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What Is Canonical Tag?

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Canonical tags are a type of solution which is designed to resolve issues related to duplicate content. For instance, if you have three web pages which have duplicate content, then you can make sure that only one of them is shown in the search engine result pages (SERPs) to your users. Thus, it is a method to control your website’s content so it can be shown to your target audience accordingly. It is important to note that canonical tags are ineffective unless you define them properly. Before going further into canonical tags, you must know how Google evaluates the duplicate content on websites.

Officially, Google has not specified any penalty for the duplication of content. However, it favours those websites in ranking which manage their duplicate content and focus on original content.

Defining a Canonical Tag

Canonical tags are added in the HTML; it is quite simple actually. However, it is their management which is tough. For starters, you will have to set up various canonical relations for different web pages. There are times when you might even require a greater grasp of programming to configure it.

To add a canonical tag with HTML, consider the following format.

<link rel=”canonical” href=”” />

Suppose there is a web page X which has duplicate content from page Y; in such a scenario the page X must have a canonical tag having the above-mentioned attribute which stores the URL for page Y. As a result of this slight modification, indexing and ranking from search engine will only consider page Y rather than processing page X.

If you use WordPress for your website, then most definitely you will be familiar with the Yoast SEO plugin. Yoast has a separate field to specify the canonical URL. You can use it according to your requirement.

Impact of Canonical Tag on SEO

There are two major effects of canonical tag on SEO.

  1. Firstly, you can use canonical tags to explicitly direct your search engine to ignore a web page from your website and instead present another website. This means that if you have a page Y ranking for a specific keyword, you can manipulate the search engine so it can check only page X.
  2. As hinted before, Google is more positive for users when they are careful themselves. With canonical tags, you can target a lesser number of web pages so you can create a better user experience for other web pages from your website.

For instance, there might be two web pages which show pricing for a single product. Therefore, it is possible they are ‘cannibalising’ each other and targeting their ranking for identical keywords. In order to avoid mixing up both the pages and considering it as a single page, you can use the rel=”canonical” tag. This ensures that users can directly reach the primary pricing web pages via the search engines.