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URL Structure in 2022

Have you ever wondered what all the slashes, letters, and colons in a uniform resource locator (URL) mean? Do they have any significance, or are they just a bunch of random characters built into a web address? Look no further, as the following text outlines some of the critical concepts of URL structure and why they are relevant. 

A URL, also commonly called a web address, indicates the location of a web page on the internet. Every URL points to a valid, unique resource. URLs are readable texts that replace the numbers in internet protocol (IP) addresses that computers used to communicate with servers decades ago. 

Components of a URL

It’s always beneficial to know the basics of a URL since it determines where your website resides and the specific details of its page. A simple URL can have as few as three primary parts, while a complex web address can have up to nine components.

The three primary URL parts are protocols, domains, and paths. Paths can also include a specific subfolder indicating the location of a page.

Here is how all nine components break down:

  • Protocol: The protocol, also called a scheme, is the first part of a web address. A protocol is a method that transfers or exchanges data around a computer network. Secured websites typically use an HTTPS protocol, while unsecured sites use HTTP. 
  • Subdomain: A subdomain usually appears directly after the protocol. It can allow a website to organize and separate content for a specific function. The most widely used subdomain is www, indicating that a site connects to the world wide web.
  • Domain name: The domain name or second-level domain (SLD) is the beginning of the domain and given name of your website. It is the WebFX in webfx.com or the Google in google.com. Most domain names are unique unless they have separate extensions. 
  • Domain extension: The extension, also called the top-level domain (TLD), is the com that appears after webfx.com or google.com. While domains like com, org, and net dominate the internet, other variations are growing as websites increase globally. See our guide for registering your domain.
  • Port: Ports are endpoints of a connection that exchange information between a web client and server. They often consist of a number that identifies them separately. 80 and 443 are among the most common ports found in URLs.
  • Path: The path shows the exact location of a page, file, post, or other assets. Many websites use paths to define their navigational structures.
  • Query: A query tells the browser that an inquiry is taking place. It is an extension that helps define specific content based on the passing data. A question mark typically appears in the URL generated by the inquiry. 
  • Parameter: The parameters are the actual values or topics a user queries when searching a topic. Parameters can consist of search terms, numbers, codes, or other information within a database. 
  • Fragment: A fragment is an optional URL component often referred to as a name anchor. A hash typically precedes the fragment as an indicator. Fragments can direct users to a site’s secondary resources like a sidebar or footer.

A simple URL might look something like this: https://www.grademywebsite.com/resources/. In this example:

  • The “https” is the protocol.
  • The “www” is the subdomain.
  • The “grademywebsite” is the domain name.
  • The “resources” is the path.

Is URL structure important?

While some search experts believe that an optimized, keyword-rich URL is overrated, a simplified URL with keywords still provides a better user experience (UX), impacting your search engine rankings. Perhaps the most valuable part of having a user-friendly URL is that it helps users and crawlers with site navigation. URLs are the building blocks for your website, and optimizing them can lead to significant amounts of traffic.

How to create an optimal URL

To some degree, search engines use your webpage’s URL to understand what the content entails. Search engines care about URL structure because they prioritize user experience. In addition to providing a clear path for the user, an effective URL will help you drive more backlinks from authoritative sites, resulting in a better ranking position. 

6 tips for effective URLs

Here are six tips for creating optimal URLs from the WebFX team:

  1. Avoid excessive subdomains

While subdomains are often critical parts of a website, using too many of them can affect your page rankings. Building the ranking for a subdomain is typically just as challenging as it is for an entirely different or new website. Your primary domain and subdomains do not share the credibility you generate from backlinks.

  1. Use keywords when possible

Even though beliefs vary about URL keywords’ role in SEO, it’s still beneficial to incorporate them when possible. URL keywords ensure that the users accessing your site get what they expect, enhancing the user experience. In addition, URLs show up in search results, meaning that a user is more likely to click on a keyword-rich URL than a web address containing a group of random numbers and symbols.

  1. Create shorter URLs

Shorter URLs are almost always more beneficial. While search engines can comfortably handle lengthy URLs, you provide a better user experience with shorter ones. Optimized URLs typically contain fewer than 60 characters.

  1. Match the URL to the title

While this tip is not a requirement, matching the URL to the webpage’s title can significantly benefit the user experience. When users recognize the words in a URL and see they match the title, they have a more cohesive sense of what they will find on the actual page.

  1. Consolidate folders

Excessive folder use doesn’t necessarily harm your rankings. However, many folders can generate misperceptions for users and search engines, as they create more depth and sometimes make a webpage look more complex.

  1. Avoid keyword stuffing

Similar to how keyword stuffing can ruin a webpage’s content, the same can occur when you overload your URL with keywords. Overuse of keywords — especially duplicate words — has no value and makes your site look spammy.

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