The URL is something we see all the time. It’s the funny jumble of letters and numbers in an address bar that doesn’t really seem to make much sense and definitely isn’t a real address but somehow magically leads us to where we want to go online.

Although it may not seem like it, there really is a method to the madness when it comes to URLs. Here is everything you need to know about the mysterious URL, from what the pieces mean to why its makeup matters.

According to IBM, the URL (more commonly known as the website address, and much less commonly but more technically called the Uniform Resource Locator) is an identifier that locates a certain existing resource on the internet. The URL acts as a sort of map that tells your internet browser where to look for and how to find the information you need.

 

URL Anatomy

Take a look at the image below: url-anatomyHere you can see the URL for this very blog post. This image is color-coded and labeled to show the different pieces that make up this URL. Here’s what they mean:

Protocol 

This is the "http" or "https" that comes first in a URL. These letters stand for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, and this is what a web browser uses to communicate with the web server in order to access the resource you are looking for.

The “s” stands for secure, and typically means that the site is safer because the data on the page is encrypted, or jumbled up into indistinguishable information that can’t be understood by anyone trying to steal information from the page. It is important to look for the “s” when you are on shopping sites or login pages.

Our blog page is secure, so it includes the “s”.

Sub-domain 

This shows that the page is a sub-division of the main page. For instance, the “blog” in our URL shows that you are, indeed, on our blog page. Not every URL has a sub-domain, but in this case, it is included as it is a sub-page on our website.

Domain Name 

This is what uniquely identifies the website you are on.

Path 

This refers to the specific file you are viewing—in this case, it refers to this very blog post!

There are many other pieces that can be included in URLs, but the Protocol, Domain Name, and Path are the main parts that make up nearly every URL found online. 

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Why It Matters

User Experience (UX)

One of the main reasons why it is important to be familiar with the URL is for improved user experience (UX). Whether you own a website or you are the user, you should note the readability of a page’s URL. A readable URL can help a user understand where they are on a website and makes it easy to navigate through the site.

Having a clear URL improves a user’s experience because makes it clear that they are on a page they intended to visit. If you look closely at a URL and it seems a bit fishy, it could be phishing.

A URL that is easy to understand is more trustworthy and shows users that there is nothing hidden or unexpected in the site.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Ranking

According to Moz, the URL is a minor factor in how your website is ranked by search engines. Creating a URL that matches the site’s content can make it a little easier for search engines to find your page and include it in search results.

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Websites and computers aren’t always easy to understand. However, knowing the main components of a URL and familiarizing yourself with the pieces can help you understand where you are on a site, what exactly you are viewing, and if the site is safe.

 

Thanks for reading!

Audrey

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