URLs & "SEO Friendly" URLs
What is an URL ?
The URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is an address which identifies a resource available on the Internet. It is thus thanks to the URL that a web browser such as Firefox or Internet Explorer can recover from a remote Web server the content requested by the user.
For example this is a URL: "http://www.monsite.com/aaa/bbb.html". When a user enters the URL in their browser, here is what happens :
- the browser extracts from the Url the domain name (www.monsite.com)
- with this domain name, the browser can connect to the Web server of that particular Web site
- the browser then transmits the remainder of the URL to the web server (/aaa/bbb.html)
- From this information, the web server finds - or dynamically builds - the referred resource (HTML file, images...) and returns the content to the client's browser for the final display.
How is a URL made up?
Just like a mailing address (street number, street name, city, postal code...), a URL consists of several elements. Let's examine a simple case:
- 'http' : this tells the browser which network protocole must be used to communicate with the distant web server. HTTP is by far the most widespread protocol but other possible values are: https, ftp...
- 'www.monsite.com' : this indicates the domain name. Based on this information, the browser can figure out which remote Web server manages the website concerned (thanks to an operation called DNS lookup)
- '/aaa/bbb.html' : it's the path of the URL. Based on this information, the Web server will manage to obtain the resource searched by the user.
Certain URLs are more sofisticated. Let's examine this one for example :
- 'login:pass' : this means a user name and a password to access a resource that would be secured by the Web server
- '8080' : this means the port on which the web server functions. This concept is a little too technical to be detailed here. You just need to know that if it is not explicitly stated, the default port for the HTTP protocol is 80
- 'arg1=val1&arg2=val2' : it's the argument of the URL (query) situated after the ?. These arguments are actually useful for the dynamic pages (this means the Web server generates the content used for delivering, for example for integrating the information from a database). If these parameters contain special characters, they must be encoded for being correctly interpreted by the Web server ('URL encode'). For example one space ' ' is transformed in %20
It is important to note that no specification precisely indicates which character encoding is used for a URL. In fact, this depends on each Web server ! If you don't want to worry about this, it is very important to avoid any special characters (accents, ! #...) in the path of a URL. And you must correctly encode the 'query' part.
Why are the URLs of your website important ?
There are many reasons why we must pay close attention to URLs:
- first of all, choosing the domain, which can sometimes be an essential marketing choice for the success of a project
- the simpler a website URL is, the easier will be the user's accesss to it
- navigating on a website with simple URLs is nicer than having large incomprehensible URLs.
- finally, the URLs are important for thesearch engine optimization (SEO). If the keywords of your page are also contained in the URL, this ca also be helpful for its optimization (still, pay attention to those who categorically state 'I know how Google works' because the rules are constantly changing).
What is the URL Rewriting ?
The expression URL Rewriting is frequently and sometimes abusively used, in order to impress a non specialist audience. The URL Rewrite is a very powerful feature that is present in most Web servers (Apache, IIS...). This allows the web serveur to rewrite the URL provided by the browser changing it into another URL, according to the rules given by the web designer.
The URL Rewriting is frequently used for having 'clean' URLs on a website even if internally, for the web server, they are in fact very sophisticated.
How to choose your URL strategy correctly ?
The URL strategy that is most suitable for your website depends on a number of criteria:
- your computer skills
- the time that you are willing to invest on it
- your website's number of URLs
- your marketing choice
- your SEO strategy
For a dynamic and ambitious website manager, it is essential that the technical team gives him the possibility to easily choose the URLs (and to change their minds) without requiring a lot of technical work. This type of management is not always easy for a complex website but it is howver necessary.
For a personal, static website it is not necessary to to apply such a sofisticated URL strategy. Apply just a few common sense rules and everything will be fine (readable, concise URLs ...).
The free tool Yakaferci can analyze the URLs of your pages
Analyze your URLs with our free SEO Page Analyzer:
To start a Yakaferci analysis, simply enter the link to your page in the area above and click the Analyze button. You can then access the different pages of the report.
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If this article has inspired you to search for more information on the URLs, here are somne helpful links :
- the article Wikipedia on Tim Berners Lee, the inventor of the Internet (and of the URLs)
- the article Wikipedia on the URLs
Other Yakaferci articles in the Technical or SEO sections may be helful as well.