Duplicate content is a major issue for any website designer or owner. Not only does it confuse your end-users, but it also hurts your SEO rankings, sometimes without you even knowing it. One of the oldest and most effective tools you have to minimise this risk is a canonical tag.  This option is extremely effective in allowing you to have similar content on some pages, without potentially hurting your rank on Google.

So, whether you want a canonical URL in WordPress or another platform, here’s what you need to know.

What is a canonical URL?

A type of HTML code, a canonical URL is used to define exactly what is the “main page” when there are duplicate, near-duplicate, and extremely similar pages on a website. The canonical one will be the one that ultimately ends up indexed, which ends up being the one that Google ranks and will direct people to from search engine results.

Canonical URL syntax is also worth mentioning. Generally, a simple approach is taken, with the tag being placed in the <head> part of a website. As a canonical URL example, it would look something like.

<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://samplepage.com/canonicalexample-page/” />

The first section, (<link rel=”canonical”), is the master/canonical version of the page. The second part shows the URL where you can find that version.

Can the rel=canonical tag link to another domain?

Yes. In fact, this can be a useful tool when trying to build the link profile of your content. For example, say you write an article and someone wants to repost it. Make sure that they apply this tag to the link so the two articles don’t compete against each other as duplicate content.

Does a rel=canonical link improve SEO?

This is an extremely useful tool when it comes to SEO.

Remember, Google, by nature, doesn’t like duplicate content.

Using canonical tags makes it easier for the system to understand that you only want one page indexed, essentially saving you from this issue.

In addition, it saves Google the time of crawling multiple versions of the same page, versus, crawling other pages on your website you may want covered.

Google will default a canonical page if you don’t set one, but there’s no guarantee it will pick the best match for you.

What is the difference between 301 redirect & rel=canonical?

While these two options have similar functions (to avoid problems with duplicate pages in UX and ranking) their purposes are a bit different. Rel=canonical is more about explaining to search engines that there are multiple versions of a page out there, and clarifying which one they should be focusing on. A 301 redirect gets used more when there is a page that no longer exists, to actually move the user to a different page.

Is there a canonical tag validator?

There are several different tools out there that can help ensure that your tags aren’t accidentally leading to nowhere (for example, Sitechecker Pro). However, the more near-duplicate pages you have, the more unwieldy these free tools can be.

Conclusion

Understanding how these tags work is an essential building block when it comes to being able to design an effective website, but it doesn’t stop there. From technical issues to duplicate content, there are a lot of issues that could end up sinking your website if you don’t take the time to address them. To make sure your SEO initiatives are working properly, you want to have a full-on SEO audit in Melbourne done. The Grid Concepts content marketing agency is a great partner to make sure your site is working at its best.