URL (Uniform Ressource Locator)

URL definition

Most internet users have certainly come across the term at some point. But what exactly is a URL? The abbreviation URL stands for “Uniform Resource Locator”.

A URL is used to call up web pages and is often also referred to as an internet address or URL address. It tells the browser which page to go to and open. Each website has its own unique URL under which it can be reached – comparable to an address, which consists of postcode, street and house number and thus clearly defines the place of residence.

Where do I find the URL and where do I enter it?

The URL of a website is displayed in the address bar at the top of the browser. You can open a specific internet address by entering it in the address bar. This is how the desired page is called up. You can also use HTML tags to insert URLs within the HTML code of a web page that refer to another web page.

How is a URL address structured?

An internet address is made up of various components. These components of a URL each have their own function.

The following example shows what the structure of a URL might look like:

Aufbau und Bestandteile einer URL
  • https:// – transmission protocol
    It specifies how data is to be transmitted on the internet. As a rule, the protocol prefix https is used here, which, unlike the prefix http, ensures protected transmission of data on the Internet.
  • www.example.com – Domain
    Instead of the domain name (example.com), the IP address of the website could also be inserted here. Further components of the domain are the subdomain “www.” and the toplevel domain with the country code “.com”.
  • Path
    The path refers to a specific directory or file. A path can consist of directory name, file name and parameters.

It is not only possible to navigate to and call up websites with the help of an internet address. There are also other functions that you can use by entering different protocols.

These are, for example:

  • file:// –  Zugriff auf lokale Datei von PC und Öffnen im Browser
  • ftp://  – File Transfer Protokoll, zum Übertragen von Dateien
  • mailto: – zum Senden und Empfangen von Mails

Permitted characters

Some characters within a URL have assigned functions.

For example, a “?” introduces a query part, like the URL parameter in the example. If this character is to be used without its predefined function, it must be masked. This is achieved by using the so-called URL encoding (also called percentage encoding). The character “?” thus becomes %3F in percentage coding

Permitted characters in a URL are:

  • A-Z / a-z
  • 0-9
  • -. _ ~

The following characters already have a specific function reserved:

  • !*‘( ); : @ & = + $ , / ? %  # [ ]

The following characters should ideally be displayed in percentage encoding, otherwise they may be interpreted as invalid by the browser:

  • „ <  > # % { } \ | ^ [ ] `

Relative and absolute URL

For internal linking, there are different ways to specify a domain: As an absolute or relative URL.

An absolute URL exists when the complete web address – i.e. protocol, domain name and path – are listed. If we take up our above example again, the absolute URL is given here:


https://www.examplepage.com/sunfolder/file.html?var=variable

In contrast, a relative URL only contains a path to the linked document. It therefore usually begins with a “/” :


/subfolder/file.html?var=variable

Both web addresses point to the identical target. The loading time of the relative version is slightly shorter.

From an SEO point of view, however, both versions are equivalent.

Shortening an URL

Extensive websites often have numerous directories and subdirectories. If some parameters are added, the address of the website can become very long. To maintain clarity, it is therefore a good idea to shorten it. A short URL is particularly useful when sending or in social media posts with a limited number of characters.

If you search the internet for “shorten link” or “shorten URL”, you will find numerous URL shortener platforms that offer the service of creating a short URL online.

Our example URL:


https://www.examplepage.com/subfolder/file.html?var=variable

can be reduced to the following short link thanks to the Bitly tool:


https://bit.ly/3adODgF

Even though you can save a lot of characters by shortening, there is also a disadvantage. This is because the naturally readable terms such as “subfolder/file”, which indicate the content of the page, are replaced by combinations of numbers. This could prevent the user from calling up the page, as they can no longer figure out where they are being redirected to when they click.

SEO tips for the URL structure

  • Use HTTPS: This is a common secure transmission method on the internet. Therefore, you should definitely use the SSL certificate required for this in order to meet the security standards.
  • Pay attention to character encoding – otherwise you could end up with incorrect URLs that cannot be called up.
  • Create a speaking URL: Use naturally readable terms. This way, not only the browser can read the internet address, but also your users can understand the content of the page.
  • If possible, do not change the URL to avoid a loss of rankings. Use redirects instead.
  • Use keywords in the URL
  • Clear structure of the directories: For the sake of clarity, avoid many subdirectories and keep the structure as short as possible.

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