In this digital age, every business online wants one thing: to be more noticeable to their audience and the search engine. As with hundreds of thousands of similar businesses online, making your business more prominent is the only way you can multiply your traffic flux. When potential customers notice your website and your website content captivates their interest, chances of improvement in your conversation rate are more promising. A better conversion rate always leads to better revenue generation. All this can be possible with only one thing: a comprehensive SEO strategy, But SEO is not a simple game. A comprehensive SEO strategy results from many keening calculated right moves and techniques. You need to consider various details to make your website rank better in search results through SEO. One of these various important factors is canonical tags.
Here, we will unfold the mystery of canonical tags for you and talk about each fine detail related to it. So you can make a more robust SEO strategy for your business because the right SEO strategy can put your business at the top spots in search results, making it more prominent for the users. Also, SEO strategy helps you make your business more creditable for the search engine. And when you gain the trust of the search engine, your target audience will also trust you. And hence, it can improve your website traffic flow. So, let’s get started on canonical tags.
What are Canonical Tags in SEO?
Do you know that there might be many versions of your website? Interesting right. But how can the search engines be sure about which version is the original version? That’s where the role of canonical tags kicks in. canonical tags are little HTML code that helps the search engine to figure out which version of the page is the main version from many other identical pages.
Canonical tags help the search engine determine the page you want to appear in search results. It helps the search engine figure out which version of a page it wants to index and rank.
It also contributes to maintaining page rank equity. But the question that might come to everyone’s mind here is why this little HTML code matter so much in SEO. Well, let’s dig in to find the answer to this question.
Why does Canonicalization Matter?
Duplicate content can create many problems at so many levels and can ultimately affect your SEO strategy. And you surely don’t want that. It makes canonicalization matters a great deal. Here are some reasons why it is crucial for a sound SEO strategy:
- Canonical tags are essential because when the search engine crawls through pages with duplicate or almost identical content, it is more likely to miss the unique content on your web pages.
- It is also essential to canonicalize because duplication of content might affect the ranking ability, and the abundance of duplication may also result in its dilution.
- Duplicate content can still be a problem even though your content is ranked. Because the search engine might pick the version of the page instead of the original one you want to show. Canonicalizing helps reduce this risk and makes the search engine pick the correct version of the page.
These were some reasons that make canonicalization such a big deal for SEO. Let’s elaborate on the importance of canonicalization with some examples.
Examples of URLs/Pages That Need Canonical Tag
On the surface, duplicate content might not seem like a big problem, but it can cause a lot of complications for your SEO strategy. We, humans, perceive duplicate content quite differently from the search engines. To us, Every URL of a web page is similar, but the search engine treats every URL as a different page. Let’s dissect this matter further with the help of an example:
Consider the above-given links. For a human mind, all these URLs are for one page, but the search engine will treat them all as different pages. It is why you need to canonicalize so the search engine can crawl through the pages correctly and rank the correct version of your page. Canonicalization is becoming more crucial with modern management systems. Some websites automatically add tags or several different pathways to a single piece of content, which blurs the lines between the original and duplicate content and can affect the relevance and ranking of your content.
Benefits of Canonical Tags in SEO
We are sure that the example discussed above has somehow changed your perspective about duplicate content. Canonical tags are getting quite significant in the modern SEO scene. They can benefit your SEO strategy in many ways and ultimately help you rank better in search results. Let’s have a look at some of its benefits:
Help to Manage Syndicated Content
Canonicalization helps the search engine figure out which website contains the original version of content and which one syndicates it. For example, in common SEO practice, sometimes, a website chooses another website to publish its content and link. Without using canonical tags, it would be difficult for the search engine to pick the original website and display it in search results. This problem can be swiftly resolved by using canonical tags.
You don’t want google to waste its time and resources on crawling through the duplicate content that you don’t want it to crawl. Adding canonical tags helps google to spend their efforts on crawling through the pages that are actually important to you and contain the content you want the search engine to crawl through
Consolidate page rank
A common problem in SEO practice is that the duplicate pages might get backlinks from other websites or social media platforms. In addition, it makes the duplicate pages get a share of page rank, which might affect the page rank of the original page version that you want to get ranked. Adding canonical tags can help transfer all the page equity to the single URL.
