What Is a Canonical Link in SEO?

  • Daniel Martin
  • Nov 19, 2021
What Is a Canonical Link in SEO

A canonical link is the one that Google will recognize if you have multiple URLs with the same content. It is the “preferred” URL that you want Google to crawl. The good news is you can set the canonical link among your duplicates to improve your SEO.

In this article, we will look into canonical links and content duplication. We will see how these “irregularities” can affect SEO and how canonical URLs can be the remedy. We will also give some examples for the canonical tag rel=”canonical”.

So, without further delay, let’s discuss what is a canonical link in SEO.

What Does It Look Like?

Since canonical URLs can be modified in HTML, they have specific “tags” that separate them from other duplicate content. If you don’t define which page is the canonical URL, Google will decide which page is the most representative of the rest.

In an HTML code, the canonical tag rel=”canonical” looks like this:

<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.sample.com">

You can find this code in the <head> section. This dictates Google crawlers that the href link is the canonical URL.

How Does Google See These Canonical Tags

For example, you have 3 different URLs for your webpage, namely:

  • www.sampleURL.com/index.php
  • https://www.sampleURL.com/canonical-in-seo
  • https://www.sampleURL.com/seo/canonical-link

Google will see these as unique URLs that point to the same page. This situation can be the cause of content duplication. Thus, you have to point these other URLs to your pre-determined canonical URL.

Once you add the canonical tag rel=”canonical”, Google will ignore the other 2 URLs in the example and index the canonical URL.

Effects of Canonical Links in SEO

We know that duplicate content is not favored by search engines. It can even be a cause for a manual penalty if you’re abusing it.

Canonical tags are also helpful if you are using content syndication. You can generate tons of traffic from third-party sites and redirect the SEO benefits to the main content. It’s easier to convert this new organic traffic to leads if the content you wrote was really helpful for them.

Content syndication can lead to content duplication from your main content and the third-party website. This is where canonical tags become useful. The link equity you get from the third-party site can be transferred to your main content by adding a canonical tag.

E-commerce stores are the ones that benefit the most from canonical links. Since your products can have a couple of variations (size, color, etc.), it is common to have multiple URLs for, technically, the same content.

All the engagements and clicks you get for the different variations of your products are redirected to your main product page. Thus, having multiple pages for the same product content is possible through canonical tags. All the SEO equity remains intact for your main product page.

Other Uses of Canonical Tags

As mentioned before, you can use canonical tags for different URL variations for the same product page. But there are more uses for canonical tags than that.

The major use for canonical tags is for guiding search engines to the main URL that you want it to index. However, you can use them in different ways:

1. Different URLs for Different Devices

Did you notice that when you visit a webpage using your mobile phone, the URL becomes slightly different? From the usual https://www.sampleURL.com, it becomes https://m.www.sampleURL.com. This is where canonical links become useful.

With more users using different devices for surfing the web, it’s normal for websites to adapt by making a separate dedicated page. Canonical tags are used for these URL variations and redirect them to your browser page. Google Analytics still sees this as traffic from mobile devices for SEO analytics.

2. Same Post for Different Sections

A blog post can be located in different sections on your website. It can be located on the general blog page and under a specific category. Canonical links can unite these duplicate pages and maximize the SEO benefit you can get from them.

Duplicate content can damage the SEO capacity of your page. Not only it will be bad for search engines, but also for the readers. It can cause confusion, and they might leave your page because of that.

3. Redirect Link Signals

Link signals define how beneficial a website is for your SEO. More link signals mean more benefits for your website. Thus, it’s important to influence the link signals and not spread them among different duplicate pages.

Redirecting all the link signals from your duplicate pages to your canonical link will greatly improve its SEO value. SEO parameters for your page will likely increase.

4. Canonical Links are Google-Friendly

Canonical links are useful for Google, especially when crawling the web. Search engine spiders use these as flags to determine which content (among the duplicates) will they index.

However, it’s important to take note that Google can sometimes ignore your canonical tag. The search engine will automatically search for the duplicate that’s most relevant to the search query. This way, your content will still satisfy search intent.

You can use the URL Inspection Tool to find which duplicate page is indexed by Google. This will show you which URL is the canonical link, according to Google. You can also check here if the canonical tag you added to your canonical link is recognized by Google.

Final Word

In terms of SEO, canonical tags are needed to unite multiple “similar” content. SEOs and other webmasters sometimes get confused when grouping these similar content. Thus, it’s necessary to figure out which content is canonical and which is not.

To avoid the negative impacts of duplicate content, canonical tags are used by SEO professionals. Be careful not to use these tags too often as Google may lose trust in your canonical tags. If this happens, Google will ignore the tags you assign.

We hope you learned about canonical links and their importance in SEO. If you have more questions regarding canonical links, you can leave a comment below. We’ll provide an answer as soon as we can.

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