Canonical Commandments In The Church of Search

Canonical Commandments In The Church of Search
SHARE
THIS



In this guest post, regular columnist and B&T’s resident SEO expert, Octos MD Nital Shah, talks all things “canonical”. If your game’s search then here’s what you need to know…

Traditionally, ‘canonical law’ refers to the body of laws laid down by religious leaders, for the internal regulation of a church and its members. Given the almost-holy role of search in the modern digital age, it’s fitting that, when the almighty search overlords Google, Yahoo and Microsoft decreed a new rule for the internal regulation of search engines, they used the term ‘canonical’ to describe it.

When Google, Yahoo! And Bing adopted the rel=canonical link element in 2009, the search community went into an instant flap trying to figure out how to make the most of the new coding commandments. Some of my colleagues mastered the new protocol swiftly and expertly, leveraging it to improve traction in search results. Others are are still floundering to make headway, seven years on.

Though the initial hubbub about canonical URL tags has long subsided, many still don’t quite know how to apply the tags for optimum SEO performance. If you haven’t yet nailed the nuances of canonical tags, the following guide offers some practical advice to get you on track.

What Are Canonical Tags?

Put simply, a canonical URL tag is intended to help webmasters clean up their indices by eliminating self-created duplicate content. The canonical tag acts as a master key of sorts, unlocking a preferred version of the content and saving the search engines from rummaging through a bunch of similar-looking keys.

Many websites contain several similar versions of the same content and, as we know, search engines don’t like duplicate content. Duplication slows down the crawlers, making it harder and more time-consuming for the search engines to do their job. Consequently, websites with duplicated content can be penalised with lower search rankings.

But, of course, sometimes duplication is unavoidable and integral to the function of a website – particularly for e-commerce sites. In these cases, canonical tags offer a smart solution for the content duplication dilemma. Where a site contains multiple similar versions of the same content, you simply choose one ‘canonical’ version and direct the search engines towards that, making it clear to them which version of the content to show.

The tag can be applied to all duplicated versions of the content – it looks like this:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://samplecontent.com/page.html“/>

The canonical tag is part of any given web page’s HTML header, the same section where you add Title and Meta Description. By adding a canonical tag to the HEAD section, you are telling the search engines that the page should be treated as a copy of the URL samplecontent.com/page.html and that, therefore, any applicable link and content metrics should be tied back to that URL.

An SEO Blessing: three Tips For Using Canonical Tags

  1. Find the Culprit

Website content tends to multiply like gremlins: every social media visit, referral link, and internal site search has the potential to generate a unique URL. On top of that, many content management systems create multiple URL paths to access the same content. Without canonical tags, you can end up with a complex web of duplication that will potentially impact negatively on your search rankings.

Duplicate content is a big SEO no-no. Use canonical tags wherever duplication occurs, to help the search engines identify the original content, and let them know which URL should be crawled, indexed and returned on SERPs. A thorough SEO audit may be necessary to identify the unique duplication issues that are impeding your search rankings.

  1. Canonical Tag vs 301 Redirect: Know the Difference

Although they share similarities, 301 redirects and canonical tags are NOT the same. The former redirects all traffic (including humans and bots) to a specified location, whereas the latter speaks purely to the search engines, so visits to each unique URL version can still be separately tracked.

Another key distinction is that 301 redirects have cross-domain functionality so you can redirect from one domain to another and retain search engine metrics. A Canonical URL tag, on the other hand, operates exclusively on a single root domain, which means it will only carry over across subfolders and subdomains.

  1. Duplicate Content Not Always Identical

Google have made it clear that it’s okay if the canonical is not an exact duplicate of the content. The search giant allows for minor variations, such as differentials in the sort order of a table of products. They also acknowledge that they may crawl the canonical and duplicate pages at different points in time and therefore expect to see different versions of your content over time. The other search engines take a similar tack.

3 SEO Sins: How Not to Use Canonical Tags

  1. Use Your <Head> – Don’t Put Canonical Tags in the <Body>

In order for the search engines to find and recognise your canonical tag, it must be placed in the <head> section. If you place rel=canonical anywhere other than the <head> section, it will be ignored. Furthermore, the tag should ideally appear as early as possible to avoid any parsing problems.

And don’t get carried away with canonical tags; if you use more than one in the <head> section, the command will be ignored. Multiple canonical links can sometimes occur without you realising it – so always tread with caution when installing SEO plugins and editing themes or templates.

  1. Don’t Set Home Page As Your Preferred URL

There are some rare occasions where your home page will be the preferred URL, but they are an exception to the rule. If all of your canonical pages direct to your home page, you run the risk of having no pages, other than your index, crawled and indexed by the search engines. 

  1. HTTPS Over HTTP

Google usually prefers HTTPS pages to equivalent HTTP pages for canonical links, except where there are conflicting signals. To prevent Google from incorrectly making the HTTP page canonical, avoid bad SSL certificates and don’t include the HTTP page in your sitemap in place of the HTTPS version. Also, when you block a resource with a robots.txt file, be sure to block both versions – HTTP and HTTPS.

