Semalt: What Do You Know About Canonicalization?
No doubt, you had to take a second look at the word. We must admit that it sounds a bit strange. Well, that's what we call it in SEO and around Google. Canonicalization is the process of picking the most suitable or the best URL for your website when you're open to several choices, and it usually. Usually, Canonicalization refers to home pages. For example, here are some examples that most people will consider to mean the same thing:
However, this article will show you how these websites are indeed different. A web server could open a completely different content for each of the URLs above. If you are to Google a "Canonicalized" URL, you will attempt to pick the URL that appears to be the best representative from that set.
We at Semalt have had our clients come across the term Canonization, and Canonical tags and they get confused because this isn't something you typically see when researching SEO. However, Semalt knows its way around SEO. We understand this concept, which is why we have designed this article to help answer some of the questions our readers may have concerning Canonization and what it means for your SEO strategy. At the end of this article, you will have answers to questions such as
What do we mean by canonical tags? When can Canonical tags be used? Can canonical tags impact the website's SEO efforts?
No doubt, this may be a lot to take in at once, but we hope to keep it simple and provide you with everything you need to know concerning Canonization.
Canonical Tags and How they Influence SEOs
A quick answer to this will be that Canonical tags influence SEO from two points of view. The first is that they directly influence the nature of how search results are displayed. Secondly, they influence the overall ranking of a website on SERP due to several factors, such as its structure, user experience, and PageRank flow.
Knowing this, however, doesn't make you a Canonical tags expert. There's still a lot you need to know.
If you attempt this on your own, you're bound to cause more harm than good. Many things could go wrong, which is why it's best you get professionals like our team over at Seamalt to help your website enjoy the benefits of Canonization.
Why Do Canonical Tags Exist?
In the initial stages, canonical tags were created to fix issues that come up as a result of duplicated content. Let's break this further a bit, shall we! If you were to have three pages that were a replica or at least very similar, you might choose your favorite to show up on SERP. This way, you help search engines know which web page they should visit first and show on their search results.
It is safe to note that there are several misconceptions about using canonical tags, and we will help you clear them.
At this point, we should understand how Google treats duplicated content. Although Google doesn't appreciate duplicated content, there isn't any penalty if you have duplicated content. However, there is a downside to having duplicated content because Google will prefer to rank well-structured sites who avoid such mistakes.
Ranking websites is no easy task for search engines. Consider the billions of webpages on the internet. Ideally, websites and web pages should all be unique, and every page is supposed to have its original content. However, duplicate contents are quite common. After updating a website for several years, it is easy to notice similar posts on your website. This is what we refer to as "content cannibalization."
So, let's imagine that Google crawls through your website, and it discovers four pages trying to rank for the same keywords or content. Now you make it difficult for Google because, in addition to its task of picking between billions of different websites, you have forced Google to choose between the duplicated pages on the same website. This doubles the workload on Google when trying to rank your webpage.
With high domain authority, you may be lucky to have two or all four websites rank. However, it is a known fact that Google tries its best not to rank the same domain more than once on the same content to promote diversity. In the case of multiple rankings on these similar pages, end up showing in Google's omitted results.
Using canonical tags makes Google's job easier in ranking your web pages as you point out which web page they should rank. Such actions may help your webpages gain favor with Google. This forms the foundation where Canonical tags affect SEO.
How Does the Canonical Tag Affect SEO?
Since we use canonical tags to solve duplicate content issues and help search engines rank our pages better, it is obvious it helps a website's SEO strategy. Like we mentioned earlier, canonical tags affects SEO in two primary ways:
It influences the search results display.
Using these tags, you instruct search engines to show certain pages rather than others. So when page B ranks on the same keyword, you instruct Google to go with page A instead.
Canonical tags let you focus on a narrower group of pages.
This is important if you hope to target search engines and provide a better user experience.
For example, on your website, you may have a pricing page with two subpages, and these subpages may be cannibalizing each other in the competition for getting ranked for similar keywords. When you do not want to merge these two pages, you can cancel out cannibalization with a "canonical" tag. With such tags, users will always land on the main pricing page whenever they use search engines, but they can also maneuver to the other pages while on the site.
Canonical tag vs. 301 redirect
Are you wondering what difference lies between rel= canonical and 301 redirect?
Well, when you use 301, you inform Google that the web page no longer exists. Google then knows to Ignore its content and instruct users that that page has been shut down.
While using canonical tags, you tell Google, "Hey buddy; it turns out this content is a duplicate, so could you kindly display my preferred version instead."
So canonical tags allow you to take your visitors to a preferred page while 301 redirects won't. Instead, 301 redirects inform users that such a page no longer exists.
When can I use these tags?
If you prefer to shut down the webpage, then you can go for the 301 option. However, if both webpages are similar but contain equally relevant information, but you have a preferred version than you can use the canonical tag.
Do Canonical Tags Pass Link Juice?
A short answer to this question would be yes, but there are more details to this answer. On their official page, Google has mentioned that canonical tags help pass juice links.
How to Add a Canonical Tag
Canonical tags can be added easily in the HTML. However, it gets a bit tougher when trying to manage them and avoid conflicts. When using these tags, it is wise that you try to achieve different canonical relations across different types of pages. Using these tags is a delicate process, and there are no shortcuts to it. To get it right, you will need the services of professionals like Semalt, who have years of training and programming experience to get your canonical tags working the way you'd like.
For example, you might want to direct the internal search URL Semalt.com/search/?color=red to Semalt.com/red-product while also pointing Semalt.com/search/?color=Blue to Semalt.com/yellow-product. This is not something that can be easily achieved, as most platforms tend to generate search pages dynamically. By doing so, they limit the access you have to your code even when you add your tags.
One alternative to using canonical tags is the Google Search Console's URL Parameter Tool. With this tool, you can indicate which specific URL parameters you want to be removed from the search. When using this, you should also be cautious as the wrong setting can be costly. This option is preferred for clients with big websites and tons of parameters, to save time and money.
Directly Via HTML
Another simple way of adding canonical tags is to do so directly via HTML. Using this tag is similar to a description meta tag. It should look something like this:
<link rel="canonical" href="https://Semalt.com/article/19204/canonical-urls-seo/" />
Considering that there is a page A and it is a duplicate version of page B. in such scenario, page A should carry a canonical tag with an href attribute which contains the URL to page B. This action tells search engines that you would prefer them to index and rank page B rather than page A.