Are you looking for a way to get your website’s SEO off the ground? You may have heard about canonical tags and wondered how they could help you. Canonical tags, or “canonical URLs” as they are also called, are a method to help address a specific problem – duplicate content.
Canonical tags are incredibly useful for telling search engines which version of a web page or post you want to appear in the search engine results page (SERP). The canonical tag is a way to specify to search engines which of multiple content’s should be given the most authority and should be displayed in the SERP. In short, your website’s URL should have a canonical tag set to ensure search engines can index the correct version of your content that you want to be displayed.
The purpose of this post is to provide a step-by-step guide to demystifying canonical tags, as well as some actionable tips to ensure you are using them correctly. Whether you are a content producer or webmaster, canonical tags help to make sure that search engines give the right version of your content the most authority.
What is a Canonical Tag?
Before we get into the details of what a canonical tag is and how to properly use it, let’s start by defining it in simple terms. A canonical tag is an HTML element used to specify the original source of a piece of content so that search engines can accurately index the web page or post.
Canonical tags are also useful for preventing duplicate content penalties. Duplicate content is when two or more versions of the same content are present on the web. This can happen if your website has multiple URLs that serve the same content, or if content from your website has been copied and published elsewhere.
By including a canonical tag on the original source of the content, you are telling search engines which version of the content you prefer to have indexed. This ensures that all versions of the content are not competing against each other, and helps to prevent the original content being undervalued.
How to Use Canonical Tags
Now that we understand what a canonical tag is and why it is important, let’s look at how to use them. To use canonical tags effectively, there are a few key things you need to know:
1. Specify the Absolute URL
The first step to using a canonical tag is to identify the primary URL you want the content to be associated with. This URL should be absolute – the full URL starting with ‘http’.
For example, if the content you want to be associated with is at ‘example.com/my-article’, then you will use this URL to specify the location of the canonical tag.
2. Use the ‘rel=canonical’ Tag
The next step is to create your canonical tag, which should look like this:
The ‘rel=canonical’ tag must be included within thesection of the page, or in the HTTP headers of the page, for it to be valid. It is also important to note that you should only include one ‘rel=canonical’ tag per page.
3. Automate Canonical Tag Setup
If you are managing multiple websites with similar content, it may be helpful to automate the setup of your canonical tags. This can help to ensure that you are efficiently and correctly setting canonical tags for all of your sites. There are various plugins and modules available that can help you with this.
4. Monitor the Correct Implementation of Canonical Tags
Once you have implemented your canonical tags, you should regularly monitor them to ensure they are doing the job you intended. You should use SEO tools to monitor the implementation and check that the correct URLs are being indexed by search engines.
Actionable Tips for Canonical Tags
Now that you know what a canonical tag is and how to properly implement it on your web page, let’s go over some actionable tips you can use to get the most out of your canonical tags.
1. Use Dedicated Canonicals for Pagination
If you have content such as blog posts or articles that span multiple pages, you should use a dedicated canonical for each page. This will help to ensure that search engines are effectively crawling each page, and not treating the pages as duplicate content.
2. Use Canonical Tags for Syndicated Content
If content from your website has been syndicated on another website, it is important to include a canonical tag. This ensures that search engines are not marking the syndicated content as duplicate, and are are instead sourcing the original content from the correct source.
3. Include Self-Referential Canonicals
If you have content that appears in multiple locations, such as a product page, it is important to include a self-referential canonical on the page. This tells search engines that default version of the page should be treated as the original source – even if the page appears in multiple places.
4. Avoid Third-Party Canonicals
It is important to avoid using a third-party canonical tag from a website you do not control. This is because the third-party website could decide to change the canonical at any point, which could result in a search engine penalty.
Canonical tags play an important role in ensuring that search engines are able to accurately index your website’s content. The purpose of this article was to provide a step-by-step guide to demystifying canonical tags, as well as some actionable tips to ensure you are using them correctly.
However, it is important to note that canonical tags are only one part of your website’s overall SEO strategy. A comprehensive SEO strategy should include other elements such as keyword research and content optimization.
If you are looking for help with your website’s SEO, then why not contact us. Our team of experienced SEO professionals can help you ensure your website is visible to the right people at the right time.