A canonical URL is the URL of the best representative page from a group of duplicate pages, according to Google. For example, if you have two URLs for the same page (such as example.com? dress=1234 and example.com/dresses/1234 ), Google chooses one as canonical.
Similarly, if you have multiple pages that are nearly identical, Google can group them together (for example, pages that differ only by the sorting or filtering of the contents, such as by price or item color) and choose one as canonical. Google can only index the canonical URL from a set of duplicate pages.” Source
Using canonical URLs is essential for several reasons, primarily related to SEO and content syndication. Here are some of the primary reasons:
Consolidating Link Signals for Similar or Duplicate Pages
Search engines often use the number and quality of backlinks a page has to determine its ranking. When multiple pages with similar content exist, the link signals can get diluted as different backlinks might point to different versions of the same content. By using a canonical URL, you consolidate these link signals, ensuring that the preferred version of the page gets the combined link signals of all its variants.
If you syndicate your content for publication on other websites, you can use canonical URLs to ensure that the search engines understand where the original version resides. This way, the syndicated content won't compete with your original content in search engine results.
Sometimes, you might have slight variations of a page for tracking or A/B testing purposes. By setting a canonical URL, you can specify which version of the page you want to appear in search results.
Using canonical tags correctly is crucial for ensuring that search engines understand your preferred version of a page. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to do it right:
Before implementing a canonical tag, you need to decide which URL is the "canonical" one. This should be the most authoritative version of the page. Consider factors like:
Different platforms have various methods for adding canonical tags. Here's a brief overview of how to do it on some popular platforms:
Product Page Canonicals
In Magento 2, the process is streamlined. Simply navigate to Stores > Configuration > Catalog > Catalog > Search Engine Optimization and enable the canonical options for both products and categories.
Yoast SEO Plugin
Rank Math SEO Plugin
In Wix, you can set canonical URLs using the SEO settings for each page. Simply navigate to the page's settings, find the SEO section, and input your preferred canonical URL.
When implementing canonical tags, it's essential to follow best practices to ensure that search engines correctly interpret your intentions. Here are some key guidelines to keep in mind:
A thorough audit can help identify potential issues that might be affecting your site's SEO. Here's what to look for during your audit:
One of the primary reasons for using canonical tags is to address duplicate content issues. Start your audit by identifying pages with similar or identical content. Tools like Screaming Frog or SEMrush can help you spot these duplicates.
Having multiple canonical tags on a single page can confuse search engines. Ensure that each page on your site specifies only one canonical URL. SEO tools like Screaming Frog can help you identify such issues.
A canonical tag that points to a non-existent or broken URL is counterproductive. Ensure that all canonical URLs are accessible and return a 200 OK status. Tools like Ahrefs or Moz can help you identify and fix broken canonical links.
If your site uses Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), it's essential to have a canonical tag pointing from the AMP version to the standard version of the page. This ensures that search engines understand the relationship between the two and can consolidate ranking signals.
Auditing canonical tags might seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and a systematic approach, it becomes manageable. Regular audits ensure that your canonical tags remain effective and continue to support your site's SEO efforts.
Canonical URLs help search engines understand which version of a page is the most authoritative, ensuring that your content gets the visibility it deserves. By following best practices and regularly auditing your canonical tags, you can avoid common pitfalls and ensure that your website remains in good standing with search engines.
A canonical URL is a way of telling search engines that a specific URL represents the master copy of a page. It helps search engines understand which version of a page to index and rank, preventing issues related to duplicate content.
Canonical URLs help prevent duplicate content issues, which can dilute the ranking power of a page. By specifying a canonical URL, you consolidate ranking signals to a single, authoritative version of the page, improving its chances of ranking higher in search results.
By consolidating ranking signals and preventing duplicate content issues, canonical URLs can help improve a page's search ranking. Higher rankings typically lead to increased organic traffic.
No, each page should have only one canonical URL. Having multiple canonical tags can confuse search engines and lead to unpredictable indexing and ranking results.
The canonical URL should be the most authoritative version of the page. Consider factors like user engagement, backlinks, alignment with site structure, and overall importance to your website's goals.
Not necessarily. Canonical URLs are primarily used for pages with duplicate or very similar content. If your website doesn't have such issues, you might not need to use canonical tags extensively.
Regular audits, at least annually or after significant website changes, are recommended. This ensures that your canonical tags remain effective and continue to support your site's SEO efforts.
If the duplicate page serves no SEO or user value on the site, it is best recommended to remove and 301 redirect to an active/similar page with value. In most other cases, a canonical tag will be the ideal choice.