Parameters are an integral part of how sites, and by association, their URLs, are structured. URL parameters are some of the main ways that content can be filtered, organized, and presented to the user. Due to their ability to also serve as tracking information, they are also an excellent tool in the hands of qualified SEOs, developers, marketers, and analysts. Because of their great utility, here at Big Leap, we wanted to take a moment and help you understand exactly how to identify a parameter and help you learn all the ways you use your identified parameters.
Let’s talk about that first question in the title, what are URL parameters? Simply put a URL parameter, according to Google, is a way to pass information about a click through a URL. Basically, that’s what a URL parameter is, the evidence that a user made a specific click on a page that necessitated the creation of a parameter. This could be because the user clicked on the search button after typing in what they wanted to look for, it could be a result of clicking on an available filter next to a list of products. It could even be that the user clicked on, something that you are specifically tracking and so to help you identify those users, you created a custom tracking parameter. There any number of uses for a URL parameter.
How Do You Identify a URL Parameter?
To identify a parameter in a URL, you need to look for a question mark and an equals symbol within a URL.
Take this URL for example: http://example.com?productid=1234
In this case, the “?” denotes the start of the parameter. The term “productid” is in of itself the parameter and in this case is designated as a product ID number. The “=” is the defining characteristic of the parameter, which in this case is that 1234 is the specific product ID number that is being looked for.
Another common URL parameter is the search parameter which is usually denoted by a “q” or an “s” like this:
Most websites nowadays have some form of search function so you can bet that you have seen or will see these at some point in your life.
Now, I’d like to address the second question implied in the title of this post. How you can take advantage of URL parameters. For this post, I am going to focus on expounding upon what was briefly discussed in our post about Google Search Console which can be found here.
Specifying the behavior of your URL parameters in Search Console can be a key factor in optimizing your crawl equity, and ensuring that the content on your site of greater priority gets indexed quickly and efficiently.
Search Console allows you to specify what a URL parameter does, and tell Googlebot how you want URLs with that parameter treated during a crawl of your site. You let Googlebot decide how to handle the URLs with the parameter be crawled, you can select that only one be crawled, or you can omit all such URLs from the crawl.
Remember that search parameter I gave as an example earlier, well we have had a lot of clients that had never specified their parameters in Google Search Console and will have thousands and thousands of URLs that only pertain to searches that don’t need to be crawled. By specifying that you remove a potentially large number of future URLs from your crawl equity.
Now I’m not suggesting that you just go and haphazardly remove all URL parameters from your crawl, but I am definitely advising that you take a good look at your URL specifications in Search Console and see if there are any optimizations you can make.