Duplicate content is a significant issue for websites. When different pages on your website have the same or very similar content, it can cause your site to rank lower in search engine results pages. Search engines view duplicate content as spammy and less valuable than original content. You can create duplicate content when you switch domains or move your website to a new hosting platform. Switching domains can also cause your website to lose backlinks, hurting your SEO efforts.
One way to address duplicate content is to use a canonical tag. A canonical tag is an HTML element that tells search engines which version of a page is the original. Read on to understand a canonical tag and how to use it.
What Is a Canonical Tag?
A canonical tag, also known as a rel=”canonical” tag, is an HTML element that helps webmasters prevent duplicate content issues on their websites.
An original page is the one you want search engines to index, and a duplicate page is the one you don’t want search engines to index.
The canonical tag tells search engines which page is the original and should be indexed. Indexing involves a process of crawling, indexing, and ranking pages in search engine results.
How to Use a Canonical Tag?
1) Single Canonical Tag for Each Page
Having a single canonical tag for each page on your website is essential. This will help avoid any confusion for search engines when they are crawling and indexing your pages.
2) Choose the Right Domain
When choosing the right domain for your canonical tags, you must consider both the users and the search engines. The domain you choose should be accessible for users to remember and type into their browsers. The Domain name should be SEO friendly and relevant to your website’s content.
3) Use Absolute URLs
URLs are the addresses humans use to access web pages, and they come in two forms: relative and absolute. Relative URLs are more accessible for people to remember because they don’t include the full address. However, search engines prefer absolute URLs because they are more specific. For example, the absolute URL for the blog post you are reading is “canonical-tag.html,” while the relative URL is “/blog/canonical-tag.html.”
Steps to Implement Canonical Tags
1) Use the HTML Link Element
The HTML link element is the most common way to implement a canonical tag. It goes in the head section of your page and looks like this:
link rel=”canonical” href=”example.com/page-a” />
Replace “example.com/page-a” with the URL you want to be the canonical URL. You can put the HTML link element on every website page, even if you don’t have duplicate content issues. That way, if someone does try to create duplicates of your content, you can still control which version is canonical.
2) Use a 301 Redirect
A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. When you set up a 301 redirect, you’re telling search engines that one URL is canonical and that they should disregard any other URLs with similar content.
3) Use the Rel=”Canonical” HTML Meta Tag
The rel=”canonical” HTML meta tag is an alternative to the HTML link element. It looks like this:
meta name=”robots” content=”canonical” />. It is ideal for pages with dynamic content, such as a blog post that multiple URLs can access.
4) Use Internal Linking
Internal linking is pointing search engines to your canonical URL by linking to it from other pages on your website. This is especially useful if you have duplicate content spread across multiple pages on your site.