Canonical Tags | Lesson 10/34 | SEMrush Academy

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0:08 Canonical tag
1:04 Difference between a Canonical tag and a Redirect
2:27 Things to make sure of
3:39 Site Audit tool

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A canonical tag is a tag that goes again into the “head” section of a site or can be applied using server headers. The concept behind this directive is that if there is similar or completely identical content on two URLS, you can help tell Google which is the one you want to show up in their search results.

The tag was introduced some time ago when tracking parameters were a big thing. So essentially what happened was, that various URLs would have had an insane amount of tracking parameters applied to them, even though their content didn’t really change at all. But for Google these were all different URLs – so of course they’d start crawling all of them. Which would lead to massive amounts of duplicate content.

The major difference between a canonical tag and for example a redirect is that the canonical tag is just a hint and is not a directive which Google actually has to follow. In regards to the canonical tag Google says: “it is a hint we honour strongly. We’ll take your preference into account, in conjunction with other signals, when calculating the most relevant page”. So other signals could be, for example, that the same URL is also part of the XML sitemap. Or that it has significantly more inbound links pointing towards it. Google would then combine these signals and honour your canonical directive; but maybe not. The problem is that it remains unclear which signals most impact Google’s decision making.

If you want to clarify whether Google is taking into consideration the canonical URL that you have specified, you can go to Google and use the info-query and combine it with the URL on which the canonical tag is implemented. As a result, you should see another URL, which the canonical tag points to. If this is the case, then Google is actually taking your advice into consideration. If not, it means Google is ignoring your canonical tag altogether.

Make sure that

there is only one rel-canonical directive per URL
You use absolute URLs with protocol & subdomain
You maintain consistency: only one protocol (HTTP vs. HTTPS), either www or non-www and also don’t forget the consistent use of trailing slashes (either with- out without – but not mixed)
Rel-canonical targets actually work (so do not canonicalize to 4XX targets).
You do not create a canonical tag chaining. Google will ignore this. A canonical URL pointing to another URL with a canonical tag on it is a bad idea
You only implement canonicals that point to URLs that serve HTTP 200 status codes, that are indexable (without robots.txt or robots meta tag to block them) and that they are actually URLs that you really want to rank.
From a content perspective it’s also important that if you canonicalize, make sure that those pages are actually very similar to each other. If they are serving different content, Google will probably ignore the tag altogether.
The Issues report of the Site Audit tool can be helpful in avoiding these problems. For instance, it lets you know about pages with a broken canonical link, multiple canonical URLs, and AMP pages with no canonical tag.

#TechnicalSEO #TechnicalSEOcourse #CanonicalTag #SEMrushAcademy

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