Learn how to improve your page ranking using Canonical Tag – WAU
Canonical tag is a tag inserted in the source code of web pages, indicating that they are original content. Search engines read this tag, which acts as an alert that this is the page to which the user should be redirected when performing a search.
Ranking a web page well is a constant challenge to which many SEO professionals dedicate themselves daily. As much as there is an understanding of what makes it possible to be found easier in search engines, it is necessary to know also what can hinder this.
The canonical tag is an important mechanism that helps in the proper indexing of these pages. Google’s algorithm seeks as much clarity as possible when detecting pages on the internet.
If, in any way, they find that there is similarity between addresses, there may be an understanding of duplicate content, which affects ranking. The canonical tag is a simple intervention that can help prevent this problem.
To better understand the subject, in this content we will delve into what the canonical tag is, going through topics such as:
Continue reading and learn more!
What is the canonical tag?
Canonical tag is a markup inserted in the code of web pages to define that they are original content. This tag is used directly to read the algorithms of search engines, such as Google and Yahoo and acts as an alert that this is the page to which users should be redirected when performing a search on these sites.
It is common to find equal pages but with URLs many different, this within the same site. These variations of address often happen naturally in the construction of the site, but can be harmful when ranking the page.
The canonical tag shows the algorithm which one has priority, that is, the original page that will be shown in search results.
Why use the canonical tag?
One of the biggest problems that a web page can have when ranking is being in a possible situation of duplicate content. In practice, they are just variations of address, but they are found in different URLs. Generally, it is something like:
- “Website-address /index.html”;
- “Website-address /home.aspx”.
If you are looking at the URLs of the pages, you have certainly noticed the existence of these variations, but you have also seen that they lead to the same place. However, this can be a problem for search engine algorithms.
After all, for them, the same content at different addresses represents page duplication, which generates punishment and loss of ranking.
To solve this, it is simple: just use the canonical tag on the page considered the original. Thus, it will be shown in the results as the main one, without taking a flow to the other address.
The use of the tag is fundamental to preserve the ranking of important pages for a Content Marketing or Digital Marketing strategy, in general.
Recently, Google has been working to prevent sites from using less than honest practices to achieve high rankings with different pages, but which have the same content.
For this, the algorithms have undergone updates that enabled them to detect when there is this duplication. In this scenario, of course, there are many companies that do not use this possibility intentionally, however, their ranking will be penalized invariably.
Thus, it is essential to have a check done by SEO professionals constantly. This avoids involuntary duplication and makes the canonical tag be used in the best possible way.
How does the canonical tag work?
In essence, you use the canonical tag in the same way as a 301 redirect, where you tell the algorithm to go to another page. However, the canonical tag works only for search engines, allowing you to take visitors to that page.
With the canonical tag you do not allow pages with a URL variation to be indexed, but allow the user to access them. If you use a 301 redirect, you will not allow access from either one or the other.
In this way, the canonical tag works as a way to optimize your SEO without harming your visitors’ use experience.
When and how to use the canonical tag?
When search engines don’t identify which version of your content needs to be included or excluded from indexing, or when they don’t know which page to guide metrics like trust and authority to, this is the time to use the canonical tag.
Of course, this confusion about the original content often reduce its relevance in the ranking. SEO professionals know how harmful this behavior is, so it is essential to always keep an eye on the different pages and the access metrics they receive.
If your website creates multiple pages for the same content, the canonical tag should be used. Most of the time, this replication of different addresses is generated by print pages or even pages where only a few URL parameters are changed.
Applying the canonical tag
First, the canonical domain is defined, that is, the search site – Google, Bing, Yahoo !, among others – will be informed that a given URL is the preferred one for indexing a page on your site.
It is important to remember that it is necessary to choose between the version with or without the “www”. Then, when indexed, this domain will be used in search results and also for future crawls of the page and its updates.
Its application is quite simple – just use the references “Rel” and “Href”. Let’s assume that the preferred URL is the “Site-address / institutional”. So, for this to be indicated to search engine robots, you must add an element to section head of pages:
- <link rel = “canonical” href = ”site-address / institutional” />.
When this activation occurs, it is certain that most users will come across this URL for each search result in which the page appears.
How important is redirect 301?
The practice ensures that the traffic, as well as the search engines themselves, are directed to the correct destination. Code 301 will make these mechanisms understand that the page was moved to another location, instead of detecting it as duplicate pages.
It is also recommended to use the 301 redirect when aiming to redirect visitors from one domain to another. This need can happen when a company changes its name and, with the intention of preserving its customers and followers as much as possible, tries to get them used to the changes instead of migrating completely.
In that case, you need to make sure that each of the old URLs points to the new domain, on the respective pages where each new version of the content is located.