 

 

Latest News

Diversity Case Study Series: OMD
  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Media

Diversity Case Study Series: OMD

One need only look at the Cadbury Favourites chocolate selection to know it has nought to do with industry diversity.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Ten Brings Ellen DeGeneres’ Game Show Down Under To Replace Family Feud
  • Media

Ten Brings Ellen DeGeneres’ Game Show Down Under To Replace Family Feud

Network Ten has announced it has commissioned a new family entertainment series which will premiere on Ten and the WIN Network later this year. Game of Games is based on the US show of the same name, which only launched in January this year. The US show is produced by Warner Horizon Unscripted & Alternative […]

m2m Drives Away With $51m Hyundai Media Account
  • Media

m2m Drives Away With $51m Hyundai Media Account

Media agency m2m has been awarded the Hyundai media planning and buying account. The agency, under Omnicom Media group, was up against incumbent Initiative and Havas, with Hyundai’s Innocean Australia handling the pitch process. Speaking to B&T, a Hyundai spokesperson said, “We’d like to thank Initiative for their sterling service over the last 10 years – […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Adland Execs To Be Locked Up
  • Media

Adland Execs To Be Locked Up

Continuing adland's fascination with prison when it comes to charitable causes comes this latest trip to the slammer.

Australian Directors’ Guild Announces Mentorship Winners
  • Campaigns
  • Media

Australian Directors’ Guild Announces Mentorship Winners

Now in its second year, the Australian Directors’ Guild’s (ADG) Commercial & Content Directing Mentorship program announced its next round of eight mentoree recipients. The winners were announced at a special event held last night at FINCH, Sydney and attended by members of the screen and advertising industries. Acclaimed director, and ADG President, Samantha Lang, […]

Eyeota Deep Dives Into Australian Automotive Purchase Behaviour
  • Media

Eyeota Deep Dives Into Australian Automotive Purchase Behaviour

Eyeota, the global leader in audience data, has today released its latest results on automotive purchase intentions in Australia. The results provide a deep dive into what motivates the buyer and segments those into six different personas.

APN Outdoor Joins The AANA
  • Marketing
  • Media

APN Outdoor Joins The AANA

AANA's annual Christmas dinner and dance got a teensy bit more crowded following this announcement this morning.

QMS Introduces ‘The Lonsdale’ To Melbourne
  • Advertising
  • Media

QMS Introduces ‘The Lonsdale’ To Melbourne

Digital outdoor media company QMS Media has turned on a new premium landmark digital billboard situated in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. Delivering a commanding presence at the major intersection of Lonsdale and Russell Streets, ‘The Lonsdale’ offers extended dwell times to both vehicle and pedestrian traffic, impacting more than 2.2 million contacts per month. […]

Portrait of a woman looking through out the blinds. Office worker looking through window blinds
  • Opinion

The Lurking Brand Threats Facing CMOs

Treading on gardening rakes and possible alien abduction notable omissions from this CMO threats piece.

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Women In Media Profile: Susannah George
  • Media

Women In Media Profile: Susannah George

B&T is delighted to profile Urbanlist supremo Susannah George who, we understand, is not related to George Brandis.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Ikon Lands Avis Budget Group Account
  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Media

Ikon Lands Avis Budget Group Account

B&T chooses and recommends Avis and John Karandonis shoes. Hang on, that was the end of Sale Of The Century.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Principals Appoints New Creative Director For Melbourne
  • Marketing

Principals Appoints New Creative Director For Melbourne

Branding design agency Principals has announced the appointment of Pip Ireland as its Melbourne creative director. Ireland, who has been freelancing with the agency for the past six months, has previously held roles at Designworks in New Zealand and Melbourne as well as Moon Communications in Sydney. Principals executive creative director Simon Wright said: “We’ve […]

Pureprofile Unveils Next-Level Audience Segmentation Offering With RDA Research
  • Media
  • Technology

Pureprofile Unveils Next-Level Audience Segmentation Offering With RDA Research

Global media and technology company Pureprofile has partnered with RDA Research to enable further audience segmentation across its audience profiles. RDA Research’s geoTribes is a unique classification system that rivals traditional geodemographic approaches by grouping consumers into fifteen ‘tribes’ based on their life stage and socio-economic status. Clients are then able to better understand consumer […]

WPP AUNZ Launches ‘The Bond & Associates’
  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Media

WPP AUNZ Launches ‘The Bond & Associates’

Advertising conglomerate WPP AUNZ has launched an innovative new stakeholder and community engagement practice called The Bond & Associates. Led by newly-appointed national director and former Newgate Australia adviser Gail Morgan (pictured above), The Bond & Associates will provide a complete solution for both government and private sector clients involved in complex public projects and […]

MYOB Partners With Network Ten’s Shark Tank
  • Marketing
  • Media

MYOB Partners With Network Ten’s Shark Tank

Accounting software provider MYOB has announced it has signed as a major sponsor of Shark Tank on Network Ten, which returns to screens tonight. In its fourth season, Shark Tank continues its format of having budding business owners and entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to the ‘sharks’, who have invested $21 million of their own money […]

Aussies Back ABC Over Budget Cuts
  • Media

Aussies Back ABC Over Budget Cuts

A new poll has found a resounding 70% of Aussies oppose cuts to the ABC despite only 7% actually bothering to watch.

Meerkats Test-Drive Dream Safari Holiday In New Comparethemarket.com.au TVC
  • Advertising
  • Campaigns

Meerkats Test-Drive Dream Safari Holiday In New Comparethemarket.com.au TVC

Leading comparison service comparethemarket.com.au has launched its latest TVC nationwide to announce its dream Safari holiday competition. The TVC – ‘Safari’ – which sees the meerkats back in their ancestral home ‘selflessly’ test-driving the amazing Safari trip that is up for grabs for one lucky winner. Narrowly avoiding an elephant trampling their picnic, an inquisitive […]

Women In Media Profile: Lauren Nicole
  • Media

Women In Media Profile: Lauren Nicole

We'd like to say B&T provides a delightful high tea for all Women In Media interviewees, but it'd be a scandalous lie.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine