Canonical URL (rel = canonical) may sound like a camera produced by Canon, but it’s not. The origin of the term Canonical is derived from the source word canon, and collectively developed from the Latin term cononicus, and was a connotation related to belief throughout the medieval period. However, in terms of the Internet, canonical URL is essentially something that is defined as the search engine welcoming URL tag that you actually want the search engines to regard as authoritative. Meaning, a canonical URL is the URL that you want visitors to see. The rel=canonical link element was introduced by Google, Bing and Yahoo!. While the idea is simple, the specifics of how to use it are somewhat complicated especially for non-technical people.
Normally, to a certain extent canonical URLs are utilized to tag the homepage. Most URLs are treated more or less the same. The examples below represent how a standard URL may be seen by people as showing the same website:
SEO & Canonical URL’s
For the most part, every one of them is very diverse URLs, but to a search engine the fact that they all represent the same thing, but are different can be challenging to say the least. When search engines have to choose between multiple unalike URLs such as the ones described above, it is a process called canonicalization; where the best URL should be picked to show to the search engines.
On a normal basis Google will try to select the best URL they believe is the source for that particular page. Be warned! They don’t always get it right. And because of this you could saddled with the notion that you have duplicate content on your site and that’s “no-no” with Google.
One of the simplest ways to avoid having your site accused of having duplicate content is to let the search engines and the users know which URL takes precedence. Redirection is an option. You could redirect every variant to your canonical URL (all that you want to be the authority). Another way is to add to add a tag to your content. This is known as a canonical tag. Canonical tags give you the say as to which content the search engines (and users) to see.
When you have two URLs that point to the same page, as in the examples shown below, the search engine robots might go to the exact same product page. Because of this, Google thinks there are two pages with the same content.
Canonical URLs are used to prevent this. Google recognizes this page as the “official” URL of the website because it crawls the page. This particular URL will get indexed rather than the URL used to access the page. As such, use the rel=canonical link element to designate your preferred URL. You could also use a sitemap to indicate your favored URL or a 301 redirect for an URL that isn’t canonical as well.
Remember, rel=canonical tags are generated once you build the product page and are not updated once you switch over to using your domain. You could edit your URLs if you would like your domain shown.
5 Common Errors from Faulty Canonical URLs
1. Positioning the Home Page as the Favored URL
• It is possible that a home page will be designated as the site owner’s preferred URL, although this is not a common occurrence. Having your home page crawled and indexed may not happen given that all the site’s canonical pages are directed toward your home page. As such, you stand the chance of having none of your pages indexed.
2. Applying Various Canonical Links
• Every page should have a single canonical link identified in the head, if not, every page will be disregarded. Sometimes this can happen because of improper search engine optimization plugins (developer error), faulty template or theme, or inadvertent operator oversight.
3. Injecting Rel=Canonical in the Body
• To the same degree as with using a number of canonical links, provided that your canonical link is found somewhere other than the head it is basically overlooked. To get around parsing concerns, the canonical link must come into view as early as possible in your head sector.
4. Utilizing Canonical Links on Paginated Outcomes
Websites that use on a regular basis revised featured articles or featured products, should not employ the rel=canonical tag on this particular page. The likelihood of having website’s page disregarded and not showing up in the search engines increases if the canonical links are applied the wrong way.
5. Using Canonical Links Instead of 301 Redirects
• A 301 redirect looks and functions almost exactly like a canonical link surface wise; however, their measuring abilities are completely different. As such, a 301 redirects all incoming traffic to an identifiable URL, whereas a canonical tag doesn’t. Still, both tell the search engines look at multiple URLs as a single page.
• It’s best to use a 301 redirect if the configuration of your website has been modified. The 301 redirect corrects bookmarks as well. For the benefit of the search engines, a canonical link is best used and needful to determine traffic to every URL on your site, especially if you have duplicate content on it.
For those who haven’t added canonical tags to your website, take the time to assess whether your site really needs them. In other words, is there duplicate content, are multiple URLs being directed towards the same content or product? These are just a few things to consider prior to creating your approach and how you intend to execute the plan. As a precaution, be aware that if your plan is not executed as it should be, you run the risk of not having any of your site’s pages indexed. This in turn could really sink your ranking.
I hope this helps you all to have at least a basic understanding of what canonical URL is. If you have some additional tips please feel free to add them in the comments section.