Understanding the proper usage of canonicalization and how to implement a set of canonical URLs is crucial for any SEO strategy. Incorrect implementation of these canonical tags can cause widespread issues that negatively impact the entire website’s performance.
If you are someone who wants to learn what canonical tags are, and how to avoid dreaded duplicate content issues with these tags, you have landed at the right place. Canonical tags are not new to WordPress SEO services. First introduced in 2009, it was developed to help webmasters overcome duplicate or vastly-similar content available on multiple URLs.
However, to use canonical tags efficiently, one must understand their different aspects and how to implement them to resolve duplicate content issues effectively.
So, let’s get started.
What are Canonical URLs?
A canonical URL refers to an HTML tag rel= “canonical”, which is used to find the original version of content when there are multiple versions of a page either on the same website or on different websites.
For instance, you have published a blog post on your website. Now, you want to also publish the same blog on your LinkedIn and Medium accounts. Using the canonical tag, the search engines will understand that despite being the same blog on multiple platforms, the one published on your website is the original one. Hence, it will show up on every search engine result.
Surprisingly, a canonical URL is not a URL! It is more of a tag attached to a URL to communicate its way through the search engines. So, if your original URL is http://example.com/blogpost, then the canonical version will look like this:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://example.com/blogpost”/>
You cannot visit the canonical URL like the main URL. Instead, the canonicalized version gets placed in the HTML code of a page or assigned to a page using a plugin.
The Importance of Canonical Tags in SEO
Google hates duplicate content, and if you have any on your website, Google will make sure the website doesn’t rank higher among top search engine results. Thus, destroying your possibility to target a large number of audiences on digital platforms. Why? Because Google finds it challenging to choose:
- Which version of a page to index, considering only one page to index
- Which version of a page to rank for relevant queries raised from the audience
- Whether or not to consolidate “link equity” on one page, or divide it between multiple versions.
Too much duplicity in the content can also impact your crawl budget. It means Google will end up wasting time crawling multiple versions of the same page. To discover other crucial content on your website, Google avoids duplicate content.
How canonical tags can help? They allow you to tell Google which version of a page it should index, rank, and where to consolidate any “link equity.”
So, the next time you fail to specify a canonical URL, Google will identify what it feels is the best version or URL. It will create consequences and may select a version of your page that you don’t want to get canonical.
What are the common mistakes to avoid while using canonicalization?
Canonicalization can be a controversial topic. There are a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions about how to canonicalize it effectively. So, here are a few common mistakes developers should avoid while trying to canonicalize:
Blocking the canonicalized URL via robots.txt
When you block a URL in robots.txt, it prevents Google from crawling it. It means that they’re unable to see any canonical tags on that particular page. As a result, it prevents Google from transferring any “link equity” from the non-canonical to the canonical.
Setting the canonicalized URL to “noindex”
It is advisable to never mix noindex and rel=canonical, as they are contradictory instructions. Google will mostly prioritize the canonical tag over the “noindex” tag, but it is still an unpleasant practice. If you want to noindex and canonicalize a URL, it is best to use a 301 redirect. Or else, use rel=canonical.
Setting a 4XX HTTP status code for a canonicalized URL
Whether you set a 4XX HTTP status code for a canonicalized URL or use a “noindex” tag, both will reflect the same effect. Google won’t see the canonical tag and transfer “link equity” to the canonical version.
Canonicalizing all paginated pages to the root page
Paginated pages must not get canonicalized to the first paginated page in the series. Instead, use self-referencing canonicals on all the paginated pages. Google’s John Mueller stated, “It is an improper usage of the rel=canonical.”
Use rel=prev/next tag for pagination, which may not be used by Google, but Bing still uses them.
Not using canonical tags with hreflang
Hreflang tags are used to specify the language and geographically target the webpage. Google encourages WordPress developers delivering WordPress technical support services to specify a canonical page in the same language while using hreflang. Or else, choose the best possible substitute language if a canonical doesn’t exist for the same language.
Having multiple rel=canonical tags
Using multiple rel=canonical tags will make Google ignore it. In many cases, it happens because the tags get inserted into a system at different points like CMS, theme, or a plugin. Therefore, many plugins have an overwrite option to make sure that they are the only source for the canonical tags.
So far, we have discussed what canonical tags are, what is its usage, and mistakes to avoid while inserting canonical tags. We can help you with more interesting information to help you develop an error-free website in no time. However, if you are someone not-so enthusiast about all the tech terms and challenges, hire WordPress developers from our well-renowned organization, and they shall brainstorm on your behalf.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Q1.When to use canonical URL?
Ans.1.Use it when you want to tell the search engine that a specific URL represents the master copy of a page. Using the canonical tags can help prevent the challenges raised due to duplicate content on multiple websites.
Q2.Are canonical tags mandatory?
Ans2.Yes. Even if you don’t have any other versions of the page, link the page with itself using the canonical tag to prevent any possible duplication in the future.
Q3.What is self-canonical?
Ans3,0It refers to a tag defined on the main version of the page, irrespective of the duplicate pages elsewhere. It means, if your page does not contain any similar pages with duplicate content, you can still put a canonical tag on that page.