What are URL parameters used for?
These parameters can be found in URLs, or links, and they're often mistaken as "words" that come after a pound sign. For instance: https://www.tutsplus.com/tutorials/?utm_source=Tuts+Press& utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=New+Year%27s+Eve . See it? Right there at the end of the URL! There's a question mark ( ? ), an exclamation point ( ! ) and two words surrounded by three hyphens ( -- ). These are all URL parameters.
In this article we will explain everything you need to know about these hidden characters in URLs, what they're used for and how you can make the most of them.
What is a URL?
A URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is a code that defines everything about a resource's location on the web, like its IP address and port number or the name of the file. It follows this structure: http://www.domain.com/file_name . We'll be talking more about formats later in this tutorial, but for now just keep in mind that URLs must always include one or several resources together with information about their location on the web.
URL Parameters explained
When we say "parameters" we're not referring to security settings, authentication methods, connection ports and other things we don't understand; we're talking about those parameters you see in URLs, like this one: ?utm_source=Tuts+Press&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=New+Year%27s+Eve .
When do I use a URL parameter?
URL parameters provide extra information about the resource being requested. This information can be useful for indexing, content personalization and tracking. Let's go through some examples to see how these codes work and what they're used for:
1) Used to track statistics of a site or blog by Google Analytics
Many blogs and sites use the query string parameter &__utmk as a tracker ID provided by Google Analytics. Even though there are other options, this is probably the most popular method because it's easier than doing everything manually.
&__utmk is usually preceded by the string utm_ , which stands for " unified tracking module ". If you want to learn more about how Google Analytics works, this tutorial should help you out . 2) Used to segment content
You can personalize blog posts using URL parameters, like in the example above where we included various options to choose from. You could use this method to turn that very long article into a multi-page post. It's also great for offering custom links where subscribers can receive different versions of your email newsletters depending on what they're interested in . For instance: http://www.tutsplus.com/subscription/html5/?utm_source=Tuts+Press& utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=HTML5 . 3) Used to filter requests on the server
Anyone who browses through different websites using their smartphone knows how annoying it can be to visit a website and find out you can't comfortably read it. To avoid this problem and provide a better browsing experience, websites can include special parameters for smaller devices .
5) Used to personalize content
You can assign user IDs so you will know which users are visiting your website or blog at any given time. If you're working on an ecommerce site that has more than one page of products, then URL parameters would be extremely useful since they enable you to remember what each customer has looked at previously within the same session , whenever they visit again. 6) Used to track social media campaigns
Format: ?source=twitter&medium=post&campaign=hashtag& term1=value1&term2=value2 if we want to create custom links for our social media campaigns or for URLs that will be shared on social networks, we can use this format to include parameters. This way if clients share the link on Twitter, it'll appear as follows: https://twitter.com/share?text=SEO+for+Beginners&url=https://www.tutsplus.com/course/seo-basics/?utm_source=tutsplus&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=seo .
There are also other types of parameters aside from the ones mentioned above, but these are some of the most common ones you're likely to find in your travels across the web. As with everything else, there are pros and cons of using them so make sure that if you decide to use a certain parameter, it matches your expectations.
URLs with parameters can be found on basically every website, blog and project using an API . They're especially useful when comes to SEO because this way you have a chance of knowing which keywords are most relevant for a particular page or post. That's why I often look at the URL of the articles I read to see what kind of data is being included so I can adjust my own content accordingly.
I hope this article has been helpful in understanding how URL parameters work! If you have any questions or would like to leave your comments below, do not hesitate to do so! See you next time!
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