All you need to know about Canonical tags and how they enhance SEO

Being on the first page of Google can spell an entirely new era for your business and brand.

The first page on Google takes away 71.33% of the organic clicks. Guess how many clicks page 2 and 3 get?

A lowly 5.59%.

The number of clicks reflect the quantitative benefit, while the qualitative benefits are evaluated by the trust you have earned.

Is this website on the first page of Google? It’s bound to have what I need.

Every visitor is a potential lead, and each lead can convert into a lifelong customer for you.

Implementing SEO tactics would make you climb the ranking ladder, but our bet is – you missed one essential practice: Canonicalization.

Why canonicalization?

Canonicalization, which is implemented using the canonical tags, improves your website’s chances of being the first click on Google by:

  • Indicating to the search engine ‘crawlers’ that the page comes from another ‘master’ page, ensuring that Google doesn’t mark your content as plagiarized.
  • Telling Google which URL you would like picked as the original URL for displaying in search results (Why would Google display multiple URLs for a single page? More on this below!).

When a user types in a query, Google’s algorithm combs through its database to display the most relevant and authoritative web pages.

Non-canonicalization might make you rank lower in search results, even if you possess both relevant and authoritative information related to the user’s query. The crawlers won’t be able to decide which of the ‘duplicate’ pages to index resulting in your website being penalized.

The curious case of Uniform Resource Locators (URLs)

People arrive at your site through various channels.

Social media, referral links, and inbound references all generate a unique URL for the same page. Content management systems like WordPress allow multiple URL paths to access the same content. When Google crawls these paths, they could be recognized as separate pages having duplicate content.

 

For example, all of the following URLs finally end up on your homepage:

 

  • http://www.example.com
  • https://www.example.com
  • http://example.com
  • http://example.com/index.php

For crawlers, pages with similar addresses are not categorized as being the homepage, but are separate pages – with identical content.

That’s Plagiarism. That’s a big no no.

Your site might be teaming with hundreds of duplicate URLs (and turning off Google) without you even realizing it.

I spy Canonical tag

We’ll use the above URLs to demonstrate how to use the Canonical tag.

  • Pick the ‘master’ URL that will be the canonical link- a superlative link in terms of hits and visitors. All non-canonical URLs will point to this link.
  • Use the syntax for adding the canonical link. If we make https://www.example.com as the master link, then in the HTML code of all the other pages, we indicate this as follows:

<link rel= “canonical” href=”https://www.example.com” />

 

Merging multiple pages into a single page also, undoubtedly, makes Google’s life easier..

 

But where exactly to use the canonical tag? Keep an eye out for one of the following conditions:

 

  • Sharing syndicated content
  • When your website has a www and non-www version.
  • URLs having both http and https versions with the same content.
  • Different URLs for the same content.
  • Different tags and categories leading to the same content.
  • Various ports
  • Mobile website displaying the same content on different URLs.

But what about 301 redirects?

With 301 redirects, your user goes from page A to page B without ever knowing what page A was like. With page B’s link acting as the canonical link, users will be able to visit both the pages and the crawlers will know who the MVP is.

Always choose to do a redirect unless it hampers user experience. In such cases, use a canonical tag.

Canonicalization on fleek!

As you set out to canonicalize your entire website, keep these pointers in mind for maximum positive results:

Homepage tutelage

There are numerous duplicate pages for the home page, and visitors land on it through different pathways. Put a canonical tag on your homepage template to avoid this problem.

 

Clarity

Search engines might misapprehend your canonical tags if they lack clarity. This means you shouldn’t canonicalize page A->page B and then canonicalize page B->page A. Don’t create chains (A->B, B->C, C->D), and don’t canonicalize page A->page B only to redirect page B-> page A. Confusing, correct? Yep, just think about the search engine’s confusion now. To avoid this, make your Canonicalization simple and clear.

 

Canonicalize without borders

If other websites publish your content, you can add a canonical link to point back to the original article. Conversely, if you have multiple websites where you publish identical content, you can use the canonical tag for the site that you want to boost in the search results.

Self-reference

Self-referencing all pages in the canonical tag is recommended. To make sure that indexed versions of URLs are not being displayed in the search results go ahead and set rel=canonical for each page to itself, pointing to the cleanest link of that page.

 

Tread carefully

If you are an e-commerce website with products that differ by location, currency, or some small parameter, you can use the canonical tag with caution. The non-canonical versions would not be eligible for ranking, and if the crawlers decide that the content is different, they might ignore the tag.

“rel=canonical” and social media

Sharing a URL on Facebook that has a canonical link to another page, Facebook will pick up material from the canonical link. If you add a ‘like’ button to a page having a canonical link, Facebook will again give preference to the linked page and show its ‘like’ count. Twitter operates the same way.

 

By now, the importance of rel=canonical, and the best ways to implement it, should be crystal clear to you. Use it wisely and drive the traffic and attention that your website deserves.

That’s it! If you’re looking for more tips on how to spiff up your SEO, check out our article here .

We’ll see you on the first spot of Google’s result page.

Categories: SEO

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