LET’S GET STARTED
- 1 What Is Canonical Tag?
- 2 Why Are Canonical URLs Important In SEO?
- 3 What You Get When Canonical Tags Are In Use
- 4 How To Use Canonical Tag?
- 5 Finding The Canonical URL Issues
- 6 Canonical Tags Best Practices
- 7 BONUS TIP
- 8 Conclusion
- 9 FAQs
Even after executing every SEO tactic, are you still not appearing in search engine results?
It’s conceivable that your website’s content isn’t canon, causing your strategy to be incorrectly summarized when search engines run their study.
Now, you’re probably wondering, what does “not canon” mean.
‘Not canon’ means not specific, that is your content is not a master content, which means it has created duplicate content (copies of the same content) on your website and each has its own URL.
For your information, this is the most common mistake that websites make nowadays.
Canonical Tags may have been around for a decade (since 2009), but due to a lack of awareness, their use to build Canonical URLs has still not gained ground yet.
Now, you don’t have to go and needlessly do research over this topic.
I would tell you ‘what, why and how’s of Canonical Tags and URLs in this blog and how they can help you boost your website.
Let’s first have a basic understanding of “Canonical URLs and Tags.”
What Is Canonical Tag?
Before I give a definition of Canonical Tag, let me first elaborate on what is Canonical URL.
Google gives the definition of Canonical URL,
“A canonical URL is the URL of the page that Google thinks is most representative from a set of duplicate pages on your site.”
From the above definition, it is clear that the search engine requires your web page’s URL for indexing but if you have duplicates, your site needs one that is the most representative.
Now, this “most representative” web page is what Google would call a “canonical URL” of your canonical content or page.
It is to be understood that either you can give a page its canonical value by tagging it or let Google analyze on it’s own.
Getting into the former scenario, we would now get to the technical side of canonical elements, i.e. a canonical tag.
The question of what is a canonical tag is simply answered as,
A canonical tag is an HTML tag element that helps search engines to avoid the canonical URL tag issues caused by the presence of identical or “duplicate” data.
Also known as a link tag, it is not similar to anchor text as it joins duplicate files to one single major page whereas anchor text helps URLs of different content connect within your website or with the others.
So, basically, a canonical tag tells Google that two or more URLs on your website are duplicates, or similar
Let’s discuss what is a canonical tag represented as and how it works in a canonical HTML tag.
To simply put, the canonical HTML tag is represented as “rel=canonical tag”. Here, the code puts a single webpage to be the main webpage that gets all the authority when crawled by your preferred search engine. Look at the picture given below,
This syntax of HTML canonical tag code directs the user and crawler from any alternative or duplicated page to the targeted content.
The full canonical tag code for this is,
<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://example.com/” />
In the above canonical tag code, example.com/ tells the search engine which preferred URL location you want the current page directed to, instead of the one that it is already on.
Why Are Canonical URLs Important In SEO?
By Google’s definition above, your canonical URL is the most representative URL that would help the search engine.
The major search engines (Google, Yahoo and Bing) realized that your content or product page had issues of unreliable URL and the metrics were affected due to the detection of multiple copies or URL of the similar content.
Now, they came together to sort this problem by introducing Canonical tags or Canonical URLs within HTML.
These new elements helped the search engine to directly analyze the major ‘content and product’ URL even when the search engines could detect multiple copies of the same.
Check out how my website uses a canonical tag within the website seen in the picture below.
Let’s see what the SEO guru, Matt Cutts has to say about this.
The rel=canonical tag syntax in the Head part of HTML tells search engines that the preferred location of this URL (the “canonical” location, in the search engine, speak) is the URL given above http://example.com/page.html instead of other URL of duplicate content.”
So, I hope now it is clear to you why the canonical tag is used.
Now, you must be thinking, you didn’t upload these multiple copies, then, why are search engines detecting them?
Well, this dilemma needs to be clear, let’s do it with a canonical URL example of a webpage,
You have a content page and one of your users clicked on an Ad with the URL: ‘awesome.com? Service = 9810 …’
And another user chooses a URL of the same content from your website’s Homepage, for which the URL is: ‘awesome.com/service/9810…’
You can see the differences within the URLs. Though the same content is provided by both due to several different paths taken by your user such as Ads, Home page, Anchor text, etc, the similar content has created different URLs for these different pathways.
So, this means whichever path is opted by your users directs them to the same content within your website but through different URLs which has created duplicate content, even if you are unaware of them.
Technically, your website has multiple URLs of the same content now.
The search engine bot analyses every URL on your website and analyses them.
Now, If you have given a canonical URL through canonical tagging, the search engine would consider it as the major representative URL of the content and would analyze your web page accordingly.
What You Get When Canonical Tags Are In Use
1) Choose the URL you want to see in search results.
2) Combine links for sites that are duplicate
3) Track metrics easily and in less time
4) Monitor data that has been duplicated
5) The Crawl time is reduced for the search engine
6) Results are faster than before.
