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What Are Canonicals and How Do We Use Them?

Unlock SEO success with canonical tags! Learn what canonical tags are, what types there are, and how to use them properly on your site

When it comes to SEO and website optimization, canonical tags play an essential role in ensuring that your website’s content is correctly indexed and ranked by search engines. But what exactly are canonical tags, and why are they important? Join us as we explore one of the top SEO best practices for your site: canonicals.

What Are Canonical Tags?

A canonical tag is a piece of HTML code that tells search engines which version of a web page is the preferred or “canonical” version when there are multiple versions of the same content. In other words, a canonical tag is like a special sign on a website that guides its robot friend to the right place. The canonical tag helps the robot understand which page is the most important when there are many pages that look similar, ensuring it doesn’t get confused.

Canonicals are particularly useful when you have similar or identical content accessible through different URLs. This can occur due to various reasons, such as URL parameters, tracking parameters, programmatically generated product pages, or print-friendly versions of pages.

Why Are Canonical Tags Important for SEO?

There are three primary reasons you should use canonicals: avoiding duplicate content, consolidating page authority, and enhancing the user experience.

Avoiding Duplicate Content

Search engines aim to provide users with the most relevant and unique content. Duplicate content can confuse search engines about which content to index, create internal ranking competition, impact the user experience, and even waste a search engine’s crawl budget, resulting in penalties or deindexation. Canonical tags help resolve this issue by specifying the preferred version of the page.

Consolidating Page Authority

When you have duplicate content across multiple URLs, the authority and backlinks may become divided among these variations. Google could also pick the page it thinks is most important and choose to rank only that one and ignore the rest. Using canonical tags, you can consolidate the page authority onto a single URL, improving its position in search results.

Improving User Experience

Canonical tags also benefit your website’s visitors by ensuring that users consistently see the content you intend them to see, even if they access it through different URLs. This helps maintain a seamless user experience.

Canonical Tag Types and Their Uses

Canonicals can point to themselves, other URLs on the same domain, or even external pages. 

Types of canonicals include:

  • Page-to-Page Canonical: Used to specify the canonical version of a duplicate page.
  • Self-Referencing Canonical: Used when a page points to itself as the canonical version.
  • Cross-Domain Canonical: Applied when the preferred version of a page is on a different domain.
  • HTTP to HTTPs Canonical: Helps when transitioning from a non-secure (HTTP) version to a secure (HTTPS) version.
  • Mobile to Desktop Canonical: Specifies the preferred version between mobile and desktop pages.
  • Pagination Canonical: Used for paginated content to consolidate the value into a single page.

For best SEO practices, ensure every page on your site includes either a self-referencing canonical or a canonical link to another page if there is duplicate or near-duplicate content. 

How to Implement Canonical Tags

Implementing canonical tags is a pretty straightforward process.

  1. Identify duplicate content on your website.
  2. Choose the preferred (canonical) URL for each piece of duplicate content.
  3. Insert the <link> tag with the rel=”canonical” attribute in the <head> section of the HTML for the non-canonical pages. For example:<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.example.com/preferred-page” />
  4. Ensure that the canonical tag points to the URL of the preferred version and that the canonical link element is indexable.

The Canonical’s Place Within the GPO Product

At GPO, self-referencing canonicals are present on every page of our Local Pages sites. But aren’t self-referencing canonicals only valuable if the content is unique? Yes, that’s correct. GPO’s Local Pages sites implement unique, non-duplicate content across hundreds and even thousands of pages, all tailored to specific states, cities, zip codes, and locations. Each page contains unique product, service, or category content optimized for local search.

Would you like to learn how your brand can capture more local search queries for your product or service using unique, tailored content? Contact us to start your journey toward owning local search.

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