What Is a URL? The Anatomy of a URL, Permalinks and SEO.

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What Is a URL? The Anatomy of a URL, Permalinks, SEO, and More

What Is a URL? The Anatomy of a URL, Permalinks, SEO, and More

Everything About URL

By clicking on a link that goes to a URL, you arrived at this blog post. But what precisely is a URL and how does it work?

When input into a web browser, a URL is essentially a unique address that will take you to a certain page on a website. It’s what allows you to easily share fascinating web pages (or YouTube movies) with your friends.

It’s one of the major technologies that makes the web easy to explore, with millions of connected servers, hundreds of millions of websites, and billions of pages.

You wouldn’t be able to tell one page apart from the other 64 billion on the internet if it weren’t for it.

We’ll take a deep dive into the URL in this post, explaining what it is in detail, breaking down the different components of how it works, discussing what a good URL looks like for SEO purposes, and more.

Contents Table of Contents
What Is a URL (Uniform Resource Locator)
URI vs. URL: What’s the Difference?
What Does a URL Look Like?
The Structure of a URL (6 Different Moving Parts)
The HTTPS/HTTP Protocol is a secure version of the HTTP protocol.
DNS (Domain Name System)
Querying the Path Variables and Strings
Parameters of the UTM system
Permalinks in WordPress
When creating new posts and pages, you can change the permalinks.
Slug vs. Permalink vs. URL
Changing an Existing URL
When Should You Use URL Shorteners?
What Is a URL (Uniform Resource Locator)? (Uniform Resource Locator)
A URL (uniform resource locator) is a web address that guides your browser to a specific webpage, image, file, or other resource.

The rest of the URL displays the path to the exact file on that server, and your browser takes the address and converts the domain name to the host’s IP address.

A URL refers to a specific file or page, but a domain name refers to the entire website or server.

A URI (or Uniform Resource Identifier) differs from a URL in that it refers to a file or resource’s unique ID rather than the means by which you can access it.

It’s a higher-level identifier category that includes URL as one of its subclasses.

The official RFC 3986 specs state:

“A URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) is a short string of letters that identifies a digital or physical resource.”

It can be a unique name ID, the resource’s “location” (or network access point), or both (which is what a URL is).


a-url is a URL because it specifies the HTTPS protocol and the page’s full address.
Due to the mailto protocol, mailto:contact@gregghosting.com is likewise a URL, but it is used for sending emails rather than accessing a webpage or other resource.
The URN (Uniform Resource Name) urn:isbn:12312341234 is a name-only URN (Uniform Resource Name) that does not specify how to access the resource.
All of these formats are part of the URI family, which includes both URLs and URNs.

Web links are usually referred to as URLs rather than URIs to distinguish between actual links to online resources and the IDs of physical products.

Note that the official guidance says to “use URI rather than URLs” when describing web addresses, but it hasn’t been updated since 2005, so it’s a little out of date. URL is by far the most commonly used term to refer to online addresses in 2020.

Every day, you type URLs… but what precisely is a URL, and how does it work?

Visit learn more, go to the URL below.

What is an example of a URL?
Simply look at the web address area at the top of your browser, directly behind your tabs, to see an example of a URL.

Google Chrome’s URL address bar.
The URL for this page is gregghosting what-is-a-url in this box. (If you double-click the field, your browser may hide the HTTPS.)

When you switch to a different tab, you’ll notice that the URL for the page or file you’re reading changes.

The Anatomy of a URL (6 Different Moving Parts)
A URL may appear to be the simplest thing in the world when you’re merely visiting a website.

However, a single URL might include a lot of information.

You can go to a certain webpage using a URL.
It can also take you to a specific spot on the page.
It can interface with your CMS to display a specific piece of content.
It can also use settings to interface with your analytics software to trace where your visit came from.
Let’s look at the various moving elements of a URL that allow all of this to happen.

