Uniform Resource Locator (URL): Basics & Examples




Updated 2/5/2024

Understand what a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is and why it’s important for the web. Discover the essentials and SEO best practices.

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URLs are an essential part of the internet. They’re the address for each page on the web. This guide offers a quick summary, focusing on URL importance to SEO.

What is a URL?

A URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is the address of a web page on the internet. It’s the line of text you type into a browser to visit a webpage.

It is usually in the form: http://www.example.com

Importance of URLs in SEO

URLs are critical for several reasons. Let’s focus on the benefits of good URLs:

  1. Usability and User Experience: URLs that are easy to read and understand are more likely to be clicked on by users. They also help users navigate your site more efficiently.
  2. Search Engine Crawling: URLs help search engines understand what your page is about, making it easier for them to index your content correctly.
  3. Keyword Relevance: If your URL contains keywords relevant to your content, it can help your page rank higher in search engine results.

Components of a URL

A typical URL consists of several components:

  • Protocol: This is the first part of the URL and typically is ‘http’ or ‘https’. The ‘s’ in ‘https’ stands for ‘secure’, indicating the site uses SSL encryption.
  • Domain name: This is the website’s name and is unique to that site. For example, in http://www.example.com, the domain name is ‘example.com‘.
  • Subdomain: This is the third-level domain of a website and it comes before the main domain name. In http://blog.example.com, ‘blog’ is the subdomain.
  • Path: This follows the domain name and usually represents the specific page on the site. For example, in http://www.example.com/blog/post1, /blog/post1 is the path.
  • Parameters: These are additional information appended to the URL for tracking purposes or to alter the page’s content. They start with a question mark (?) and are separated by ampersands (&).

On Subdomains

A subdomain is a subset or a smaller part of your main website. It’s usually used to organize or separate areas of your site with distinct content.

For example, if your business has a blog, instead of creating it as a page like example.com/blog, you might want to create it as a subdomain like blog.example.com. This is not recommended.

Why They’re Bad for SEO

Subdomains are often treated as separate entities from the primary domain. This has several negative SEO effects.

This is mainly because, unlike subdirectories (folders), subdomains do not always inherit website authority from the main domain. This means that you might need to build the reputation of a subdomain almost from scratch, without power from the main domain. This is much harder.

We recommend going with a subdirectory for any new projects or sections of your site, whenever possible. Sometimes that’s unavoidable because of technical limitations, but just so you know, those are the SEO’s orders.

URL Best Practices

There are several approaches you can take for better SEO results:

  1. HTTPS: Always use HTTPS for your URLs as it is more secure and a ranking signal for Google. It makes your site secure and builds trust with users.
  2. Domain Name: Choose a domain name that is relevant, memorable, and easy to spell. Having keywords in your domain can be nice, but it is NOT critical for SEO success. Go with something cleaner and stonger than an option stuffed with keywords.
  3. Readable and Understandable URLs: Make sure your URLs are human-readable. Avoid using random numbers and letters. Instead, use meaningful words that describe the page content.
  4. Keyword Usage: Try to include important keywords in your URLs. However, don’t stuff them with keywords as it can hurt your SEO.
  5. URL Length: Keep them as short as possible while still making sense. A good rule of thumb is to keep them under 60 characters.
  6. Use Hyphens to Separate Words: Hyphens are the preferred method to separate words. Avoid using underscores, spaces, or any other characters to separate words.
  7. Avoid Dynamic Parameters: Try to limit the use of URL parameters, as they can create many versions of the same page, leading to duplicate content issues.
  8. Consistent www vs non-www: Decide whether to use ‘www’ or not and stick to it. Both http://www.example.com and http://example.com work, but choose one and be consistent.
  9. URL Structure Reflecting Site Structure: Create a logical hierarchy in your structure. This can help search engines understand the relationship between different pages on your site.
  10. Avoid Using Special Characters: Stick to alphanumeric characters and hyphens in your URLs. Special characters and other punctuation can cause problems for some browsers and crawlers.

For more, see Google’s URL guidelines to get the full details from the source.

Bottom Line

URLs are an integral part of SEO strategy. While a good URL structure alone can’t guarantee high rankings, it does contribute to better user experience and improved crawlability, which are important factors in SEO. ?

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