Demystifying Canonical URL

What Are Canonical URLs?

Simply put, a Canonical URL is a web page's preferred or "official" URL. It helps search engines understand which page version should be displayed in search results when multiple URLs have similar or the same page content.

It tells search engines, "This is the primary page you should consider."

What are Canonical URLs, and Why Are They Important?

Canonical URLs, which are also called "Canonical tags" or "the canonical link element," are important parts of search engine optimization (SEO). They are very important for getting rid of the problem of duplicate pages on a website.

A Canonical URL is a web page's preferred or "canonical" version. It tells search engines which version of similar or duplicate material should be considered authoritative and shown in search results.

This practice not only makes it easier for search engines to index pages. It also improves the user experience by ensuring that when people click on search results, they go to their preferred URL. This makes the search results less confusing and more accurate.

Canonical URLs are the best SEO tool for:

  • Determining the chosen URL
  • Getting rid of concerns about duplicate content
  • Enhancing a website's visibility and search engine rankings

How to Implement Canonical URLs

Step 1: Identify duplicate content before implementing canonical URLs. Identify the duplicate content issues on your website by using tools like:

  • Google Search Console
  • Ahrefs
  • Site crawlers to find pages with similar or identical content

Step 2: Choose the preferred version. Determine which version of the page you want to be considered as the canonical version. This version will be displayed in search results and will receive SEO benefits.

Step 3: Modify the HTML header of the non-canonical page. For pages that are not the preferred version, add the <link> element with the rel="canonical" attribute in the HTML <head> section. This tells search engines which page should be considered canonical.

Here's an example of the HTML code for a non-canonical page:

Step 4: Set the canonical URL in CMS (Content Management System). If you're using a CMS like WordPress, plugins (e.g., Yoast SEO) make it easy to set Canonical URLs without directly editing HTML. Here's how you can do it using the Yoast SEO plugin:

  • In your WordPress dashboard, go to the page or post for which you want to set the Canonical URL.
  • Scroll down to the Yoast SEO section.
  • Click on the "Advanced" tab.
  • In the "Canonical URL" field, enter the URL of the preferred version.

Step 5: Verify implementation. After implementing Canonical URLs, verifying that it's working as intended is crucial. Utilize tools such as Google Search Console to check if Google has recognized your Canonical URLs and is treating them accordingly.

Step 6: Monitor and Update. Regularly monitor your website's performance in search results. If you change your content or site structure, ensure that Canonical URLs are still correctly set. Adjust as needed to maintain SEO integrity.

Example Scenario:

Let's say you have an e-commerce website with a product page for a red dress in different sizes. To implement a Canonical URL, you want to ensure that the page for the medium-sized red dress is the preferred version:

<link rel="canonical" href="" />

  • Step 4: Using WordPress with the Yoast SEO plugin, you can set the Canonical URL for each product page using the plugin's interface.
  • Step 5: Use Google Search Console or other SEO tools to verify that Google recognizes the Canonical URLs.
  • Step 6: Continuously monitor and update Canonical URLs if needed, especially when adding new products or changing your website's structure.

You can't say enough good things about a canonical tag. It's like a compass in the complicated world of SEO, helping websites.

  • Keep their integrity
  • Improve their search ranking.
  • Give people the exact information they're looking for. 

As websites change, Canonical tags will continue to be an important part of SEO and ensuring that the digital environment works clearly and efficiently. For further insights and guidance on SEO best practices, visit SEOLeverage, your backstage pass to SEO success.