Canonical Tags: A Simple Guide for Beginners
Canonical tags have existed since 2009; they are the means to inform the search engine that a specific URL is the master copy of the page. The markers prevent a seamless solution for website owners to tackle the problems created by identical or duplicate content found on other websites.
Canonical tags are the best means to secure improved website rankings. This article is a guide for beginners to solve issues related to canonical tags.
How does the canonical tag resemble?
The canonical tags are placed in the <head> section of the web page and use consistent and straightforward syntax.
Here is an example:
<link rel=“canonical” href=“https://model.com/sample-page/” />
Importance of canonical tags for SEO:
Google doesn’t like duplicate content, and there are reasons for the same. This makes it difficult for Google to choose the original version for indexing and ranking of relevant queries. Also, should there be combined link equity, or should it be divided between the various versions?
The duplicate content impacts the crawl budget as Google will waste time identifying the real content instead of discovering new content on the page. Canonical tags solve every problem related to indexing, ranking, and determining the consolidation of links.
Beginners guide to proceed with canonical tags
Best practices for using canonical tags
Self-referential canonical tags: Having a self-referential canonical tag on your page is like a page speaking for itself. It makes it easy for the spider to crawl as the canonical tags point to duplicate pages, like (B being the canonical version for A, B, and C ).
The self-referential canonical helps to detect the indexed page or the URL that needs indexing.
Lowercase URL: Google generally interprets an uppercase and lowercase URL to be different. Apply the lowercase URL on the web page server and finally proceed with the same in the canonical tags.
Absolute URL: The canonical tags need to have an absolute URL structure when compared to the relative one. While both seem to operate correctly, the chances of misinterpretations reduce in the absolute ones.
Use the correct domain version: URL comes with prefixes, like HTTP or HTTPs on the URL. The former is the unsecured version while the latter is secured. Today, around 51.8% of most visited websites use HTTPS over HTTP.
Switching to a secure domain will require using the correct canonical tag with HTTPs instead of HTTP. Keep the necessary changes in mind; otherwise, the results will be abnormal.
One canonical tag per page: Google will outright reject the pages if a page is found using multiple canonical tags in it. Sending mixed signals creates a misinterpretation for search engines.
You cannot cross canonicalize pages like X -–> page Y and page Y -–> page X. Also, avoid creating canonical chains like (X-–>Y, Y-–>Z, Z–X).
Steps to implement canonicals
Go for rel=canonical HTML tags: The most straightforward and effective way to specify a canonical URL is by using a code of rel=canonical tag. It enables the inclusion of any page’s HTML that directs the search engine towards the canonical version.
For instance, you have three pages that serve identical content to the users. You can select one of the pages for the primary URL. For the remaining two pages you need to add rel=canonical tags that give credentials to the primary page.
This process is a little time-consuming depending upon the duplicate URLs you are using and the canonical tags you wish to include.
Use HTTP or HTTPs Headers: In many pages, there is no access to the page head section for some or other reason. A similar problem is also found in the case of PDF versions that don’t show the page head section.
In both these cases, the approach has to be different for setting the canonical tags. Instead, you have to go through another route such as HTTP headers, for PDF files to add or edit head tags.
Setting canonicals in sitemap: Sitemaps are the straightforward documents that consist of all the URLs of the pages. If you wish that your pages aren’t missed, it is good to submit it to the search engines’ sitemaps.
The brighter aspect is that Google will recognize the pages listed as canonical in the sitemaps. But finally, it is up to Google to choose the URLs in the sitemaps as canonicals.
Use 301 redirects: The 301 redirect is useful to move the audience from the identical URLs to the canonicalized version. Let’s say you have three reachable web pages for your audience. Pick one of the URLs for the canonical version and redirect the remaining URLs over there.
Similarly, manage the HTTP/HTTPS of the website. Redirect the traffic to the versions which follow the canonical tag.
Internal Links: The way one page is linked to another throughout the website gives a canonicalization signal. Through the different methods of implementing canonical tags, you can create alerts for Google.
Canonical tags aren’t very complicated once you know how to manage them. The tags help Google to identify the duplicate content on your site and prevents taking any severe actions.
This is crucial for the search engine as it heavily penalizes duplicate or identical content. After implementing the canonical tags, you are ready to rank your chosen URL freely on Google.