Looking at the bigger picture, when you plan to expand your website, it becomes a task to prevent pages from duplicating. This can cause duplicity in content. Suppose if you have two similar pages, and they both are eligible to rank for a certain keyword, the search engine gets into a dilemma which among the two URLs it should send traffic to or which page to rank. To tackle this, you can select a preferred URL, this is what we call the canonical URL.
Canonical URL can be found in the source of a webpage, by searching for rel=” canonical”
In short, it is a technical solution for duplicate content. A “rel=canonical” tag clarifies this and helps search engines understand the content, prevents them from ignoring the page and improves the chances of the content’s ranking.
There was once a talk that duplicate content would lead to a penalty, dropping a website’s entire ranking or removing it from SERP entirely but Google doesn’t punish websites with duplicate content, it filters out duplicate results to create a better user experience.
Your site’s URL is similar to the address of your home. You can easily find one’s home if you have the exact address. When someone has your company’s URL, they can find your website, or a specific page on the website when the URL appears on the top of your internet browser. For example, the URL for Amazon is “www.amazon.com”.
It gets more confusing here, as sometimes one page may have more than one URL. For example, a web page with the same amount of content may be registered as:
All of these pages are the same but the URLs are different. Therefore search engines may treat each separate URL as a separate page, even if all these pages have the same content. It gets more confusing if your website offers a customizable user experience.
That’s where Canonical URL comes to our rescue. You should specify to the search engine which URL is reliable. When you use canonical URLs, you let search engines and users know that the content on the two URLs is the same and which one is correct.
Why is Canonical URL important?
Canonical URL is important for the following reasons:
They help to specify which URL you want people to see in search results. Example you might prefer people reach your red satchel handbag product page via http://www.vistahandbags.com/handbags/redhandbag.html
They help in clarifying the tracking metrics for a single product. When there are a variety of URLs, it becomes more difficult to get consolidated metrics for a specific piece of content.
They help in unifying link signals for similar or duplicate pages and manage syndicated content. Canonical URLs help consolidate page ranking to your preferred URL. Similar or duplicate content across websites won’t have to compete for traffic or ranking in search engines.
Canonicals also help you lead to the search engine for the original article. Let’s say you’ve written a blog for another party that is published on their website. If you’d like to post it on your site too, you could agree on posting it with a canonical of the original version.
For specific cases, you can create custom canonicals URLs for pages or blog posts by using if statement, based on various templates in your theme. This is usually only required if you are doing some fancy URL concealing.
Your pages will be competing with each other on the same search engine. Having lots of pages with different URLs maybe would create a dilemma for search engines which one to rank on the first page.
How to apply a canonical tag?
On the pages you want your search engine to recognize as canonical, just simply add a link tag to the head of the HTML code.
For example, if you want to give the canonical tag to www.bluebells.com, the code would look like:
<link rel=” canonical”
Thus canonical tags are not that complicated as they seem. Just keep in mind that canonical tags are not a directive but a signal for search engines. Hence by properly employing canonical tags, you can thus improve your site ranking and overall performance of your website.