What is a URL – Complete Guide to Uniform Resource Locator
A URL — Uniform Resource Locator — is the global address of a webpage on the World Wide Web. It’s a string of characters that provides specific details about where a webpage can be found and how to access it.
And since we live in a digital world, there are plenty of ways to make your website stand out from the rest. A website with an easily remembered URL will always have an edge over others when taken into account by search engines. The shorter the URL, the easier it will be for users to find your page again and also share it with their friends.
In this blog post, you will learn everything you need to know about URLs. So let’s begin!
What is a URL?
A URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is a type of web address that specifically points to a resource on the World Wide Web. It is the global address of a website or resource on the internet. It’s what you see in your browser bar when accessing websites and other online resources. A URL may be presented in different ways, but its structure remains the same across all websites.
URLs are also known as web addresses, hyperlinks, and locators. A single website may have one or more unique URLs for visitors to find and access different pages. If a search engine user searches for specific content on your website, you can provide the user with a URL rather than directing them to an address on a personal memo or document containing the desired information. This article explores what a URL is, how it works, and its variations.
Other names URL is known for
URL was known as the Universal Resource Locator until it was changed in 1994 to Uniform Resource Locator. When referred to URLs that use the HTTP or HTTPS protocol, the URL – Uniform Resource Locator can also be called website address or web address. URL is also known as hyperlinks or locators.
Examples of URLs
When browsing, you might be used to just typing the domain name, for instance, Canva.com, but the full URL of that website is https://www.canva.com. The entire website address is known as the URL.
Let’s say you want to open a direct page of a website, you will need a super specific URL to do that. The example below shows the URL of the Google search console about us page.
https://search.google.com/search-console/about. Pasting this type of URL on your browser will automatically take you to the exact page you are looking for.
From the above example, you can see that both URLs have something in common, which is the https://. After which, the domain name is displayed with slashes and dots, which then leads you to a particular server.
Where is the URL located?
A URL can be found in the address bar or Omni-box at the top of a browser. The URL is visible while using your laptop or computer to browse. On your smartphone, you don’t get to see the URL while browsing, just the domain is visible because your phone size is quite small to display the full web link which contains the URL. You can only see the URL while on your smartphone when you change your browser to the desktop site or you tap the address bar.
For some platforms, like Youtube, Tiktok, Facebook, etc., you get to see the URL of that video or post when you want to share them with someone else. By clicking on share, the URL is then copied or sent.
Structure of a URL
URL is broken into different sections, and each piece has a specific function when you access a website.
FTP and HTTP URLs are structured in the same way. For instance, protocol://domainname/fileinfo. While accessing the FTP file, the URL will look like this; FTP://severname/folder/otherfolder/programdetails.docx. Other URLs on the web you see may have the same structure.
In order to explain each part of a URL, we will use the example below of an HTTPS address:
- https: is the Protocol, just like the FTP we explained earlier. It tells you the type of server that is used.
- tech: is the hostname used to locate the specific website.
- WordPress: is the domain name.
- Com: is what is known as the TLD – Top Level Domain. Other examples of TLD are .org, .ng, .net, .co.uk, .com.ng, etc.
- /2022/08/: is the directory used in organizing the web page or file.
- What-is-a-url.html: is the exact file the URL is leading you to. Instead of the HTML, you will see PNG OR MP3 if you are loading an audio file or image.
- wordpress.com: is known as the FQDN – Fully Qualified Domain Name.
Understanding the structure of a URL
The Protocol – HTTP or HTTPs
The first part of a URL which is either HTTP or HTTPS is known as the Protocol which the server uses to get data for you. HTTP is an unencrypted mode in which data is transferred through the internet. It is fully known as Hypertext Transfer Protocol. HTTPS, which is an encrypted and more secure way to transfer data through the internet, stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. When browsing, you can check if the website is secure to transfer your data by looking at this Protocol. HTTP is not secure, but HTTPS is secure for data transfer.
If you are browsing on a site that has HTTP as its Protocol, you will be warned against submitting sensitive information to that site. Since HTTP is seen as an unsecured way to transfer your data, it can affect a website’s ranking on Google negatively as Google wouldn’t recommend an unsafe website to its viewers.
The Domain Name and Domain Name System (DNS)
The domain name tells the browser the website you are heading to. In https://canva.com/, the domain name is canva.com. It helps the browser locate the website’s actual IP address and then takes you there. Without the Domain Name System (DNS), we will make use of numbers to surf the web. These numbers are the website IP. Simpler put, the DNS presents the website IP address in a simpler and more memorable form. In essence, we can easily remember canva.com but find it hard to always search 241.102.129.209.
As the name implies, the Path in a URL leads the searcher directly to a pathway they are in search of. The Path comes after the domain name in the URL and is before symbols like question mark or hashtag. In https://techformula.com/can-i-sleep-with-airpods, can-i-sleep-with-airpods is the Path.
An anchor in a URL is a specific link in a webpage that directs you to a specific part of that page. When browsing, and you ask a question, then you click a link that takes you to that specific part in the page that answers your question, you should know the anchor is in charge. The anchor comes after the hashtag.
The UTM parameters communicate more with your analytics software rather than affecting the visitor’s experience like the Anchor and Query strings do. They track how visitors got to a site, i.e., the medium they made use of.
If you run an ads campaign on your website on different platforms, the UTM parameter tells you the specific platform each visitor came from.
Query strings and Variables
Query in a URL comes after the question mark. It also includes variables that impact the visitor’s experience by communicating with the PHP. For example, in https://techformula.com/can-i-sleep-with-airpods?p=1234, the p there shows the variable of what the webpage is about. It means you are directed to a post. If you are directed to a website that has v as the variable, then you are to watch videos there, just like Youtube links.
A vanity URL is a shorter URL form of a long or complex URL. Vanity URL helps shorten URL so it can be memorable and simple. The shortened URL still directs you to the required page. To get a Vanity URL, you can make use of a URL shortener. URL shorteners provide a customized domain.
Have you been on a website where you might be asked to verify your mail or fill out a form in order to continue browsing on that page? Then after you complete the task, you are taken back to that initial page. That action is caused by a callback URL. A callback URL is, therefore, a URL that redirects you after completing an action on another website.
For more clarification, when you want to purchase a product or service on an e-commerce site, and you get to the section for payment, you will notice that a third-party payment processor comes up, and after making payment, to confirm the order, you will then be redirected by the callback URL to the e-commerce website to see what you have paid for or in case you want to search for more goods or services to buy.
URL is a unique address that leads you to a specific website or a specific page. This article explained what a URL is, the examples, how to understand it, URL structure, Vanity URL, and callback URL. If you have any questions on this topic, kindly leave them in the comment section below.
Thanks for reading!
Originally posted 2022-10-07 14:14:26.