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A Simple Guide to Canonical Tags

Canonical tags, also known as rel=canonicals, are HTML elements used to indicate the preferred version of a webpage when multiple URLs have similar or identical content.
guide to canonical tags

While canonical tags can be confusing to some, these seemingly simple snippets of code play a pivotal role in streamlining your website’s SEO efforts and avoiding potential pitfalls related to duplicate content.

 

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of canonical tags, exploring how to use and create them, their importance, and whether every URL requires one.

How Do You Use Canonical Tags?

Canonical tags, also known as rel=canonicals, are HTML elements used to indicate the preferred version of a webpage when multiple URLs are suspected to have similar or identical content. They serve as a signal to search engines, informing them which page should be considered the primary content source.

 

This is particularly valuable when your website has different versions of the same content, possibly accessible through multiple URLs, like product pages with various sorting options or different language versions of a blog post.

 

To implement a canonical tag, add the following line of code within the <head> section of your HTML document:

				
					<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.yourwebsite.com/preferred-page/" />
				
			

Replace the URL in the href attribute with the URL of the preferred page you want search engines to recognise as the source.

The Role of Canonical Tags in eCommerce

Canonical tags hold particular significance in the eCommerce landscape. Online stores often need help with duplicate content due to varied product sorting options, filters, and pagination. For instance, a product page that is accessible through multiple URLs due to sorting criteria can end up diluting SEO efforts.

 

By correctly implementing canonical tags, eCommerce websites can consolidate the ranking potential of these pages into a single preferred version. This streamlines search engine indexing and ensures that the chosen product page garners maximum visibility.

 

Canonical tags are, therefore, a crucial tool for eCommerce businesses aiming to optimise their SEO strategies and improve customer reach.

How Do I Create A Canonical Tag?

Creating a canonical tag is a straightforward process that involves some HTML coding. Follow these steps to generate a canonical tag for your webpage:

 

  1. Identify Duplicate Content: Determine which pages on your website feature similar or identical content accessible through multiple URLs.
  2. Choose the Preferred Page: Decide which version of the content you want search engines to prioritise as the primary source.
  3. Insert the Canonical Tag: Open the HTML file of the preferred page and locate the <head> section. Insert the following line of code, remembering to replace the href link with your URL.
  4. Test the Tag: Before deploying the canonical tag across your website, it is best to validate its functionality using tools like Google Search Console.
				
					<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.yourwebsite.com/preferred-page/" />
				
			

How Important is a Canonical Tag?

Canonical tags carry significant weight in SEO for several reasons:

  • Duplicate Content Mitigation: Duplicate content can harm your website’s SEO ranking by confusing search engines about the source. Canonical tags help consolidate ranking signals, ensuring that the preferred page is recognised and indexed correctly.
  • Conserving Crawl Budget: Search engines allocate a certain amount of resources, known as crawl budget, to scan and index your site. Canonical tags help prevent crawlers from wasting resources on duplicate pages, allowing them to focus on more important content.
  • Preserving Link Equity: When multiple versions of the same content exist, inbound links can spread across these variations. By specifying a canonical page, you concentrate the link equity, boosting the SEO potential of the chosen page.

Are Canonical Tags Necessary for SEO?

Canonical tags aren’t compulsory for every website but can be invaluable in certain scenarios. If your site has different URLs for similar content, or if you syndicate content from other sources, canonical tags can prevent confusion for search engines and maintain the integrity of your SEO efforts.

 

However, canonical tags might not be as crucial if your website doesn’t have duplicate content or if you manage duplicate content through other means. It’s essential to assess your site’s structure and content distribution to determine whether canonical tags align with your SEO strategy.

 

For the avoidance of doubt, it is worth stating that in most cases, a website should have self-referencing canonicals by default that can be edited and updated as the site grows.

Should Every URL Have A Canonical Tag?

Each URL on your website requires a canonical tag and can be self-referencing by default – that means that each URL should point back to itself as the primary version of that page.
As part of our audits, we recommend adding canonical URLs to pages, blog posts, product pages, etc.

 

Canonical tags offer a simple yet powerful solution to manage duplicate content issues and enhance your website’s SEO strategy. Using and implementing them correctly guides search engines to the right content, conserves crawl budget, and optimises link equity.

 

However, assessing your site’s specific needs is essential before using canonical tags across your website. When done correctly, you’ll be well on your way to strengthening your SEO game and boosting your online visibility.

 

Get in touch if you need help setting up canonicals on your website; we’d be happy to help.

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Picture of Nikki Halliwell

Nikki Halliwell

Based in Manchester, UK, Nikki is a freelance Technical SEO Consultant. She has worked at several agencies and in-house and has worked across the health, hospitality and fashion industries and more. Nikki enjoys working with eCommerce websites and beyond to ensure that websites are easy to find, load quickly and work efficiently. 
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