How to Add Canonical Tags?
As the fact that canonicalization is essential is quite developed now, let’s move on to the next step. And it is how to add canonical tags. There are two approaches to moving forward with canonicalization. The first one is page to page basis. In his approach, you have to add rel=” canonical” tag to the duplicate page and point them to the original version. You have to visit every duplicate page and add tags for this approach. It might cost you a lot of time and resources, especially for larger and more complicated websites.
It is why the second approach is pretty much preferred. In this approach, you can use many tools available in the market that automatically add canonical tags.
Best Practices for Canonical Tags Implementation
Undoubtedly, adding canonical tags is pretty simple, but there are so many things to take care of in this respect. Adopting some simple practices can make canonical tags implementation more manageable and effective. Here are a few of these practices:
Use Self Referencing Canonicals
Excellent practice in canonicalization is to use self-referring canonicals. It means adding canonical tags on the original version of the page pointing itself. It’s not a mandatory step, but doing it can help the search engine ensure other canonical versions are present.
Use Absolute URLs
An absolute URL is a URL that contains the complete address of the page. Using absolute URLs in canonical tags can give an excellent impression to the search engine. As it can help the search engine effectively interpret the tag. It also helps you to avoid some minor mistakes. Here is a simple example of using an absolute URL in the canonical tag
<link rel=” canonical” href=” https://www.abc.com
This canonical tag has an absolute URL and leaves no room for google to misinterpret it.
Use Lower-case URLs
Google, when it comes to URLs, is case-sensitive. As a result, URLs’ upper- and lower-case letters are treated differently. So, to avoid inconsistency, it’s always better to use lower case letters in URLs. In addition, it helps the search engine to understand that there is no duplication issue.
Canonicalize Cross-Domain Duplicates
Canonical tags not only point to your page’s original version from your domain only, but they can also point to your original page from other domains. You might have duplicate content present on the different websites too. To figure out this problem, you must add self-referencing canonicals and add canonical tags on external pages pointing out the original page.
What to avoid with Canonical Tags?
As we have discussed, some canonical tag practices are encouraged. But when it comes to canonicalization, many things need to be avoided at all costs. So let us look at what those factors are:
Multiple Canonical Tags on Single Page
It would be best to keep a keen eye on multiple canonical tags in the HTML of a page. It might occur seldomly but can confuse the search engine is choosing the original page. And can ultimately affect your SEO strategy.
Avoid Canonical Tags on non-Duplicates.
Another thing that is super important for canonical tags is that you must ensure that you are only applying canonicals tags on the page, which are either identical or are almost the same. The search engine might ignore your canonical signal entirely if you have applied canonical tags on completely different or non-duplicate pages.
Canonical on Paginated Pages
Paginated pages contain content based on several individual pages not consolidated as one by the search engine. In the case of paginated pages, one must use self-referencing canonical tags on each page.
Don’t Block Canonicals Via Robots.txt.
Robots.txt file helps the search engine to crawl through your pages. It is why you should never block canonical tags in the robort.txt file. Blocking them can result in preventing the search engine from seeing the canonical tags pointing to the original page.
Don’t Use Canonical Tags in the <Body> Section.
The only place to apply canonical tags is in the head section. Using canonical tags in the HTML body will only end up in the search engine ignoring it, so if you don’t want the search engine to ignore your canonical signals, never use them in the body section.
What is the Difference between Canonical and Redirect (301)
Canonical tags and redirect 301 on the surface might seem to produce a similar outcome, and that is to help users see the original version of the page. But they are quite different in functionality. Redirect 301 will always take a user from one page to another without the user visiting the first page. But canonical tags leave the possibility of the user visiting both pages. So, using both canonical tags and redirect 301 depends on the outcome you require.
That was a detailed discussion about canonical tags and their significance for a comprehensive SEO strategy. We have also shown the light how you can add canonical tags, some practices that should be adopted, and what things you need to ignore at all costs. We hope that this article will help you unravel the mystery of canonical tags so you can boost your SEO game and elevate your ranking in search results.