Free SEO Services Guide To Canonical Tags
In this SEO services guide, we look at canonical tags. We will explain why canonical tags are important for your website, and how SEO services can help you optimise them. In short, canonical tags provide a solution to duplicate content issues, an SEO company uses them to ensure that crawl budget is associated where it counts. They instead, inform the search engines that a particular URL refers to the master copy of a page where there other versions that are fairly identical.
Essentially, they tell the search engines which version of the page is the most important, and that should appear in search engine results pages (SERPs). If you’re thinking you don’t have duplicate content on your site, you could be wrong. Search engines can see similar links as duplicates.
Canonical tags are only effective if you understand how they work. In this SEO services guide, we aim to explain best practices of how to implement, audit, and avoid common mistakes with canonical tags. By outsourcing SEO services you’ll also be able to learn more about canonical tags, trust a leading SEO (Cape Town).
SEO services guide to canonical tags – What are canonical tags?
canonical tags are essentially a part of coding used as a label to indicate that a page is a master version, or “canon”. It can either be included as an HTML tag or an HTTP header. It looks like this:
This label indicates to the search engines that this is the most important version of this page, ie the one you want to be indexed for a higher ranking on the SERPs. canonical tags may not seem like a big deal but they are in fact a very important detail in technical SEO services.
SEO services guide to canonical tags – Why are canonical tags important?
In order to answer this question, it’s necessary to understand how SEO works. Fundamentally, you want one of your main webpages to appear in the search engine results when a potential customer looks up certain keywords. Duplicate content can actually get in the way of this, through keyword cannibalisation, where Google ranks the wrong version.
The search engines will link these keywords to different pages on your site and this may not cause the best results. This often happens if the potential customer searches for particular details, for example, colours or specific types of products. This is a problem when, ideally, you want the category main page of your products to appear at the top of the SERPs instead.
Duplicate content makes it more difficult for search engines to know which pages to rank. Search engine bots also don’t like wasting time “crawling” through different pages looking for relevant indicators in order to rank them. This will affect what is known as your “crawl” budget”.
In order to rank highly on the SERPs, your site needs to be as crawlable as possible. If the search engine bots are confused in this way, they may not find the important information you want to get out there. By labeling the main pages as canonical, you are essentially helping them out and not wasitng their time or your website’s crawl budget on near-identical versions.
In sum, it’s crucial to control your duplicate content. URLs with very similar content can cause issues for SEO. This affects your site’s crawlability and therefore rankability. In order to avoid this and use canonical tags effectively, you need to rely on expert SEO services.
SEO services guide to duplicate content
You might have been reading this SEO services guide and wondering if there is actually any duplicate content on your site, and more importantly, what it is exactly. Search engines see each variation of a URL as a separate page. These links all may lead to the same page but they’re very much individual to the search engines. Compare:
These are just a couple of examples in how a slight variation can be seen as a different page by Google for example. These URLs both lead to the homepage but are unique in the eyes of the search engine bots. There can also be a problem with duplication with two different pages. Compare:
The second page may appear due to a more specific filtered search. You can use technical SEO to indicate to the search engines that the first page is preferred by adding the following label to both:
This allows you to choose which pages you prefer to rank highly and prevents any duplicates from being ranked instead. The advantages of this are that your site is easier to rank and that the more important content is chosen first.
One point to make about adding canonical tags to duplicate content is that it´s actually only a “suggestion” to Google. They are considered redirect hints and the search engine can choose to ignore these. If you have a large number of pages you want to canonicalise, it’s advisable to employ SEO services to help you do this effectively.
Modern content management systems (CMS) and more complex websites often create this problem. Additional tags enable multiple paths to the same content and you might end up with several duplicate URLs on your site. This will have a negative effect on your SEO.
SEO services guide to canonical tags best practices
There are several important things to remember when dealing with canonical tags. They might still seem a bit confusing to gauge. An SEO services company will help you figure out how to work around duplicate content. There are a number of best practices when it comes to canonical tags.
canonical tags can be used to lead the search engine bots to the current URL. If you have three duplicate URLs for example, you can use the canonical tag on all three, even the one you want them to be redirected to. It doesn’t have to be only used on duplicates pointing back to the master version.
