What Is A Canonical URL: One of the major problems that most of the websites face as they grow is duplicate content issue. This means having the same or almost same content in multiple pages, i. e. multiple URLs for same content.

E-commerce websites face this issue the most as certain products can belong to multiple categories. Now, when this happens, it confuses Google – which of the URLs is original or more important? This can affect the ranking of the page and can also impact the overall authority of the domain. And this can give a bad impression of a website if the content has been originally published in some other website.

In order to address this issue, Google, Yahoo! and Bing, the three major search engines, came up with the Canonical Link Element in 2009. In this article, we will see what is a Canonical URL. Read on to find out.

What Is A Canonical URL?

When multiple URLs in the same or different websites have the same content, it is very important to let search engines know which one is the preferred version. That is, you must tell the search engines that all these URLs are basically same but you would want a particular URL to be considered as the original one and that should appear in the search results.

This is a must. Otherwise, search engines won’t know which one to show in the SERP. For this purpose, we need to use the Canonical Link Element, rel = canonical, which is an HTML element. Using this element, we can direct search engines to our preferred URL. This preferred URL, the original version, is called the Canonical URL. Every other URL that has the same content as the preferred one should point to it. This process is called Canonicalization.

How To Choose The Canonical URL?

To choose the Canonical URL, you don’t have to be politically correct. I mean if all the URLs in question are on the same website, I would choose the one that is giving the maximum traffic as the Canonical URL. All the other URLs should point to that URL. This is because the URL that is giving the maximum traffic is better than the rest and I would definitely want it to appear in search results.

If there is no major difference in traffic, you can choose any of the URLs as your Canonical URL.

However, if you publish content of other websites, you should use the URL of the original page as the Canonical URL.

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How Does Canonicalization Help Search Engines?

Canonicalization helps search engines to consider all these URLs as same as the Canonical URL. Using the Canonical Tag redirects search engines to the original page – the preferred page. This means search engines consider all these links as one single link.

What Is The Difference Between Canonical URL And 301 Redirect?

If Page A is redirected to Page B using 301 Redirect, users who type in the URL for Page A in the address bar will land up directly on Page B.

This doesn’t happen in case of Canonicalization. Using the Canonical URL is to redirect only the search engines to the original one and not the user. For the users, all the versions of the page will be available. For this reason, canonicalization is also known as Soft Redirect.

How To Set A Canonical URL?

Let’s assume Page A and Page B have the following URLs respectively:

  • Page A: https://domain.com/blogging-tutorials/seo
  • Page B: https://domain.com/blogging-tutorials/search-engine-optimization/

These two pages have almost the same content. You want Google to index Page A.

In order to set Page A as the canonical URL, you have to add the following in the <head> section of Page B:

<link rel="canonical" href="https://domain.com/blogging-tutorials/seo"/>

This will direct search engines from Page B to Page A.

Canonical URL Vs 301 Redirect: Which One To Use?

Unless there is some technical problem in setting up a 301 Redirect, use the 301 Redirect. Especially when, for example, you are discontinuing a certain product, you should use a 301 Redirect to the closest page so that users do not land up on the page for the product that is discontinued.

If you are publishing content from other websites, make sure you set up the URL of that particular page as the Canonical URL.

Canonical URL Good Practice

Some of the points to be kept in mind regarding Canonical URL are as under:

  1. If Page A and Page B have similar content, do not use the Canonical Tag in both of them, pointing to each other.
  2. Again, do not make Page A as the Canonical URL and then redirect Page A to Page B.
  3. It is OK for a page to point to itself as the Canonical URL.

I hope you have understood everything about what is a Canonical URL. If you have any question regarding what is a Canonical URL, drop them below and I will get back to you at the earliest. 

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