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this question is addressed widely on SO and outside it, but for some reason, instead of taking it as a good load of great advice, all this information is confusing me.

** Problem ** I already had, on one of my sites, "prettified" urls. I had taken out the query strings, rewritten the URLS, and the link was short enough for me, but had a problem: the ID of the item or post in the URL isn't good for users. One of the users asked is there's a way to get rid of numbers, and I thought it was better for users to just see a clue of the page content in the URL.

** Solution ** With this in mind, I am trying with a section of the site.Armed with 301 redirects, some parsing work, and a lot of patience, I have added the URL slugs to some blog entries, and the slug of the URL reports the title of the article (something close to http://example.com/my-news/terribly-boring-and-long-url-that-replaces-the-number-I-liked-so-much/

** Problems after Solution ** The problem, as I see it, is that now the URL of those blog articles is very descriptive for sure, but it is also impossible to remember. So, this brings me to the same issue I had with my previous problem: if numbers say nothing and can't be remembered, what's the use of these slugs? I prefer to see http://example.com/my-news/1/ than http://example.com/my-news/terribly-boring-and-long-url-that-replaces-the-number-I-liked-so-much/

To avoid forcing my user to memorize my URLS, I have added a script that finds the closest match to the URL you type, and redirects there. This is something I like, because the page now acts as a sort of little search engine, and users can play with the URLS to find articles.

** Open questions **

I still have some open questions, and don't seem to be able to find an answer, because answers tend to contradict one another.

1) How many characters should an URL ideally be long? I've read the magic number 115 and am sticking to that, but am not sure.

2) Is this really good for SEO? One of those blog articles I have redirected, with ID number in the URL and all, ranked second on Google. I've just found this question, and the answer seems to be consistent with what I think Is a category based directory recommended in URLs? (but see this other question with the opposite opinion)

3) To make a question with a specific example, would this URL risk to be penalized? Is it acceptable? Is it too long? StackOverflow seems to have comparably long URLs, but I'm not sure it's a winning strategy in my case. I just wanted to facilitate my users without running into Google's algorithms.

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The URL slug is always a good idea for one simple reason- okay two.

1] We are human. Humans relate to language and language is preferred over numbers which mean nothing to us.

2] Basic SEO. Because Google is made for humans, it's algorithms are centered around language and how humans use it. Google looks to language as clues on how to index a ridiculously huge number of web pages.

Now to explain.

While some will argue that the URL/URI combination has a smaller effect on SEO, I will argue somewhat differently. Yes, the URL/URI does not help with specific page rank, however, it does indeed help with indexing the page and returning pages in the SERPs based upon the search query. It is one of the primary clues along with page titles, header tags, top-level content, and links to determine what the page is actually about. More to the point, it is a primary clue along with the title tag, first (and hopefully the only) h1 tag, and internal link text.

Now for the good news.

This is an opportunity to increase search performance. Plain and simple.

-and-

Your URL slugs do not have to be long.

In fact, to make slugs more memorable, which is not as important as you may think, you can use shorter URL slugs. In fact, it is highly recommended for one simple reason. The URI should contain your 2-3 (or 4-5 if you wish) most important keywords for the page. It should be conversational for semantic search as well. For example: reasons to use URL slugs would be good, but top ten reasons why URL slugs are important to use would be better. Okay. It is a longer slug, but you get my point. Both are superior to URL slugs. Your URL slug should somewhat but not exactly match and support your title tag and h1 tag. Your URL slug should also support your description meta-tag.

What to remember:

Google thinks like a human and always has- to a point.

You should think about how people think about your topic. Using the example above, URL slugs are important to use top ten reasons why will perform differently than top ten reasons why URL slugs are important to use. This is because Google knows a few things. People think of the most important words to use in search first because we were trained to do so. This is because most of us learned to read from left to right and order words according to importance the same way. Google understands this and will read your slug and order words in order of importance from left to right. There are language exceptions of course. In addition, Google has studied how we use language and will look for phrases by word proximity and order these by importance and evaluate words by previous search importance and reorder your slug based upon what it knows. This is good news. You do not have to get your slug exactly right. (But do the best you can.) Using the example above, one will perform differently based upon how Google will read the slug. You can word order your slugs to emphasize your preferred search criteria and how you want your page to be found. But do know this, regardless of the order, if your slug does not contain words used in a search query, then the likelihood that the page will appear in the SERPs diminishes some. For this reason, try and use a reasonable amount of words likely to be searched based upon the topic. The word order helps, but searches that are close by word match/count will perform well either way.

  • thanks. Judging from what SO/SE does, then, I should be safe. I can't decide with code I've written what's the most important keyword set (and subsequently reorder it) in the title of a post. I can (and have) adopted this method: strip all articles out of the title, then measure length of the resulting URL. If it's too long, strip other stop words (carefully) and set the maximum length of the slug to 70 characters. I hope this works... ... – tattvamasi Aug 23 '14 at 17:52
  • @tattvamasi For my site, I automate most of it, but that is really simple for my purposes. For my hand written pages, I hand write one into my database. You can look to the h1 tag or title tag and just use that. It will likely be close enough. If any are too long, then cut it off. Another thought is word density (by count), but that might not get you what you want. – closetnoc Aug 23 '14 at 18:02
  • suspect keyword stuffing is what I'm trying to avoid. I don't write URLs manually because the content is user-generated. Anyhow I had 379 indexed pages yesterday on Google, after assigning the slugs and resubmitting the sitemap (24 hours) they're 300 lol! I'm leaving it that way. Too much work, don't feel like trashing it. Hopefully users will like the URLs, which is the reason why I added them :) – tattvamasi Aug 23 '14 at 21:33
  • @tattvamasi I understand. In my case, I have close to 1 million pages. I had to design a solution that was generic enough to work for most of the pages with about 200 pages hand written when I created the page. Good Luck! We are here for ideas if you need us. – closetnoc Aug 24 '14 at 2:29

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