But if you have not used a canonical URL, the search engine gets pinged which has created a problem for both the search engine and your website,
Firstly, Google is confused as to which web page URL should be taken as the major representative for similar content,
And secondly, your website would be caught in the crossfire of Google’s confusion if you don’t provide it with a canonical URL.
In this case, your preferred search engine would take the initiative, and let’s see what happens:
Google crawlers would become confused about the versions of the webpage that needs to be included or excluded when indexing your website.
Now, this confusion lasts a second and the search engine would select the best result of your user’s queries.
Your website could face serious consequences as your best content may be skipped while indexing or isn’t positioned as per your preference. Rather the URL of a low-ranking duplicate is ranked higher.
How To Use Canonical Tag?
The issue of Duplicate content has caused the Google search engine to ease its work by selecting one representative URL as we discussed above.
Since the search engine would only select a single website your risk of metrics being dissolved increases and it would rank you accordingly.
Now, as this has caused you enough problems with a dilution of your ranking factors by the search engine and your traffic has decreased, you now have to apply the canonical tags within your website’s code.
So, to avoid these non-canonical URL issues, use the measures given below while implementing canonical URLs for your duplicate and low-traffic sites,
Apply rel=canonical Directly In HTML
In the HTML, you use the link tag “rel=canonical” to tell google that your one URL is similar to the targeted URL and hence, should be considered as one.
This is applied in the head element of an HTML document and directs Google crawlers to analyze the URL you want to and thus, the search engine bots know which version to give analytical face value to.
Apply 301 redirect
The 301 redirect is a permanent reroute that gives the targeted page total link ownership and the new URL has the ranking power over the older or duplicate version.
The 301 redirect is the ideal approach for implementing redirects on your website in case of duplication and precisely clears the search engine to use the URL that you wanted to rank for.
C) Taking Google Search Console Help
Using parameter handlings on your website, such as those provided by Google Search Console, might be beneficial as it allows you to limit Google bot crawling to certain variations of URLs.
However, if you employ this canonical checker as your primary method, any modifications or restrictions you apply would solely affect Google only.
That is, Bing and other search engines would continue to scan your website based on the parameters they have set.
With these ways to implement canonical tags within your website, be consistent in working on which method suits you best, and then, let’s find out what type of issue can Canonical URL create, in the next section.
Finding The Canonical URL Issues
Now, as you are done with the implementation of the canonical URL and have prepared your worthy site for the crawlers, you also need to be conscious of the canonical URL issues.
So, let’s get started and work some issues out and find out what type of mistakes can happen when you are implementing Canonical tags,
Using Relative URLs
When you use the URL of your website, let’s say “www.orange.co…”, instead of using this you might have used orange.com whether when you tried to directly copy it from the address bar or when you wrote it mistakenly.
Using the relative URL while implementing the Canonical URL you have allowed Google to scan the duplicate content rather than the targeted one. Now, similar mistakes can happen with the use of HTTP instead of HTTPS.
Blocking Search Engine
Whether you use “robot.txt” or “content=“no index, follow” within the HTML, these allow search engines to browse a page’s links but prevent them from indexing these connections.
So, be warned that Google is against restricting crawl access to such duplicate material on your website.
Look at the picture below to understand how you blocked a crawler’s pathway.
You see, search engines want to search everything on your webpage. so, if you disallow them on even one of your web pages, it may not be a good idea because this could cost you your ranking and simultaneously your traffic as shown in the graph below.
So, you should always prioritize “rel=canonical tag” over the “robot.txt” HTML tag elements.
Deleting Non-Canonical Version
Your non-canonical version can be as effective as your canonical version because maybe you have been getting backlinks through them and your idea of cleaning your website may become a terrible idea as backlinking is also deleted as you cleaned them up.
Using 301 On Wrong Or The Duplicated Version
When you use 301, keep in mind the URL you are using must not be the wrong one, wrongly spelled, or is another redirect to another web page.
This could cause you serious issues such as the user may get on the wrong content or the page loading time has irritated your user.
Now, with all the mistakes that you can make when a canonical checker scans your website. You need to be aware of this one as this could give you three times more traffic than in the picture given below
So, you need to check whether the 301 redirect you used is not for the duplicated or wrong webpage so that when crawlers of search engines check your URLs they are directed to the ones you intended it to.
Canonical Tags Best Practices
With the mistakes are reviewed and checked by the canonical checkers such as Google Search Console, and Bing Webmaster Tools. You would probably require the best way to conduct such tagging.
So, here in this section, I would discuss the best practices of Canonicalization with you.
Self-Referential Canonical Tags
As the name suggests self-referential tags point towards themselves, though it’s obvious the major representative is the targeted one but it clears the confusion with the duplicates that exist.
Let me give you a canonical tag example:
If you have web pages X, Y, and Z that have duplicate content with different URLs. If you want to redirect the duplicates Y and Z towards X, the targeted link, you would use the canonical tag.
Similarly, you can use the canonical tag for the X web page itself as this provides the clear authority of the page.
