Canonical Links and What They Mean for SEO

When you post duplicate content on your website it could create a large variety of problems for search engines and in turn, hurt your page rankings. We suggest avoiding duplicate content on your website for three main reasons:
  1. Search engines will not know which version of the page to include in the index and which one to exclude.
  2. Search engines won’t know whether to direct all link metrics (contributors for ranking) to a single page or distribute it between all the various versions of a page.
  3. Search engines will not be able to tell which version to rank for search results.
These issues have the power to harm the ranking of your pages according to Moz, but with the assistance of canonical links you can easily let search engines know which version of the page you want to be considered the true version of the page.
Canonical link source code example

What is a Canonical Link?

A canonical link is an element that is included in a page to point search engines to the preferred version of the page. By doing so search engines will know exactly which page the owner of the website wants to be indexed and ranked over other pages with the same content. This will help stop the problem of link metrics being improperly distributed and the potential harm to your rankings that come along with that. Making sure to include canonical links on your pages in important because you can’t always control how other people and sites will link to your pages. Say for example that you have the tow pages on your site: This stops the problem of link metrics being improperly distributed and the potential harm to your rankings that comes along with that. Including canonical links in your pages is important as well because you can’t always control how other people and sites will link to your pages. Say for example you have the two following pages on your site:
  • example.com/practice/emergency-plumbers
  • example.com/emergency-plumbers
The two of these pages have the same content and both have been linked to by other websites so it is apparent to search engines that the content on both is valuable information. By setting up a canonical link from one page to the other you can retain all of the link metrics of that page and have search engines apply it to the master version of the page. You may want to consider it as a consolidating the value of multiple versions of the same page into a single, more powerful page. When you also factor in how Google’s search engine accounts for the vast majority of searches online, it is best to become familiar with their guidelines for using canonical links.

Canonical Link vs. a Full Page Redirect

A good portion of webmasters is now using what is called a 301 redirect to avoid duplicate content issues. A “redirect” is basically just that, nothing too fancy. When somebody goes to your URL by either following a link or typing it into their web browser they are redirected to the page that the webmaster wants to be the master copy. The issue with this method is that it is no longer possible to visit the duplicate page and creating a redirect takes a little more work than canonical linking does. Canonical links will ensure that users will still be able to visit the page that is considered a duplicate page to the master page that you want search engines to divert traffic to. Canonical links are far easier to create as they can be written directly into the HTML of a page.

Routinely Check Your Canonical Links or Hire an SEO Company

You are more than likely adding new pages to your website constantly and for that reason, it is possible to end up with new duplicate pages. Staying on top of duplicate content can become a full-time job in itself and if it seems like more than you are willing to undertake then a professional SEO company can take care of it for you. You should never neglect this critical aspect of your site because it can cause your pages to rank much worse than they would otherwise.