The HTTPS/HTTP Protocol
The first element of a URL specifies the protocol used by the server and webpage to send data to your machine.

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator Protocol.
You may need to double-click the left side of the URL to see this part, depending on your browser.

The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is the most basic, unencrypted method of sending data over the internet. HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer System Secure) is a more secure, encrypted protocol for data transfer. A lock sign, symbolizing a secure website, will appear in Google Chrome when a site implements HTTPS.

If a site uses HTTP, it will display an expandable attention mark that advises you not to send any sensitive information to the site.

It may also automatically open a warning prompt, depending on the browser, website, and operating system.

In Chrome, there is an unsecured HTTP connection.
Consider the negative impact this will have on potential customers. It’s not appealing.

Furthermore, using HTTP can have a detrimental impact on your website’s Google keyword ranks. Google has stated that it is used to determine where your page will appear in the search results.

Despite all of the disadvantages of utilizing HTTP, 33.2 percent of websites did not use HTTPS in October 2020.

We have a full guide for transitioning your WordPress site from HTTP to HTTPs if you’re still using HTTP.

It may be as simple as clicking a button, or it may not be feasible at all, depending on your existing web host. In other circumstances, switching to a more dependable host that employs HTTPS for all sites, such as Kinsta, may be easier.

The Domain Name & DNS
The domain name is what uses DNS to assist the browser find your web server in the first place (Domain Name System).

The URL’s “domain” component.
Simply said, DNS aids a browser’s translation of a domain name into the IP address of the web server with which it is associated.

We would have to surf the web by sharing chains of numbers like if the DNS didn’t exist.

Isn’t it difficult to recall these things? Domain names are useful for more than just branding. They make it simpler to communicate valuable information and ideas.

You can share or seek for a domain name that makes sense instead of a random string of digits. Like Kinsta.com, where everyone who hears about our company can simply discover us.

Learn more about DNS and how it connects domain names to web servers by reading our guide.

The Path
Any part of a URL that appears after the domain name and before a question mark or # that adds more information to a URL is referred to as the path (more on this below).

A URL’s “path” component.
At initially, the URL simply represented your server’s file and folder structure. If you needed to access that file, you could use your FTP client to navigate to it and delete or edit it. If the route is yoursite.com/folder1/folder2/file1.html, the structure on your server will remain the same. It would seem the same if you looked at it with FTP or a file manager.

An FTP client’s folder structure.
However, most websites nowadays are constructed with a content management system (CMS) that generates pages dynamically from a database.

CMSs rely on server architecture to connect a regular URL (like kinsta.com/blog/what-is-a-url) to a query string that generates the correct page.

That’s how WordPress permalinks operate, which is why https://kinsta.com/blog/what-is-a-url leads to this page despite the fact that our server has no folder or file named blog or what-is-a-url.

Don’t worry if this sounds complicated and you don’t understand it yet. WP permalinks, how they function, and how to update them are covered in detail in the section below.

Query Strings and Variables
The query string is the component that comes after the question mark and can contain variables that connect with the PHP on that page to influence the visitor’s experience.

In URLs, query variables are used.
For example, the “p” variable in WordPress stands for “post” and identifies which post WordPress will display on that page.

A WordPress article would only be accessible through URLs like this without permalinks to make the URL more appealing: http://yoursite.com/?p=1294. To get the page you desired, you’d have to give WordPress the post ID explicitly.

YouTube is one of the most popular sites that still uses variables in their content’s permanent URLs. When you share a video link, the URL will look like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxR85tY46BE.

Because most social media platforms now contain previews and meta titles for shared links, URLs like these are no longer a major concern for social sharing.

However, this form of URL can have a detrimental impact on your website’s or blog’s SEO.

UTM Parameters
UTM parameters are not to be confused with query strings, which give a variable for your site’s CMS or web app. They communicate with your analytics software rather than directly altering the visitor’s experience. (Take, for instance, Google Analytics.)

