As any SEO will tell you, canonical tags bear great significance. Can any of your web pages be opened through more than one URL? In that case, you need to understand how canonical tags work and how to use them best. That being said, let’s talk about the best ways to use canonical tags.
A couple or more URLs could be leading to the very same web page. However, Googlebot treats each URL as a distinct page. So, if there are 4 URLs leading to a single webpage, it won’t be counted as one but 4 distinct pages.
This then, becomes an SEO problem.
You must know how duplicate content can harm your rankings.
But I’m not posting any duplicated content.
Yes, it can still cause SEO issues. Remember that Googlebot crawls not webpages but URLs.
The content throughout your website may be 100% unique. However, if any of your webpages can be reached with more than one URL, it’ll tell Google that there is more than one page with the same content. Hence, the duplicity.
And as you must know, Google doesn’t rank duplicate content well.
However, even if your webpage manages to rank, it won’t be in your hands what URL Google considers the ‘original’ one. And if it picks the one that you wouldn’t prefer, it can undermine your SEO.
Therefore, canonical tags are important for SEO.
Before going any further, let’s briefly talk about how canonical tags fit into this equation.
How canonical tags help in SEO?
Canonical tag or what we also call “rel canonical” is an HTML element that helps specify the canonical version of a page. Simply put, it tells search engines which version of URL they should use for ranking your webpage.
What are some ways of implementing canonical tags?
Implementing canonical tags is easy. There can be two ways of doing that:
1. HTML tag
Simply put the given code in the <head> section of a duplicate page:
<link rel=“canonical” href=“https://website.com/canonical-page/” />
2. HTTP header
In the case of documents like PDF, you can’t place canonical tags in the page header. Hence, you’ll need to use the rel=“canonical” tag in the HTTP header.
What are some best ways to use canonical tags?
Below listed are some of the best practices of using canonical tags.
#1. It’s always better to use absolute URLs
When asked whether canonicals should be identified as absolute or relative, this is what the Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, John Mueller tweeted:
“You can use either, but I’d recommend using absolute URLs so that you’re sure they’re interpreted correctly.”
Therefore, when setting canonicals, it’d be better to follow this version:
<link rel=“canonical” href=“https://website.com/example-page/” />
Instead of doing it like:
<link rel=“canonical” href=”/example-page/” />
Read Also: Canonical URL- Everything you need to know
#2. Make sure to use the correct version of domain
Another important thing is to make sure you use the right version of the domain when setting canonicals. While this may sound obvious, the HTTP/HTTPS mistake is very common.
If your website has switched over to SSL, make sure that you don’t define a non-SSL version as the canonical one. In that case, your canonical URL should be one starting with HTTPS and not HTTP.
On the other hand, if you are not using SSL, then you’ll have to make sure to not use an SSL version.
Failing to take care of this, you may end up confusing the search engine. This may further lead to unexpected results. Therefore, make it a point to be very careful with the domain versions.
#3. Don’t use more than one canonical tag on a page
Make sure that there aren’t multiple rel=canonical declarations of your webpage. If so happens, Google will most likely ignore all.
Hence, it is important to make sure that there is only one canonical tag on a page.
#4. Be proactive in canonicalization of your home page
Homepage duplicates are very common. Moreover, you can’t control how people link to it in many ways.
Therefore, it is important to be prepared beforehand. Hence, you should use a canonical tag for your homepage to prevent any unforeseen problems.
#5. Use lowercase only
Google may treat a URL as two separate ones when written in uppercase and lowercase. Therefore, you’d need to choose one of them for the canonical version of your URL.
It is best advised to use only lowercase letters when setting a URL as canonical.
#6. Also make sure to use canonical tags with hreflang
The tag hreflang is another HTML element in a webpage used for s
pecifying its language and geographical targeting.
Google suggests that it is best to specify the canonical page in the same language. Also in case there is no canonical for the same language, you should try to find it in the best possible substitute language.
#7. Make sure to send clear signals
Assume there are URLs X, Y, and Z for a webpage. You decide that Z should be the canonical version. In that case, ensure to make so clear with your signals.
Don’t do chain and cross canonicalization—like X –> Y –> Z or X <–> Y, X <–> Z, Y <–> Z respectively. This can confuse Google and as a result, it will either interpret your canonical tag incorrectly or may ignore it altogether.
Canonical tags are an important aspect of search engine optimization. It helps make sure that your preferred version of the URL is taken for search engine ranking. Apart from being essential, it can also be a great SEO tool. With some of the best canonical tag practices mentioned above, you can efficiently optimize your webpages for search engines. It basically all comes down to being careful and proactive with canonicalization.
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