SEO glossary: URL parameters

In a nutshell: What are URL parameters?

URL parameters extend URLs and thus provide additional information or add additional functions to websites. URL parameters are always placed at the end of a URL and introduced with a question mark. This is followed by the key and the value as mandatory components of a parameter. For example, a key-value pair can be used to perform certain filter functions in product lists.


Definition and know-how to get started: URL parameters contain variables and values

URL parameters are appended to URLs and add additional functions to a URL. While the URL without parameters is simply the address of a website, the URL with parameters is the address of a website with additional information.


Information that is queried via URL parameters includes, for example, the origin of the website visitors and filter functions. The origin of website visitors can be synonymously referred to as the origin of traffic and is an extremely important aspect in search engine optimization (SEO ).


Key-value pair as the basis for the URL parameters

URL parameters always consist of one or more key-value pairs. More information on the structure and appearance of URL parameters can be found in the following section. First for theoretical understanding: The key is a variable, the value represents the value of this variable.


URL parameters are widely used in online stores. There they are used to filter search results by filtering products according to a criterion (e.g. color, brand) and assigning a value. For example, "blue" would be a value for the "color" variable. The value "Bugatti" could be selected for the "Brand" variable.


Use of URL parameters in different areas

URL parameters are added to the actual URL (or the actual page name) so that a modified page is displayed. Apart from being used to filter products in online stores, the use of URL parameters has become established in the following areas, among others.


  • Page navigation: Some blog or specialist articles comprise several pages. The URL of the entire article is extended by the variable "page" and the desired page number for navigation. The page number is then the value for the variable.
  • Tracking and analysis: For SEO, it is important to know the origin and other aspects of website visitors. The UTM parameters are helpful here.
  • Affiliate parameter: The referral variable can indicate from which website a visitor comes to another website. In affiliate marketing, the commission for referring new customers via partner websites can be calculated in this way.


URL parameters are also used in other areas. The crawlers of search engines such as Google also use URL parameters. When crawling websites, tracking links and for other purposes, crawlers are guided by the URL parameters.


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Structure and appearance of URLs with parameters

URL parameters are always introduced with a question mark. There is no character at the end of URL parameters. Now that the question mark is known as the starting point of the parameters, there are only two further components to mention: the equals sign "=" and the separator "&".


As a reminder, URL parameters consist of key-value pairs. The first variable is written directly after the question mark. The equals sign is used to assign a value to the variable of the key-value pair.


An example: If the variable is "page" and the value is 4, the fourth page is displayed under the URL. Of course, this key-value pair only works for websites that combine several pages under one URL. This could be the blog and specialist articles already mentioned, which comprise several pages.


In addition to the equals sign, which combines key and value and is therefore a mandatory component of URL parameters, there is an optional component in the form of the separator "&". The separator is used to combine two parameters with each other. In this case, the two key-value pairs are separated from each other by using the separator.


Here is another example: In online stores, products are often filtered according to several criteria. This means that several variables must be queried at the same time, which in turn requires the use of several URL parameters. To sort the list of products in ascending order by price, you would use the variables "sort" and "order".


As you can see, no spaces are used in the structure of URL parameters. In general, spaces have no place in URLs. Only in rare cases do spaces appear in URLs, for example when they are set automatically by the content management system (CMS).


Normally, spaces in URLs must be bypassed by encoding. There is a special feature for URL parameters. If a space is to be set, it may not only be replaced by the character combination "%20", unlike the rest of the URL, but also by the character "+".


Meaning and variants of URL parameters in SEO

Now that the meaning, use and structure of URL parameters have been discussed, here are some explanations of URL parameters in SEO. As a professional SEO agency in Munich, we at Specht GmbH focus on the aspects of search engine optimization.


From an SEO perspective, knowledge of the UTM parameters is most important. UTM is the abbreviation for "Urchin Traffic Monitor", which has no meaningful equivalent in German. In online marketing and especially in search engine marketing, the term "UTM" is always used. All UTM parameters are used to measure advertisements.


Examples of UTM parameters are "utm_source" and "utm_medium". The UTM parameter "utm_source" tells advertisers the source of the traffic on their site. Advertisers use "utm_medium" to find out which medium users have clicked on in the ad.


These two combined UTM parameters are an example of how advertisers can use two parameters to find out which users come to their website via Facebook and click on the banner ad.


Apart from measuring the effect of advertisements, it should be noted in the context of SEO and URL parameters that duplicate content can occur between the individual URLs. For example, the different URLs still have the same or very similar content despite the changed URL parameters. If content is duplicated, there is a risk of it being rated as duplicate content.


Duplicate content can result in penalties from search engines. Canonical tags can be used to alert crawlers to duplicate content and prevent penalties. They are used to set a canonical tag as a reference to the original page of the content. Webmasters place the canonical tag in the header of every page that contains duplicate content compared to the original page.

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Conclusion: What are URL parameters?

URL parameters add additional information to URLs so that modified content is displayed on the respective website. By using one or more key-value pairs to formulate a URL parameter, SEO experts and webmasters can comprehensively monitor and analyze their advertisements.

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