One of the challenges of building great web architecture is consolidating multiple pages that seem similar while keeping older information that is still valuable but isn’t necessarily current.
How will search engines rank the latest version of your unique content without a dramatic impact on site traffic?
The wise choice is to create a canonical link. Like all roads leading back to Rome, a canonical link directs search engines to your preferred URL page.
What is a Canonical Link?
A canonical link has been around as a feature for a number of years and can be an easy fix for duplicate content. As your site evolves and changes, there may be issues with similar content leading to duplicate page errors. By creating a canonical link, search engines will be directed to your choice of original page.
Not only will it be important for the consistency of your message, but it will also improve your ranking by funneling all search traffic to a single place. By deciding which page is your site’s canonical version, search engines will link to the origin page, improving your online traffic.
Also, if you offer similar content on a number of pages it may be difficult for a search engine to determine which page is the authority. This can lead to no ranking at all, a disaster for any growth strategy!
The link is typically placed in the header of a page in HTML code. The image below is what the final code generally looks like.
The SEO Importance of Canonical Linking
Being able to control the flow of traffic within your site ensures every new visitor views the latest information.
You wouldn’t want to start a book in the middle, so why leave your visitors wondering if there is something they are missing. Give them the “wow factor” instead of the “what is this?” disaster.
How to Implement Canonical Linking
Pretend you have 2 versions of the same webpage perfectly identical. The only real difference is they exist in separate parts of a website because of some style differences such as color schemes on the pages, but the content is the same.
Which page do you want to rank for?
This is the big question. Pick the page that you think ranks the best. There are tools out there such as Moz.com’s Domain Authority tool that can help. The higher the DA the better.
Once the big mystery of what ranks best is determined you will add the rel=canonical link from the original to the canonical webpage. In other words, the link will be placed on the page you don’t want to rank for and points to the page that reflects the biggest opportunity.
The good page pretty simple overall once you understand it. Because it is such a strange word, and even harder to pronounce it sounds highly technical at first glance. However, it is truly very simple.
With one line of code on the old page, it points to the new page you want to rank for in a matter of a few clicks on the mouse.
Practical Uses of the Canonical Tag
In the age of globalization being able to reach international markets is key to any market strategy. A consistent message and strong branding identification are vital elements but there are challenges.
How do you ensure that clients in Europe are not charged in Australian dollars? This is where the canonical link comes in, by creating the structure to help an e-commerce site attract an international audience and consumer base.
If you are offering products that are identical but sold in different currencies, connecting to the right currency for a sale is extremely important.
By setting up canonical links to pages that are similar in content but not in the final currency price will be an easy way to avoid any costly mistakes. It may take a bit of extra effort, but in reality, it is nothing compared to building international brand awareness and convenience.
Control your brand and your brand message by adding a canonical link. This is a simple way of ensuring your content has origin recognition.
It also protects your unique content by directing search engines to the canonical link despite being posted on a third-party site. This then removes the risk of a third party directing potential new clients to an obsolete or random page on your site.
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Canonical Links – The Ultimate Internet Traffic Cop
Finally, a canonical link will ensure your unique content is current and that forwarded links on social media are directed to your latest content. When links are forwarded, there is always the risk of a mistake or a typing error. If this mistake is then forwarded how will you ensure that your online audience is viewing the most up to date information?
By using a canonical link, a search engine will determine the location of your original site. It will then help potential clients find you while maintaining your strong search rankings, despite any errors that may occur beyond your control.
If you are setting up a more international site, protecting content and avoiding any page duplications should be part of your marketing strategy for growth. A canonical link is a key part of your web architecture. Not only will it provide a safeguard for content recognition and duplicate content, it can help avoid international currency issues as they occur.
Any new visitor and potential clients will also be able to view the latest information keeping your brand in focus. By adding a canonical link to any new or additional information, it provides a link to recognition to your brand. It will also keep your hard work connected to the source rather than being co-opted by third parties!
The canonical link is a key feature for controlling your message without depending on others. Whenever you have the chance to keep things control of your data, always make use of it rather than relying on third parties. Also, make sure your information is up to date and that any potential client knows where it came from.
Last, but Not Least
Back in February 2009, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo all announced their support for the canonical tag as part of their core algorithm in an effort to increase the quality of search results. Those websites without implementation suffered from duplicate content penalties and poorly ranking pages overnight.
Although Google prefers the use of 301 redirects for certain situations, the canonical link has its distinct purpose in order to capitalize on Search Engine Optimization.
We confirmed this with the Colorado Springs SEO company Infront Webworks. The canonical tag is perfect for keeping old content alive but letting Google know which content you want to rank for specifically. With a 301 redirect, the old content simply disappears.
It is all about giving credit to a page where credit is due. Webmasters have the ability to let Google know exactly which page is the original and which page is better from a rankings standpoint.
Whether it is a CMS (content management system) creating multiple pages that are identical or telling Google which version of the site you want to appear in results (www or no www) this “magic” tag can help Google understand your site better. After all, SEO is simply the art of telling Google exactly what a website is about and the more tools we have as webmasters to do this the better our chances of getting to the first-page increase.
Only 8.5% of searches ever go past the first page and drop even more drastically after that. The value of first page rankings is paramount for any business that has a website.
The use of the canonical is a must for SEO.
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