Your homepage is the most important page on your website so it’s advisable to implement a canonical tag on your homepage template. Homepage duplicate problems are the most typical as it’s easier for people to link back to your homepage in different ways. To be safe, put a self-referential canonical tag on your homepage template.
Always monitor and check your URLs and canonical tags for any unforeseen issues. Bad coding can often get in the way and mistakenly write a different canonical tag for each duplicate URL. Spot check these regularly and ensure they are redirecting to the correct URL.
It is also possible to send mixed signals out to search engines by mistake. Search engines can easily misinterpret canonical tags especially if you canonicalise pages back and forth or in a chain. SEO services can help you to avoid this by sending clearer signals to the search engines. This will also improve your crawl budget.
When pages are only similar and not exact duplicates, search engines may ignore the canonical tags. This might happen if the pages are too different. That being said, you can use canonical tags on near-duplicate pages. These can include product pages that have variations in currency, or a specific feature of the product, for example.
You can also use canonical tags across domains. If you use more than one site to publish your content then a canonical tag can help to focus the search engines on of these in particular. That way you will be able to give more ranking power to the most important site. Remember that the other sites won’t be ranked so only do this if it makes sense according to your business goals.
SEO services guide to auditing canonical tags
As with any aspect of your SEO strategy, auditing your canonical tags is key to making sure they’re functioning properly. You’ll need to monitor their performance and make any necessary updates or correct any problems. Here is the SEO services quick guide to auditing your canonical tags.
It’s important to constantly check the appropriate pages have a canonical tag. You also need to make sure that this actually directs the search engines to the correct page. It’s also necessary to ensure you maximize the crawlabity and indexability of all your most relevant pages.
Sometimes the canonical tag of a URL is accidentally blocked by robots.txt or is otherwise set to “noindex”. These are common errors to look out for when you’re auditing your canonical tags. They are important to pick up because they can send out conflicting information and mixed signals to search engines.
You can check the coding and audit your canonical tags by simply clicking on “view source”. You can do this by right-clicking in your browser. In up-to-date browsers, you can even write this into the address bar. Look for your canonical tag, for example:
<link href=“https://website.com/” rel=“canonical”>
There are also a number of solutions SEO services can provide you with to help you audit your canonical tags. They will have access to software and tools to ensure you optimise your canonical tags and your entire SEO strategy. SEO services can also help to prevent any common errors and miswritten links.
Common mistakes with canonical tags – and how to avoid them
Unfortunately for some, the more complex webpages become the more problems arise. Linking pages with canonical tags can be a difficult task for even those more experience in web development. Certain mistakes are common, particularly for eCommerce, and more complicated websites.
As previously mentioned, canonical tags can be blocked accidentally in a number of ways. Robots.txt can prevent search engines from crawling that page and any canonical pages. No link equity is therefore transferred from non-canonical to canonical pages.
Canonicalised URLs should never be set to “noindex” either and instead a 301 redirect should be used. This is a similar type of redirect which still passes link equity. Otherwise, stick with rel=“canonical” and avoid “noindex” completely.
Don’t set a 4XXX HTTP status code for canonicalised URLs either. Google will not only not be able to see it but again, no link equity will be passed. It’s essential that your canonical pages have sufficient link equity in order to boost your site’s SEO.
It’s advisable by Google to use Hreflang with all canonical tags in order to specify the language and geographical targeting of your site. You should also specify canonical pages in the same language or alternatively an appropriate substitute. Often people avoid doing this but it’s recommended by Google.
One last common mistake is including the rel=“canonical” in the <body> part of the coding rather than the <head>. If you do this, the search engines will ignore it. Occasionally the source code shows the canonical tag in the right location, but certain issues might change its location accidentally when the page is rendered. Good SEO services will detect and fix these issues.
Google Search Console also includes a URL inspection tool, which allows you to see both user-declared and Google-selected canonicals. This way you can determine if Google is choosing the right pages as the most important, and you can make any necessary changes. An SEO services provider can also help you audit your canonical tags effectively.
canonical tags are just another way your website communicates with search engines. By learning to implement, audit, and update them correctly, you’ll be able to maximise your site’s crawlabity and rankability. By doing this, you can ensure a higher position on the SERPs.
canonical tags might sound difficult to control but in fact, with the right SEO services provider you’ll have nothing to worry about. They are confusing to understand initially but with the right advice, you’ll be able to optimize your canonical tags and all other technical aspects of your SEO.