Canonical issues are basically caused by duplicate content and are a really common SEO problem for websites nowadays. When you have identical or very similar content on more than one URL, then it can result in indexing problems. If it gets worse, then it can also dilute your link equity that can eventually harm your search rankings. Therefore by learning how to identify and fix duplicate content issues on your residing website, you can avoid canonical issues and all of the problems that tag along with them.
What is Canonicalization?
Canonicalization is defined as the process of assigning a webpage with a single URL. It thus represents data in a standard format and gets on the edge with competing variations of a URL. The Canonicalization practice thus helps search engines choose out the most relevant website link. Some URL variations that you can include during the canonicalization process may include:
- Different versions of URLs with and without www.
- URLs with and without “index.html” in the end.
- Different Variants of URLs with “HTTP” and “HTTPS” protocols.
- Case letters such as Uppercase and lowercase letters in URLs.
What are canonical Issues in SEO?
Canonical issues in SEO commonly occur when a website has more than one URL that may display similar, identical or what we call as duplicate content. This is often the result of not having proper redirects in place, however they can also be caused by search parameters on e-commerce websites and by syndicating or publishing content on multiple websites.
The exact same page can be displayed for each of those URLs, but because each possess a different URL, search engines acknowledge them as being four different pages. Thus it creates a duplicate content problem, which can be an issue for SEO also known as a canonical issue.
How To Resolve The Canonical Issue?
Now that you know what are canonical issues in SEO, it’s time to look into ways about how to fix canonical issues.
There are two main ways to resolve the canonical issues on a website and it includes methods like, by implementing 301 redirects, by adding canonical tags to your website’s pages to tell Google which of several similar pages is in prior place. The right option hence depends on the canonical issue you are trying to fix.
A) Implementation of Sitewide 301 Redirects for Duplicate Pages:
HTTP/HTTPS and WWW/non-WWW canonical issues in SEO can be resolved by implementing a sitewide 301 redirect to the original version of your URL. There are quite a few proven ways to set up a sitewide redirect. The simplest and the least risky method is to set up the redirect through your website’s host. You can implement this by searching Google for either “HTTP to HTTPS redirect” or “WWW to non-WWW redirect” and acknowledging if your host has a support page explaining how to make the changes.
Conversely, you can also contact your host’s support team for help. If you have developers by your side then they might also be able to set up your redirects using .htaccess (Apache) redirects, NGINX redirects, or any other methods. After you make the necessary changes, you may also notice some traffic and ranking changes. According to Google, this is completely normal, and after a brief period of time, your traffic and rankings will eventually recover.
B) Adding Canonical Tags To The Website Pages:
Do not let Google decide which of your duplicate pages should be the canonical page, instead, you can specify which page you would like to be considered canonical by adding a canonical tag to each page of your website. Adding this code to every page of your website is probably inconvenient and sounds impractical but most of the content management systems or CMS have ways to make it easier to canonicalize your website’s pages. You can also see this with the help of an example, such as on WordPress websites, you can use the premium version of the Yoast SEO plugin to automatically add relevant canonical tags to every page on your website. HubSpot CMS users can change their settings to have the CMS that automatically adds self-referencing URLs. Shopify adds canonical tags to your pages automatically, thus no need to worry about it.
C) Referring Duplicate Pages to Your Preferred URL with the help of Canonical Tags:
If your website has both a mobile and desktop version, then pick the website that will serve as your canonical version. Most likely, this is going to be your desktop site, so the White Label SEO Lab will use that as the example of our canonical version below to explain you with ease. For this, make sure each page of your desktop website has a relevant canonical tag. Once it is completed, add a canonical tag to each page of your mobile website that points directly to the URL of the duplicate page on your desktop website. Even with this canonical tag in position, Google will still show your mobile website in the search results for queries on mobile devices, however any links to either version of the page will be considered when ranking that page in the search engine results.
Hence, for the above stated reasons, it is important to learn how to find canonical issues on your website and take steps to resolve them quickly. After this, just make sure you are following the best practices for 301 redirects and canonical tags as indicated by experts at White Label SEO Lab and eventually you shouldn’t have to worry too much about canonical issues in the future.