What are Canonical URL’s? Canonicalisation analysis, identifies canonical URL’s. They are used to inform search engines that a specific URL represents the master copy of a page.
Using a canonical tag improves SEO by preventing problems caused by identical content appearing in SERPS for multiple URLs.
For example take a look at the following URLs
Each URL is referring to the same page content on our BoodleBobs, Drupal website, however as you can see the URLs themselves are very different. This is an issue for search engines, because the engine itself doesn’t necessarily know which path it should serve, and it may just choose a canonical URL algorithmically for you.
Furthermore, since a pages URL acts as a super tag for your page content, ranking opportunities are lost in terms of a page’s relevance on this factor alone.
As an example, if you have a web page accessible by multiple URLs, or different pages with similar content (ie. separate mobile and desktop versions), you should specify to a search engine which URL is authoritative (canonical) for that page.
Why do canonical URLs matter?
Canonicalisation analysis and implementation of a desired canonical URLs facilitate search engines with the ability to consolidate data which they hold for an individual URL (such as links to them) into a single, authoritative URL.
- Canonical URLs specify which URL you want people to see in search results.
- They simplify tracking metrics for a single product/topic/keyword.
- The canonical URL’s consolidate link signals for similar or duplicate pages and manage syndicated content.
- For syndicating your content across other domains, canonical URLs help to consolidate page ranking to the desired ‘master’ URL. In this scinario, similar or duplicate content across separate domains will not compete for traffic and ranking in search engines.
Canonical url’s best practices
Outside of using the rel=”canonical” tag, there are a number of ways to canonicalize URLs. In most cases, rel=”canonical” is the preferred method of consolidating duplicated, however here are a few other ways of canonicalization to consider.
1. 301 Redirect
301 Redirects are permanent redirects from one URL path to another. The 301 redirect will send a site’s visitors or webbots from the original URL specified to another completly different URL
2. Use passive parameters in the Google Search Console
In Google Search Console, there is an option to set URL parameters. This provides the ability to inform Google which parameters need to be considered passive. This means, using the console you can inform Google, “whenever a URL parameter is parsed, treat it like it doesn’t exist”.
3. Anchors & location hashes
Also known as fragment identifiers, a fragment URL has a # at the end, that specifies a section of the page to jump too. A hash can exist in the URL, and specifying a pages canonical URL will mean that jumped/anchored content won’t be identified as separate competing pieces of content, therefore not indexed differently – essentially canonicalized to the same URL.