or should you just make sure your important keywords are at the beginning of the title?

    Comment by Business Links — January 8, 2008 @ 10:34 am


  4. Great post Stephan with what I think are some important SEO points. Avoiding downgrades and other sanctions is now sadly as important as building an audience.

    Comment by Shawn A. Hessinger — January 11, 2008 @ 8:29 pm


  5. Stephan
    Fascinating post. The WordPress Slug Trimmer pluging link is to a post of July 2006, with no further sign of activity by the owner since. There are an unanswered comment of Dec 06 and a few trackbacks. The download site for the other plugin is more recent but there’s no sign of activity after May 07. Am I right in assuming there are no problems with WP 2.3 – or even WP 2.2?

    Comment by Des Walsh — January 13, 2008 @ 11:27 pm


  6. Good tip. I have played with WordPress a little, but this sounds like a good idea to implement. Thanks for the post.

    Comment by Jason — January 15, 2008 @ 1:47 am


  7. Just pays to get your main keywords into the beginning of the title??

    Comment by More Business — January 21, 2008 @ 4:25 pm


  8. Great article-Thanks, Stephan!

    Comment by Steve Mertz — January 22, 2008 @ 6:58 pm


  9. Long URLs have never been an issue that I even considered important on my business Site.
    Thanks for the heads up and well written article.

    Comment by Simon — January 23, 2008 @ 9:39 am


  10. Awesome Post! thank you so much for revealing this secret to newbies, much appreciate, keep up the good work!

    Comment by Daven Wang — January 24, 2008 @ 8:06 pm


  11. Hi Des,
    The plugin should still work with WordPress 2.3. Without a slug trimming plugin, WordPress (even on the latest version) will make URLs that are too long.

    Comment by Stephan Spencer — January 31, 2008 @ 10:06 pm


  12. Wonderful post! My blog currently creates those long titles… it’s amazing that I haven’t changed this over yet.

    Comment by Terra Andersen — February 11, 2008 @ 5:35 pm


  13. Great post, although i have never used too long headlines.

    Comment by RealBusiness — February 12, 2008 @ 5:44 am


  14. [...] See Shorten Your Blog Post URLs So You Don’t Look Spammy to Google for the answer from Matt [...]

    Pingback by Stuffing Slugs, Titles and Content with Keywords — February 14, 2008 @ 3:50 pm


  15. Great post & great tip! Thanks & keep up the great work :)

    Comment by Jennifer - Keyword Research Tool — February 19, 2008 @ 5:10 pm


  16. Oye! I’ve been breaking this rule by accident. Do you think it is worth going back to old posts and shortening them?
    I have crammed my main keywords in nearly every post title. Shoot…. I goofed by accident.

    Should I go back?

    Thanks for the great post.

    Brad

    Comment by Brad Montgomery — March 10, 2008 @ 5:11 pm


  17. Brad – DO NOT go back and shorten the URL’s!!!!

    This will cause the old INDEXED pages do disappear, hence NO RANK.

    Comment by Knox — March 18, 2008 @ 9:06 am


  18. Hi Brad,

    Thanks for dropping by! Hope you are doing well.

    Once you upgrade your WordPress from 2.0.5 (on bradlaughs.com) to the latest version, you can safely ignore Knox’s advice and go ahead and shorten the post slugs. You WILL NOT lose pages out of Google’s index. That’s because recent versions of WordPress (e.g. 2.3) automatically do a “301 redirect” from the previous URLs to the new URLs. So if you change the post slug, the PageRank will flow to the new shortened URL because Googlebot will see the 301 and will follow it, passing the PageRank on to that destination.

    I think it’s only worthwhile to go back and shorten your post slugs where the URLs look spammy because they are majorly stuffed with keywords.

    BTW, you really should upgrade your WordPress anyways – for security reasons as well as functionality reasons. Any day now WordPress 2.5 will be out (it’s in beta at the moment), so I’d suggest you upgrade as soon as 2.5 comes out.

    Good luck!

    Comment by Stephan Spencer — March 20, 2008 @ 12:58 pm


  19. I have an even better tip. For the post title, make it as descriptive and relevant as possible to the content within the article with as few amount of words as possible. Then you wouldn’t have to do double the work.

    Comment by Leo F. Swiontek — March 30, 2008 @ 5:25 am


  20. [...] A blog title should ideally be short and contain keywords. This is one of my favorite SEO techniques. Once you have your title write two or three paragraphs to support it. The copy should be informative, unique and filled with keywords where appropriate. Stephan Spencer has a great article on this called Shorten Your Blog Post URLs So You Don’t Look Spammy to Google. [...]

    Pingback by Blog Consulting | SEO Speakers | Steve Mertz — August 16, 2008 @ 12:21 pm


  21. A great wordpress plugin is SEO smart slugs. the purpose is to make a short title that removes any of the stop words that are normally included in the title.

    Comment by HighPoint — February 13, 2009 @ 4:40 pm


  22. @Brad
    If you go back and shorten your url the below can happen :)
    “This will cause the old INDEXED pages do disappear, hence NO RANK.”

    Comment by Globinch — June 16, 2010 @ 12:42 am


  23. Good post, I use SEO Slugs for optimizing the title slugs!

    Comment by Sunil Sheoran — March 4, 2011 @ 2:06 am


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