A canonical tag (or rel=canonical) is a crucial HTML element that plays a significant role in search engine optimization (SEO). It is a powerful tool for guiding search engines, notably Google, to determine the primary version of a page among other very similar pages or duplicate pages elsewhere.
In essence, a canonical tag helps you communicate to Google which version of a page you want to appear in search results. By specifying the canonical URL, you can consolidate the link equity from multiple websites and duplicate web pages and enhance the crawling and indexing of your website.
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A canonical tag is placed within the "<head>" section of the page's HTML source code, and it looks like this:
<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.example.com/canonical-page">
The "rel canonical href https" attribute indicates the URL of the canonical of the HTTPS page, indicating that it should be considered the authoritative version of the HTTP page.
The primary purpose of a canonical tag is to address duplicate content issues. When multiple versions of the same or similar content on a page exist, Google might struggle to determine which one to prioritize for indexing and ranking. Using the Inspect URL tool in the Google Search Console, you can audit canonical tags to better understand what Google considers the canonical URL.
All pages must contain canonical tags to prevent similar or duplicate pages. Although the HTTP version of the canonical page does not have other versions, it will still have the self-referencing canonical tags, which link to the https version on its site.
Implementing canonical tags is particularly important in the following scenarios:
Multiple versions of a page: If you have different pages or multiple URLs serving the very same content, such as variations with URL parameters or different subdomains, using a canonical tag helps consolidate authority and prevent potential SEO issues.
Syndicated content: If your blog post or content is syndicated on other modern content management systems, including a canonical link element on the syndicated version can ensure that Google understands the source of the content and attribute the appropriate value to your website.
Duplicate content presents significant challenges for search engines. It hinders their ability to determine the most suitable version of a page to index and rank and how to consolidate link signals and link equity effectively. This can lead to reduced visibility and dilution of rankings.
Excessive duplicate page content can negatively impact your website's crawl budget. This is because Google may spend valuable time crawling numerous versions of the same page instead of discovering other important content on non-canonical pages on your site.
To overcome these challenges, the use of custom canonical URLs is crucial. Canonical tags allow you to specify the preferred version of a page, guiding the search engine to index and rank it correctly.
Here are the key ways to implement canonical tags:
Refer to Google's official documentation for more detailed information on the canonical tag best practices.
Canonical tags may initially seem complex, but they hold significant value in SEO. It's important to understand that canonical tags are not definitive directives but powerful signals for web crawlers. While you can specify the preferred canonical URL, other search engines can choose.
For expert guidance and assistance in maximizing the impact of canonical tags on your website, reach out to our team of professionals. Take proactive steps today to leverage the power of canonical tags and enhance your website's search visibility and performance.