What are Canonical Links?

HomeSearch Engine OptimisationWhat are Canonical Links?

Today we’ll be talking about the basics of canonicalisation and the best practices of SEO in Adelaide. We’ll also be talking about the Dos and Don’ts of Canonical links and how the best SEO Company in Adelaide uses it to their advantage.

What are Canonical Links?

According to Wikipedia, “Canonical Links help webmasters to prevent duplicate content issues in Google and other search engines by specifying the preferred version of a web page.”

In layman’s terms, it means if there are duplicates of a particular blog made by the author or anyone else, a canonical link element can tell Google which is the original piece of content. Hence, giving the unique piece of content the rank and authority it deserves.

Canonical Links: Learn with an Example

Canonicalisation means that we are saying to Google and other search engines that this particular URL is what they should concentrate on to index and rank. While the different URLs that have almost similar or completely duplicate content should aim to rank the original content.

Let’s use an example to understand canonical links better.

For instance, this blog that you are reading right now “What are canonical links?” is the primary blog that I want to rank, for simplicity, let’s call this Blog-A.

Then, I have a duplicate of the same blog for some reason. Maybe it is a historical web artifact, or I have some problem in my site architecture, or perhaps I did it intentionally for some tracking or testing purposes. In any case, I have this copy of blog A; let’s call this one Blog-B.

Further, I have another version of blog A, slightly different but similar. This one I “wrote” for a social media platform, perhaps LinkedIn article. We’ll call it “Blog-LinkedIn”. 

So, now, we have three blogs with almost identical content with three distinct URLs.

We know that LinkedIn is a viral platform for professional interactions, so the Blog-LinkedIn gets shared the most.

Now, the trouble is that I don’t want Google to get confused and rank Blog-B or Blog-LinkedIn instead of Blog-A (the main blog). I want to tell Google don’t rank any other URL but Blog-A’s.

So, how do I do that? Let’s find out.

How to Use Canonical Links?

1. Rel = Canonical Tag

Whenever you publish a new piece of blog content or a new page on your website, go into your webmaster tool search console and go to fetch as Google and submit the URL.

By submitting the URL, this will tell Google that Blog-A is the original piece of content that belongs to your site and anything else on the web is a copy of this.

You can do the same by using link rel = “canonical” tag, by putting it in the header tag of the blog. And, Google will know that Blog-B, Blog-LinkedIn, or any number of other copy blogs are a clone or duplicate of Blog-A.

SEO Tip: You can also use the rel= canonical tag for self-referencing to your main blog. Add the tag to the main Blog-A pointing to itself. That way if someone decides to make a copy by slightly changing the URL, Google will still consider Blog-A as the original version.

2. 301 Redirect

301 is a status quote telling Google to take the visitors of Blog-B and redirect them to Blog-A (the original one). It is the easiest of the option that gets the visitors straight to your Blog-A.

3. Passive Parameters in Google Search Console

Let me clear one thing, this is not a permanent solution. It’s more like a temporary fix until you get the time to fix the issue for good. If you have a site with tons of URLs and URL parameters, it is a pain in the ass to clean up all the past work in a short time.

If you are facing such a problem, then passive parameters are your quick fix.

Login to your Google Search Console account that’s connected to your website and tell Google through the search parameters section to make certain kinds of search parameters passive.

It tells Google that whenever you see this URL parameter (of the copy blog) don’t take it into account. Doing so raises the possibilities for your original Blog-A’s chances to rank higher.

4. Go with Location Hashes

Many times copy blogs have the same content but with sections interchanged. For example, I posted this same blog in a different URL with the mid-section at the beginning and the intro section in the middle; it’s still the same content.

What canonicalising with location hashes does is that it will directly get you to the mid-section in the original Blog-A. This way, the blog will get more traffic from its copy blogs.

How NOT to Use Canonical Links?

Doing any or all of the below steps will only affect poorly on your main blog.

1. Don’t Block Google to Crawl Copy Blogs

Many sites don’t want to get into canonicalization just because it seems complex. So, what do they do? They only block their similar content URLs and stop Google from crawling any of the copy blogs.

You shouldn’t block your copy blogs because doing so will not let Google spiders get to the site. This may sound a good idea to increase your main blog’s ranking. Still, in reality, you are just reducing your chances to rank because any ranking signals, any links that happen to be in Blog-B, or Blog LinkedIn that might have helped Blog-A to rank better are all now invisible to Google.

2. Don’t block indexation

Now, you may think, “okay, I won’t block my duplicate blogs, but instead I’ll block their indexation”. By doing so, Google can see your copy blog, crawl it, but not index it. Problem solved, right? Guess what; this creates the same problem as above. Unless Google is smart enough to canonicalise Blog-A with all the copy versions automatically, you are in the loss.

Now, Google is smart, and its algorithms are getting better with each update, but I would still suggest that you depend entirely on manual canonicalisation done by your SEO team.

3. Don’t use 302, 307, or any other 30X

301 is the permanent redirect and is the most likely one to help you with canonicalization. Even though Google has said they often treat 301s and 302s similarly, there is an exception. In the case of canonicalization 301 is the best fit, and guess what we are trying to do, canonicalization!

4. Don’t use 404

Just like 30Xs, don’t use 404 for your non-canonicalized content. This is the stupidest solution to the problem. Don’t 404 your content, because then all the traffic and ranking that you could have benefitted from your duplicate content are gone.

Going for 404 is only advisable if the page is new and has not got crawled or ranked anywhere.

SEO Tip: Instead of being afraid of canonicalization and cutting your ties with copy blog, combine their forces and give their ranking ability to your main blog and your website.

Why should you use Canonical Links?

To improve Your Site Ranking with the Best SEO Company in Adelaide, Canonical links will be a very powerful tool in your SEO arsenal.

Canonical links also work cross-domain. So, for instance, you decide to change the blog a little bit and post it on your medium account with a cross-domain canonical link, you can link back to the original blog on your site.

So, if Google crawls your blog on Medium (which has more chances due to higher domain authority), it will show Google that the blog on your site is the original source.

Cleaning up your site and using canonical links may sound easy, but remember that one slight mistake in SEO can cost a company a lot in traffic, site authority, and loss of potential business. So, it is always advisable to go for professional SEO services in Adelaide for your needs.

Get the best SEO Company in Adelaide to help your site rank higher and bring in tons of traffic. 


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