URL Structure – The Parts of a URL Explained

If you want to nerd out on the parts of a URL and what the best permalink URL structure is for your website or blog, you’re in the right place.

I get asked often from clients what the best permalink structure is for a website and my answer is “it depends.”

Great answer I know, but it’s true. It depends on how many potential pages you’re going to have and it depends if you’re publishing time sensitive content.

The blog URL

For most of you reading this, /blog is the ideal structure for your blog because it gives a nice site architecture to your website. It makes it easy to differentiate pages and posts for Google.

Here are the most common URL structures people use with WordPress:

/post-name – This one is good, but it’s only ideal if your website will not have a lot of pages of content. You could totally create a blog with hundreds of pages of content and be fine using this structure, it’s just not ideal.

/date/post-name – This one should only be used if your content is time sensitive. otherwise, don’t include the date as it makes your URL’s pointlessly long.

/category/post-name or blog/category/post-name – This URL structure is ideal for websites that will have thousands of pages of content. It works because you’re able to make each category into it’s own “mini site” via the URL structures. A good example of website that does this is  ThePennyHoarder.com.

They have categories like “parenting” and under life they have subcategories like “travel” but it’s travel related to being a parent.

This structure works for huge websites because you don’t want blog posts competing for keywords on your website. You don’t want two pages about buying “car insurance” or something. But if you have one page that is /parenting/car-insurance and retirement/car-insurance those two posts are going after a different keyword and audience.

Why /blog is best for most bloggers

It simply helps with organizing the site structure and explaining to Google’s crawlers what is a static page on your website and what is a blog post. Does this mean that static pages are more valuable? NO. It’s all about organizing your website so every page gets crawled, indexed and hopefully ranked where it belongs.

What blogs do this?

NielPatel.com uses “blog” in his URL’s and he gets millions of visitors a month.

Moz.com does so too and it’s one of the most popular SEO blogs in the world.

It’s a useful structure when you start to have static pages like services, products and resource pages. It helps Google’s crawlers index blog post more easily for specific keywords and phrases too.

The Important Parts of a URL Your Should Know

With the ideal permalink structure out of the way, let’s talk about the parts of a URL you should know as a blogger.

http:// Protocol

This part is called the “protocol.” You want to have https as it indicates your website is secure. Most web hosts offer a free SSL certificate through let’s encrypt.

blog.website.com

In this url “blog” is the name of the sub domain for website.com. Sub domains should be used only if the sub domain is going to be distinctly different from the website as sub domains are treated as separate web properties by search engines.

So don’t make a sub domain your blog. It’s a bad idea.

A common example of a sub domain you may be familiar with would be maps.google.com.

forums.website.com/about

The “about” is a web page found within the sub domain website (not on the root domain). So you could have another about page found at website.com/about.

website.com/about

“About” is a web page found on the root domain.

website.com/blog/parts-of-a-url

In this instance blog is the top level directory and then it’s followed by a post title.

Website.com – Root Domain

This is known as the domain name or more specifically, the root domain.

Domain Extensions

The last part of a domain name is the extension. Extensions are broken up into top level domain names like .com, .net, .org and .co as well as country code specific domain names like .ca for Canada.

For a website with a broad appeal, go with a top level TDL like a .com. If your website is country specific then go with .co.uk or .ca.

Parts of a URL Example

 So let’s break apart and explain this URL: http://en.ilovecoffee.jp/posts/view/29 

  • http:// is the protocal.
  • en is the sub domain. Stands for English as the website is in Japanese.
  • ilovecoffee is the domain name.
  • .jp is the TLD, in this instances it’s the country code for Japan.
  • /posts/view: “posts” are the top level directory and “view” is the second level directory. Having “view” as a directory is a mistake, but whatever. It’s not my website.
  • /29 is the name of the web page. You should give your pages keyword specific words, not numbers.

So what we have here is a Japanese language website about coffee with a sub directory called “en” for any English language published content. This is the ideal use of sub domains (e.g. content that is different from the main site, in this instance the main site is in Japanese).

When to Use Child Pages

Child pages are useful too and create a useful URL structure. They are ideal to use when you have one page that is related to another page but more specific. For example:

Website.com/products/product-name.

This is ideal if you have multiple products for sale and want to organize them all under on page product and to give each on their own.

I’ve also done this numerous times with the basic tutorials on this website.

This structure makes sense because the child page is related to the parent page but is way more detailed and specific about a topic.

When to use Blog Posts

A good rule to follow is that if a piece of content can be organized into a category within WordPress then you should publish that content as a blog post under a category instead of as a page.

Categories help indicate to search engines what your website is about and help build out deep internal linking for your website naturally.

Avoid Stop Words and Special Characters in URL’s

Stop words are things like “a” or “in” and “the” as an example. An example of this would be:

website.com/drive-a-car

A better URL would be:

website.com/drive-car

You may disagree, but it’s best not to use stop words. Search engines are sophisticated enough to understand what your content is about. The words in your URL should be the most descriptive words. No stop words needed.

Lastly, don’t use special characters in your URL’s. The only ones acceptable are to use a dash or a hyphen.

What about tags in WordPress?

I don’t use tags. They don’t fit into any logical hierarchical and don’t seem to do anything other than create a lot of unhelpful pages.

If you’re set on using tags, then tags should be a specific topics within a category that you will cover a few times across your website. So maybe your category is “Ford trucks,” and you’re going to be publishing 100+ blog posts on Ford Trucks. A potential tag would be “Ford F-150” because a few posts are about that specific truck.

Tags are WordPress only feature and I find that they simply complicate your website.

Categories and sub categories

Categories should one to three words long and be related to your websites topic. You can use as many categories as you like but I would keep your categories to a minimum.

Categories should be broad topics related to your websites topic.

Parts of a URL Conclusion

Your websites architecture and structure are important for your websites SEO as well as the end user experience. Keep things logical, simple and well organized.