Canonical

What is a canonical

A canonical tag is an HTML element which indicates to Google or other search engines that a specific page should be seen before another one that has the exact same content. By using this tag, you will automatically hide the other pages from search engines, but still keep them visible to visitors.

But why do we need to do this? Well, one of the top SEO best practices for any website that wants to raise their rankings is… to avoid duplicates! So by telling Google which page to look at, we will prevent them from penalizing our site for having duplicate content. Sounds logical, right?

This being said, as SEO experts, we first want to find and track all the duplicated pages that need to implement this rel=canonical on their HTML header. Secondly, we will need to make sure that our site doesn’t have wrong canonicalizations, and fix them (don’t worry, we’ll get there). Ultimately, we want to see a clear structure with zero –visible- duplicates.

 

What is a canonical tag in SEO?

As we already mentioned, a canonical is a tag that we place on the HTML header of each of the duplicated pages, which indicates to search engines which one of the duplicated pages they should pay attention to. But why are canonicals important for SEO? Every search engine optimizer cares about how Google crawls and indexes its pages, which is why we constantly conduct website audits, to detect issues and fix them.

Websites have to offer quality and original content. Search engines understand that sites that have duplicate content do not provide relevant information to their visitors and therefore do not rank them as highly.

Duplicate content arises regularly for multiple reasons, for example:

  • Wrong URLs = www non-www
  • Trail slashes = mypage.com/home Vs. mypage.com/home/
  • Secure pages = https Vs. http

As this is a major problem, we want to avoid generating these types of pages, and fix as many of the existing ones as we can, by adding a canonical tag to them. Sometimes, avoiding them is impossible, so the canonicals will have to be implemented from day one.

Let’s have a look at some canonical uses:

Example 1: You’re running a C2C e-commerce website, and three different users are selling an iPad Mini 16GB, so they will most probably copy the description of an existing one. So to avoid duplicate content we will have to prioritize one of them.

Example 2: When there’s pagination for the same category and you don’t want number 2, 3, 4, etc. to be indexed. You will have to apply a canonical to direct search engines to the main page (see how to apply the code below.)

Example 3: You’re selling some shoes and you have a pair of cool leather boots. The issue here is that you will want to place them under the “boots” category and the “leather” category; but it is the same page, twice. So you will have to tell Google which one is more important.

 

What is canonicalization?

But how do SEO specialists choose the main canonical URL? Canonicalization is the process of picking the URL that will be prioritized. Every SEO Specialist has their own strategy, but generally, we will look at the visits, the structure (prioritizing the pages closer to the home), the number of incoming links, the authority, and so on.

Beware of non-matching canonicals because they can cause a canonical loop; meaning your site will confuse the Google bot. Always make sure that your canonicals are well implemented, pointing to existing pages, and with a 200 status code (avoiding any redirect codes).

To ensure correct implementation, you’ll have to analyze your website with an SEO Crawler. FandangoSEO can be a great ally for doing this. With our tool, you’ll be able to identify all your canonicals, see if there are any duplicate pages that don’t have them or if they are pointing to a wrong URL. The platform will help you fix any issues using the in-app instructions! 🙂

 

How to use canonical tags

Now, let’s get into the topic with a more technical approach. We’ve been talking about tags and URLs, but… what does this actually look like?

Easy. Type the preferred URL in this tag:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.original-URL.com/”/>

IMPORTANT: You need to paste this same code in all three pages, in the HTML header.

Back to example number 2: E-commerce websites list products by displaying them in different pages in order to avoid overloading a page, be more user-friendly and to have a good site speed. So first of all we will need to add a canonical tag that points all pages (/1, /2, /3, etc.) to the URLs’ master page.

Afterwards, we will want to pass the link juice through these pages by adding the rel=“next” and rel=“prevtags.

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/product”>

<link rel=”next” href=”http://www.example.com/product-variation-1″ />

For the first variation page (product-variation-1), you want to add these tags:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/product”>

<link rel=”prev” href=”http://www.example.com/product” />

<link rel=”next” href=”http://www.example.com/product-variation-2″ />

For the second variation page (product-variation-2), you want to add these tags:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/product”>

<link rel=”prev” href=”http://www.example.com/product-variation-1″ />

<link rel=”next” href=”http://www.example.com/product-variation-3″ />

 

Ready to fight your duplicate content?

Check canonicals now

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