Using canonical tag to improve SEO

canonical tag seo

If you’re a business owner and have a website, or if you rely on your website for your business, then improving its visibility in search engines should be of vital importance to you.  One way of doing this is to ensure that all of your site traffic is going to one place.  While this may seem like an obvious comment, a number of sites have come across the problem that their website is available at multiple addresses.  This is a particular problem if you own multiple domain names (such as the .com, .co.uk or .net) versions of your site. An easier way to explain this would be through example, if I was to have my own e-commerce site such as:

http://www.jamesmusic.co.uk/

and the website also appears at

http://www.jamesmusic.co.uk/index.html

http://www.jamesmusic.com

Then I would expect that, as I own these sites it even easier for people to get to my website.  However from a Google PageRank position this would actually make it much worse.  This is because when Google spiders visit the sites it would treat each website separately, even if they display the exact same content.  This will ultimately diminish any SEO benefit you may be getting.

Problems

In terms of any link building that may occur:

  • A number of people may link to your site using the different URLs
  • This will separate the inbound links to the website, weakening my position as an authoritative website
  • This then makes my website fall further down the Google pages

Google tends to spend a limited time on each site so when it comes to improving the valuable PageRank:

  • It may spend it’s time looking at three identical sites instead of one
  • It then cannot spend more time looking further into your site to give it more idea of your site
  • This then diminishes the PageRank value

Remedies

Your website needs to be seen as individual without duplicate content for it to be taken seriously by Google, for technology lovers this is known as canonicalization.

This can be done in a number of ways:

  • Include the rel=”canonical” tag in any duplicate content to say to the Google spiders that the original source is elsewhere, i.e. <link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.jamesmusic.co.uk/”> would be placed on the .com version of my site to tell them that is where to find the original content.
  • 301 redirect all traffic to the one URL, it is best to find out which gets the most traffic before redirecting as this maybe the one with the better PageRank.
  • Include a source tag – This can be used to claim any original content as your own by including a website link in the coding.  For example if someone was to copy this content and post it onto another website I could include a source tag to tell the search engines where it originally came from.

These tools alone will help improve your visibility to search engines as an authoritative voice and will improve SEO efforts for your company by linking to the original page.

Posted by James Murphy


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