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In a URL, use UTM parameters.
To measure campaign performance, these UTM tags trace where visitors came from. They can be used to show which platform, campaign, or even single ad sent a visitor to your site.

Some advertising systems build parameters to keep visitor data automatically.

Anything that comes after a hash sign is the anchor. It’s a link that takes you to a specific section of a page.

The component of a URL known as the “anchor.”
Because it’s an anchor link or “jump link” to the ID of that specific subheading, the URL above will lead you to the “The Anatomy of a URL” section of this page.

To use anchor links, you must give the HTML tag you want to link to a “ID.” In this scenario, the actual HTML code for the headline of this H2 section is as follows:

h2 id=”the-anatomy-of-a-url”> h2 id=”the-anatomy-of-a-url”>

/h2>The Anatomy of a URL
In the Gutenberg editor in WordPress, you may manually add one to headers by opening the “advanced” section of a heading block.

In WordPress, a heading anchor link is used.
We don’t bother manually adding IDs to all subheaders at Kinsta. Instead, we use a plugin that automatically creates a table of contents and jump links for each post.

The plugin automatically creates a span with the ID around appropriate headings, saving us the effort of manually inserting it.

The Kinsta blog creates anchor links for headers automatically.
Read our guide to anchor links for more information on how to implement this on your WordPress site.

Including a www in your URL used to be a requirement for all internet sites.

That is no longer the case. You may have noticed that the URL for our website, Kinsta.com, does not include www.

The three Ws are an optional component of a URL that identifies a site as a World Wide Web resource. It is largely a matter of personal preference whether or not you use it.

Even if visitors don’t include it, you can set up redirects to the correct form. As a result, Google Chrome and many other browsers no longer display it by default. Because of the redirection, it is no longer relevant to the user’s experience.

And because Google utilizes the proper variety in the search results automatically, it isn’t an SEO consideration.

You may need to double-click the URL to see the entire URL, which includes the www, just as you did with the protocol.

Depending on the size and aims of your organization, each choice may have some advantages and disadvantages. To help you decide, learn more about the differences between www and non-www domains.

Are you fed up with a sluggish host? Kinsta is designed for speed and efficiency. Take a look at our plans.

If you wish to include or exclude the www, we’ve already covered how to update your URL in WordPress to include or exclude the www.

Permalinks in WordPress
We touched on this briefly earlier, but with a CMS like WordPress, the URL path does not match the “actual” path via your server’s existing folders and files.

Instead, PHP and MySQL are used by WordPress to build pages depending on query strings in URLs, such as https://kinsta.com/?p=1294. The original WordPress permalink looked like this.

“Prettier permalinks,” such as https://kinsta.com/blog/what-is-a-url, rely on an Apache or Nginx rewrite function to link a URL to a suitable WordPress permalink that includes the post ID.

To make any changes to your URL, you don’t need to know anything about your server ecosystem or how to do it manually.

All of this can be done from within WordPress (as long as your server environment is set up correctly).

In WordPress, you may change the permalink settings.
Your posts will only be viewable if you utilize links with the post ID variable, such as yoursite.com/?p=123, if you set it to plain.

For SEO reasons, most WordPress sites avoid this. A random number string cannot include a matching keyword and is therefore less clickable than a logical connection.

Instead, most websites have a URL format that includes the blog title, or a variant thereof.

When creating new posts and pages, you can change the permalinks.
The permalinks and slugs generated by WordPress aren’t always ideal.

The permalink for this post would be something like what-is-url-explained-learn-how-to-get-the-most-out-of-your-sites-url if we let WordPress handle it.

It’s simply too long, and it’s not optimized for sharing or SEO.

You may give each post and page a unique slug and permalink for SEO and sharing purposes. (Previously, you’d need an SEO plugin for this, but it’s now built into the WordPress core.)

When creating any page or post, simply expand the “Permalink” area in the right-hand sidebar.