If you have ever looked into how to deal with duplicate content across pages of your website, then you’ve probably heard of canonical tags. But what exactly are canonical tags, and if you’re using them on your site, are you using them effectively?
Let’s take a closer look at this subject, including when and how you can utilize canonical tags to improve your site’s SEO.
What Are Canonical Tags?
Canonical tags, often called canonical links, are snippets of HTML code that tell a search engine’s site crawlers that one page of your website is the master copy or main version of any duplicate content found across your site.
Using a canonical tag tells search engines which page you want to appear in search results when content from your site is served through a user’s search query.
The link rel=”canonical” code followed by a hyperlink is used on a page to indicate that the page should be treated as a duplicate of the page referenced in the link. So, when you use a canonical tag on Page A with a link to Page B, search engines know that Page B is the master copy.
How Are Canonical Tags Helpful for SEO?
Duplicate content can cause all sorts of SEO problems. If your website focuses on one general topic, it’s not uncommon to have duplicate content shared between multiple pages.
The problem is that search engines may dilute your site’s ranking ability if their crawlers find too much duplicate content. Wading through too much duplicate content may hamper site crawlers from discovering all of your unique, high-value content, too.
It’s not only duplicate content that can cause SEO issues. Near-duplicate or similar content can also confuse site crawlers or lead search engines to limit your site’s ranking ability.
When these issues arise, canonical tags are there to help. By using the rel=”canonical” tag, you can help search engines understand which page with duplicate content is the original or most important page to be indexed and ranked for search results.
When to Use Canonical Tags Vs. 301 Redirects
Some website administrators and digital marketers may decide to utilize 301 redirects instead of canonical tags when dealing with duplicate content. However, keep in mind that there is a significant difference between canonical tags and 301 redirects regarding search engine crawlers and human site visitors.
With a 301 redirect, you’re simply sending human site visitors from one page to another automatically; the visitor never sees the page that’s been redirected.
In contrast, when you utilize a canonical tag or rel=”canonical,” you’re telling search crawlers that one of the pages is canonical — or the original, master copy — while still allowing site visitors to view both pages.
In other words, if you have an old webpage that’s essentially been replaced by another page, but you don’t want to delete the first page for SEO reasons, you can use a 301 redirect.
However, if there is valuable content on both pages and you want each to be viewable by site visitors, it’s better to use canonical tags. That way, you’re informing search engines which page is the master source of any duplicate content shared between the pages.
If you have any questions about canonical tags, like when and how to use them, don’t hesitate to reach out to the SEO experts at fusionZONE Automotive.