Now look at the image below this is the source code of Amazon’s homepage,
Here, you can see how even amazon uses a self-referential tag within its homepage code which takes us to the next point of Best practices.
Advance Canonicalization Of Homepage
Similar to self-referential tags, the Homepage should also be canonicalized with its URL.
Now, this is done to avoid the common matter of duplicacy that occurs when an external website has backlinks to your website
This form of duplicacy is out of your control. So, what you can do is to put a canonical tag on the home page and put the URL of your homepage as “www.xyz.com”. Like my site uses within its home page as shown in the picture below.
Now, open your homepage HTML coding and put,
<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://example.com/” /> in the page coder.
What you did is put your homepage as the major representative of the duplicates created within your website and search engine crawlers rank your homepage.
One Canonical URL Per Page
To use canonical URL is a requirement of your website so that the search engine crawler would index your web pages while prioritizing the resultant metrics to the targeted page.
Now, this targeted page could only be one. So, don’t use canonical tags for more than one URL.
Avoid Cross-Tagging Or Wrong Redirects
While performing canonicalization, it happens that you have tagged your webpage A to the duplicate URL web page B. Now, if webpage A is already redirected to another webpage C.
Your users’ time has been wasted, plus your search engine crawlers are confused.
And pretty much this happens,
So, the annoyance of your visitor is obvious and so is their bouncing. Therefore, be careful when performing redirects or canonical tagging.
Use The Accurate Domain URL
When you are rel=canonical tagging your web page to the targeted one be careful as to provide the whole address of your web page.
Your website uses certain files such as pdf, documents, and others that are saved on your website storage cloud or from another website.
This is done to provide information and resourceful content to your user which is attached to your content.
You need to understand as they are part of your web page, these also need to have canonical tags, so that the value of the visits on these documents are also given to the canonical page.
Keep An Eye On Every URL
Whether it’s a slash at the end or www at the beginning or the HTTPS element initially. You need to take care of each element when performing canonical tagging.
The problem could even be a simple hyphen within the URL. Look at the picture given
As in the picture above, the user looks confused when your website or page’s URL directs them in two directions (on left), and well, a similar thing happens with search engine crawlers. So, it’s better to use canonical tags and keep both your user and search engine crawlers happy (on right).
A Targeted Web Page Does Not Need Canonicalization
It may happen that when you were using a canonical tag within your website to choose your targeted web page, you might have used the URL of the duplicated and the targeted page within each other.
Now, this can cause confusion for search engines.
So, rather than using a canonical URL for each, use only one canonical URL for every duplicate of the content.
A is the URL of the targeted web page and B and C are the URLs of duplicates.
Now for the canonical tag, you should use A for the canonicalization of the URL of web pages A, B, and C as it is the targeted webpage.
In the bonus tip, I would like to tell you about some tools to help you find and crawl your website and present you with issues of non-canonical URLs
Those tools are:
Look at the picture given below, here Moz tool provides you with URLs that do not have the representative link, that is they have no canonical tags to direct their authority to when searched by the Moz crawler.
Similar to these paid or free trial tools, there are some free-of-cost tools that check for plagiarism such as Screaming Frog, Sitechecker, and Copyspace.
These sites and extensions provide free SEO components to check duplicate content on your website and point out mistakes related to them such as wrongly redirecting, and cross canonical tagging.
Canonicalization is the most effective way to improve your website’s SEO.
Also, this saves time for your search engine while allowing it to crawl your website. The canonical tagging helps your target website to get the link equity metrics measurement at an absolute value rather than being diluted by the duplicate URLs.
Now, canonical tagging and URLs are not a tough idea to grasp, but it can be a little confusing when you are learning canonical tags for the first time.
That is why, I’ve provided you with the facts and material you need to understand about ‘what is a canonical tag’, ‘why a canonical tag is used, and some ‘canonical URL examples’ in this blog.
If you have any doubts or queries, you can comment below in the comment section and I would reply for sure!
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1. Is Canonical Tag Important For SEO?
A canonical tag is known as “rel canonical” and is a source code that indicates to the search engines that a master copy exists. It is used in SEO to help search engines index the content.
2. How Do I Use Canonical In HTML?
You can use rel= “canonical” link tag
To indicate a page is a duplicate of one another, you can use a <link> tag in the head section of HTML.
3. Should Every Page Have Canonical Tags?
To avoid duplication, you must have a canonical tag for every page.
4. How Do You Check rel= “canonical” tags?
You can check if the rel= “canonical” tags are set up correctly by conducting a detailed SEO audit.
5. How To Add Canonical Tag In Blogger?
Follow the steps to add a canonical tag in blogger:
1. Log in to your blogger account and select a particular blog.
2. Click on theme.
3. Click on the vertical three dots.
4. Click on edit HTML
5. Find the line, <b:includedata=’blog’name=’all-head-content’/>
in the header using the search feature. And if you find the code in the header, add this line
<link rel=’canonical’ expr:href=’data:blog.url’/> below it.