URL Standards

The following URL standard defines the framework of the College of Agricultural Science's web-based infrastructure. The objective is to ensure that web-based information and services are structured in a consistent way that provides the most effective access to information for our target audience.


By hosting multiple URLs, we are lowering the relevance of our web sites to search engines, and presenting a divided College web presence due to a lack of a logical URL hierarchy, and by having too many URLs (250+ in 2008). For example, some units have:

  • A unit web site at [unit] and/or [unit]
  • A center website at [center]
  • Multiple smaller sites under [other-site] and/or [other-site]

If there are no links or unclear links from those sites back to the parent unit site, they look like separate web sites to our audience.  Search engines rank larger sites with more content higher than small sites with minimum content, so having many small sites lowers the ranking in search engine results for both the small sites and the large web presence.  This outweighs any possible gains that units may expect from having unique URLs for identity/marketing purposes.

The solution is:

  • [unit] as the unit site
  • [unit][other-site] for smaller sites within that unit. 
  • Centers contained entirely (or almost entirely) within a unit should use [unit][other-site]. 
  • Centers spanning multiple units and/or collaborations with other Colleges and having a large amount of content may opt to have a [center] URL.  Alternatively, they should be placed within the main AgSci site or a unit site.

In addition to simplifying navigation for our audiences, reducing the number of URLs will compel web site owners to consider how their site fits into the existing framework. Currently, some web site owners consider their sites as separate from the College, and this conflicts with the College's goal of presenting a unified web presence.

URLs are sometimes registered with the reason that [something] is shorter to type into the browser or to display in printed marketing materials. However, more than 80% of our external web traffic comes from search engines or links from other sites, not from someone typing a URL.  Since most people get to our sites via searching, the length of the URL does not negatively effect their ability to reach the content they seek.

The following standard has been created to unify the College web presence and enhance search engine rankings, while providing for unique URLs where they are warranted. This will help all of the sites in the College's web presence and create a better user experience for our visitors.



The number of domains will as limited as much as possible, with as the main College site. 

The other main domains are:

  • Penn State Extension -
  • Penn State Creamery -
  • Academic Departments:
    • - Agricultural & Biological Engineering
    • - Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education
    • - Animal Science
    • - Ecosystem Science and Management
    • - Entomology
    • - Food Science
    • - Plant Science
    • - Plant Pathology
    • - Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences

Audiences and Administrative Units

College audiences and administrative units will be subsites under the main College site.  For example:

  • - Future Students
  • - Alumni
  • - Conferences and Short Courses
  • - Grants and Contracts
  • - Ag Arena

Specific Areas

Under each of the domains listed above there are specific areas that may reflect groups, majors, research areas, offices, facilities, short courses, and locations. Each of these specific areas should not have their own domain, but should have a URL that is a combination of a domain name and a directory.

These are proper examples:


These are invalid examples:

  • (major, should be under main department domain)
  • (major, should be under main department domain)
  • (program, should be under main Extension)
  • (county site, should be under main Extension domain)


Centers or Institutes may not fit into the hierarchy above if they are an evenly distributed collaboration between different units, or other Colleges, Universities or organizations.  In these cases, they may have a URL directly under the domain.

Additional criteria to acquire a domains:

  • a nationally-funded service
  • project-funded with multiple external partners
  • aimed at commercial spin-off

This is a proper example:

  • - Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment

This is an invalid example:

  •  - Penn State Soil Management (made up of only CAS faculty/staff, should be under appropriate department or Extension)


URLs should be all lower-case letters and contain no spaces, or any URL-encoded characters. Dashes should be used instead of spaces and words such as "the", "a", "and", etc. can be removed.  However, longer words should not be abbreviated. For example, it is preferable to have slightly longer URL of 'summer-programs' than a cryptic one of 'smmr-prgrms'.

This convention includes files such as pdfs, although the use of pdfs should be kept to a minimum.

Key URLs (the first or second levels under the domain) should be short and memorable.

URLs should be consistent across College sites (/alumni, /futurestudents).

URLs should be intuitive to end-users, ie activity-oriented rather than organization or Web-server oriented.

URLs with directories should have an index page so they can be referenced without using a filename.

URLs should not repeat segments (for example, /research/news should be use rather than /research/research-news)

www should not be used in a URL.  However, a www.[site] redirect can be created to point to [site]

These are proper examples:


These are invalid examples:

  • (contains, mixed case, no default directory file)
  • (contains www, repeats 'program'.  Should be '/grad')
  • (space in filename, mixed case, repeats 'news')
  • (URL represents hierarchy of organization)
  • (www not needed)

Requests for new domains

Requests for new domains should be submitted through the Problem/Enhancement Request Form on the Web Services site within the Ag Communications and Marketing Unit. The Web Services group will work with IT on getting this URL registered if it does not fit within an existing URL.


The use of '' is being phased out.  No new URLs in this format will be created.

Standard Revisions

This standard is considered to be a "live" document and therefore the subject of revision at any time as determined by Ag Communications & Marketing


The term "URL" (Uniform Resource Locator) refers to a web address used to identify a particular resource on the College of Agricultural Sciences Web server. This is used interchangeably even when the term "URI" (Uniform Resource Identifier) may be more technically correct. A URL may be a domain or a combination of a domain and a directory.


This standard will not be applied retroactively given that many existing URLs do not follow this standard. All new web sites designed or redesigned in the College of Agricultural Sciences will follow this standard. New URLs requested for redirection purposes will follow the same standard as the target site.