Virtually every business that is on the internet aims to rank at the top of Google’s search, which will surely increase its organic reach and, consequently, the amount of sales. For this, however, it is imperative to invest in quality content, website optimization and SEO techniques, based on search engine algorithms guidelines and new updates (which happen quite often!).
What are Canonical Tags and How Do They Work?
Canonical tags are files that list the pages of a website and inform all search engines of how the content on that site Is organized, and can be considered the most significant search engine revolution since the implementation of sitemaps. In short, canonical tags prevent search engines from indexing pages that have duplicate content to each other. The algorithms of Google and all other search engines do not like duplicate content. Ultimately, search engines consider duplicate content as a way to deceive them about the relevance and traffic of the site, which are actually smaller than it looks. Thus, telling Google and other search engines that multiple pages have the same content and that only the source page should be referenced is a practice known as “canonicity”.
In the example above, the canonical tag is used as a form of markup that indicates that one page is actually the replica of another, and that both pages should not be indexed in searches in the same way.
How Canonical Tag is Used to Avoid Duplicate Content
- The function of the canonical tag is similar to that of redirect 301, which also indicates where the algorithm should go in order to land on another page;
- The difference between these two techniques is that 301 redirect applies to both people and search engines, while the canonical tag works only with the search engines. People will still have access to pages that will not be indexed in search engines;
- Briefly, the canonical tag can help optimize the SEO of your site without impairing the user experience. Therefore, it is useful for both needs.
If a search engine is not able to identify which version should or should not be indexed, the tendency is that the relevance and authority of all pages will be reduced in ranking, which is extremely detrimental. Therefore, the use of the canonical tag should be done whenever the site has different versions of the same content, such as when the URL has some variations or when there are print pages.
As an example, if the main page of a certain site can be accessed by different URLs that have only a few different parameters, the best option is to use the canonical tag to prevent search engines from recognizing them as duplicate content. Thus, all recognition and authority due to that site will be directed to a single link, which will make it better positioned on the search results pages, the so-called SERPs.
Common Errors in Canonical Tag Usage
In order to experience all the benefits of the canonical tag on a website, it is of the utmost importance that they be applied properly, otherwise they will not work. Therefore, it is imperative that its implementation be done only after seeking as much information as possible about the subject, preferably according to the content provided by the search engines themselves or WebMasters.
Some of the more recurring errors can be avoided or corrected through simple procedures, thus ensuring the efficiency of canonical tags by avoiding duplicate content. Some of the most common mistakes are:
- Not understanding the actual purpose of the canonical tag: It is important to note that the sole purpose of this technique is to avoid the existence of duplicate content. The application of this technique should not be made for any other purpose;
- Apply the tag in the wrong places of the site: The implementation of the canonical tag must be done in the section of the website. If it is implemented in the section or in any other different function the search engines will not understand this reference, besides that this can harm the HTML structure of the page and result in other problems;
- Not paying attention to the source code: Copying the structure of a code and using it on your site is very recurrent and there is nothing wrong. However, in order to obtain the expected results, it is imperative to check the source code very carefully, as it can count incorrect data that will result in redirects to the wrong pages that will compromise the reputation of the site, however good it may be;
- Implementing canonical tags on pages that do not contain duplicate content: Some people believe that the canonical tag should be used when an article has multiple pages, so to reference only the first page. This is a bad practice, since the pages do not contain duplicate content but complementary content.
The use of the canonical tag is highly recommended to all users that do not want search engines to index duplicate pages, thus reducing their authority and relevance. However, keep in mind canonical tag is not a magic wand that will automatically improve your website visibility. So, carefully consider the need: Do you have duplicate content? Are there multiple URLs directed to the same destination/content? Based on your findings, draw up a strategy that will make this process smooth like butter, and do not hesitate to implement this feature and ensure the best results possible with search engines!