SEO 101: What Are Canonicals

As you begin the journey of learning the basics of SEO, you will probably come across canonical tags.

Since they are an important aspect of technical SEO, it’s important to have a high-level understanding of what they are and what their purpose is. Keep on reading to find out.

Definition of Canonical Tags 

According to Moz, an authoritative source for all things SEO, canonical tags (or “rel canonical” in HTML code) are defined as:

“…a way of telling search engines that a specific URL represents the master copy of a page. Using the canonical tag prevents problems caused by identical or “duplicate” content appearing on multiple URLs. Practically speaking, the canonical tag tells search engines which version of a URL you want to appear in search results.” – Moz.com

Why You Should Use Canonical Tags

Canonicals are best used for letting search engines know about duplicate content or pages on your website, as suggested by Google themselves.

Here are 5 situations where they say canonicals come in handy:

  • To help users see the correct URL in search results
    For example, let’s say your website sells shoes. You would likely want people to find the web page “www.shoes4sales.com/shoes/blue” when they are searching for blue shoes instead of the page “www.shoes4sale.com/shoes/clearance/sandals/blue.”

what are canonicals

  • To help consolidate your website
    Having a lot of content on your website is great, but having too many pages on your website can make it hard for search engines to sort through what they should show users using the same kind of principles seen in example #1.
  • To help get better data
    Having better data to consult while analyzing your SEO efforts is a key part of marketing. With more URLs to look at, it can be harder to get high-level data on your strategies, so simplifying can be helpful.
  • To help manage syndicated content
    Do you syndicate your blog posts on other websites? Be sure to use canonicals to help consolidate page rankings.
  • To help Googlebot crawl your website
    When your site is better organized with canonicals, it makes it easier for Google’s crawl bots to find new content on your website rather than crawling the same pages over and over.

How to Add Canonicals to Your Website

Typically, the canonical tag is placed in the header of a webpage, in the same general area where metadata is added:

canonicals

If your website is built with HTML, the tags will need to be added manually to all of your pages using code editing software and an FTP client. If you’re unfamiliar with either of those aspects, pass this article along to your web developer.

However, if you have a WordPress website, we recommend using the All in One SEO Pack plugin which allows you to add a unique canonical URL in their metadata editor:

custom canonicals

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