What is a URL Parameter?

A URL parameter is a method for passing data to web applications by placing variables in the URL. These parameters begin after the "?" character in the URL and contain the name of the parameter followed by the equals sign and its value. Each parameter is separated using the "&" character.

For example, in the URL https://example.com/?product_category=2934802&sort=asc&page=2, we can see 3 parameters:

  • product_category, with the value of “2934802”

  • sort, with the value of “asc”

  • page, with the value of “2”

These parameters can be interpreted by the web application to render the page or store data in a specific way. In the example above, the product_category likely determines which type of products are displayed, sort determines the sort order, and page determines the page.

By passing the product ID as a URL parameter, the web application knows to retrieve this product's information from the database on display it on the page. It also knows to sort the other products on the page ascending (using the parameter "sort=asc"), and to start on page 2 ("page=2").

What Does "Too Many URL Parameters" Mean?

In general, it's usually a good idea to avoid using URL parameters unless necessary. However, if there is a good reason for using them, try to use as few as is necessary. Pages with 4 or more URL parameters will be listed as having too many.

Why It's Important

URL parameters can be very useful, but too many of them in a URL can cause issues with SEO and user experience:

  • If not handled correctly, multiple URL parameters can create duplicate content issues

  • Having too many parameters tend to make URLs ugly. They can be difficult for humans to read, type, or remember, and are often overly long.

  • It’s sometimes harder to use keywords in the URL when using parameters

For example, which of these looks better? Which is better optimized with targeted keywords?

How To Fix

There are several things that you can do to avoid using too many URL parameters:

  • Minimize the number of parameters by eliminating duplicate, unnecessary, or empty parameters from the URL.

  • Use server-side URL rewrites to convert them into static, human-readable URLs

If you cannot remove or minimize the number of parameters in the URL, you should work to avoid duplicate content by using the rel="canonical" tag.

A Word of Caution

When making changes to many URLs of existing pages on your site, it's important to remember that this process can be tricky and potentially risky if not done correctly. If the changes are not made correctly, it could result in the de-indexation or lower ranking of pages on your site. Therefore, the relatively small benefits that come from undertaking these changes may or may not be worth it for your site.

The process for fixing URLs on your site depends on multiple factors and is too detailed to list here. Instead, remember a few important principles when updating many or all of the URLs on your site:

  • Create a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new one for every page that is being updated

  • Be sure to update all links on your site to point to the new URLs instead of the old ones.

  • Test extensively before rolling out the change on your production server.

  • Update and submit your XML sitemap.

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