To be effective in these changes, there are some other important points that must be taken into account, such as:
- keep Google always informed of changes, that is, if you migrate to a new domain, make the change of address in the site settings using Webmaster Tools;
- ensure that the new domain is traced by the Googlebot;
- make sure that the old URLs are not blocked, because if they are, this will make redirection impossible;
- stay tuned to know if visitors are facing the 404 error, although the ideal is to prevent the problem from occurring. A tip we have to help in this task is that you do the tests yourself, making a list of all the URLs, accessing them through the Quick URL Opener. When detecting URLs that are in error, try to correct the problem as soon as possible.
How does the canonical tag for social networks work?
This variation of URLs can also happen on social networks, however, there is a behavior that generates doubts in users, related to the likes of Facebook and Twitter.
When there is more than one address for the same page on these platforms, the count of likes only appears in the URL marked with the tag. Thus, the user cannot see his like being counted on the page he accesses.
What are the best practices in using this functionality?
In this job of applying canonical tags, the ideal is to implement a qualified work parameter that avoids Google penalties. So, there are some good practices that should always be ahead of the company’s SEO work. Check out!
Use lowercase letters in URLs
Since Google can treat URLs in upper and lower case as two different URLs, prioritize the use of lowercase letters on the server, and then do the same at the address for your tags.
Use the correct domain version (HTTPS or HTTP)
If you switched to SSL, do not use any URL other than “HTTPS” in your canonical tags. Doing so can theoretically lead to confusion and unexpected results. The same goes for the opposite: if you don’t have an SSL certificate, use only “HTTP”.
Use only one canonical tag per page
This is simple: if you use more than one tag per page, Google ignores both and you continue with the ranking problem.
What are the most common mistakes in the canonical tag?
When canonical tags start to be applied by those who have no experience, it is very easy to fall into a series of mistakes that can harm traffic completely. Therefore, it is essential to obtain as much information as possible before acting.
The ideal is also to follow the recommendations of the search engines themselves that adhere to these tags or of true experts on the subject, in this case, the experienced webmasters. To avoid taking risks, check below some errors that can be avoided right from the start, ensuring a good experience with canonical tags.
Don’t understand that canonical tags exist for a single purpose
Much of the problems registered by beginners occur because they forget an important detail: the strategy only serves to avoid duplicate content and nothing more!
Bearing this in mind, avoid applying canonical tags for any purpose other than solving duplicate content problems, as the chances of generating new problems are very high.
Apply rel = canonical in the wrong places
For the technique to work, rel = canonical must be located in the section . Otherwise, if the code is entered in the section , for example, search engines simply ignore the reference. In addition to rendering the technique useless, this can compromise the HTML structure of the page.
Do not carefully check the source code
More common than creating code templates ready to declare the rel = canonical, in order to speed up the work, it is copy it without making any changes to the destination link. It is like redirecting the user to a wrong page, putting the reputation of the site as a whole in check.
The use of SEO plugins can also lead to problems of the same nature, such as the inclusion of two or more canonical declarations in the same source code, and, as in cases where the reference is outside the head section, the search engines will also ignore your application.
Use canonical tags on non-duplicate pages
As explained in the first common mistake, the technique should only be applied to duplicate content. An example that has become classic is the use of canonical in articles that extend on other pages, making all pages refer to the first.
In this way, all the content of the pages after the first one will be lost precisely because it is not a duplicity. In this case, it is recommended to use canonical tag in order to have a full view of all content – all pages.
What are the most frequently asked questions?
Finally, we separate a real FAQ about the most common questions that SEO professionals and people with little experience have when dealing with canonical tags. Check out the main ones below!
Is the canonical tag approved on PageRank?
Yes! According to Google, you decide the URL of the tag to consolidate this link to similar or duplicate pages. Search engines can thus have more concrete information for URLs.
Ultimately, it is up to Google to decide how its URLs will be handled, but generally, when the search engine respects its canonical tags, PageRank will be approved.
Why does Google ignore some tags?
This happens when the algorithm does not trust the accuracy of the reported tag. In this case, there is really the ignoring behavior, but only under the understanding that the content between the pages is not so similar.
Canonical tags are weaker than the 301 redirect?
It turns out that the tags are suggestions, while the redirect is definitive. Google understands exactly that way, so there is a perception, sometimes, that canonical tags are less effective.
Can Canonical tags only work on duplicate pages or can they also be used on similar content?
Only for duplicate pages or those with very similar content. Otherwise, as we already discussed, Google will ignore the tag request.
What types of pages can be tagged to a different URL?
- multiple versions of a page to support different types of devices. For example, “website-address / news /” and “website-address / news /”;
- session IDs and parameters. For example, “website-address / products? Category = dresses & color = green” or “website-address / dresses / cocktail? Gclid = ABCD”;
- a single page present in several category subfolders. For example, “website-address / decor / pillows” and “website-address / bed / cushions”.
The use of the canonical tag can be a decisive resource to ensure that sites are ranked properly, without being harmed by Google’s algorithm. This ensures effectiveness in SEO parameters and helps, for example, to strengthen Content Marketing strategies.
Thinking about it, take the time to check out our ebook on the best SEO practices!