6 Best SEO Practices for using rel=canonical

The rel=canonical is an important part of your website structure when it comes to SEO. A couple of days ago, we shared some common mistakes people often make with rel=canonical attributes, knowing little that the consequences could be more than they bargained for. Anyhow, we discussed the mistakes before. Today, we are going to some best practices you should always try to follow when canonicalizing your pages.

The rel=canonical attribute is a way of letting search engines know that there is a canonical, or alternate version of the current page available somewhere else. The current page might have the same data as the original source, but organized differently (sorted, summarized, formatted etc). This reduces the risk of your site getting penalized for duplicate content. And search engines like it too, because it's one less page they have to crawl and index.

To help you make the best out of your rel=canonicals, here are some best SEO practices you should keep in mind.

6 SEO practices for using rel=canonical

  • Don't canonicalize unless the duplication is large - Do not add rel=canonical unless there's a large portion of duplicated content. Similar topics with closely matching, but not exactly matching content do not qualify. A good litmus test would be looking at the pages from the perspective of someone who doesn't know that language. If someone without knowledge of that language can tell if the two pages have same content, then you probably should canonicalize them.

  • Only use one rel=canonical per page. You can't point to multiple source pages. Rel=canonicals that come after the first one are ignored.

  • Decide which URL you want to show - You can make either of the pages appear in search results. But make sure you make the correct association, and not add a rel=canonical on the original page.

  • Make sure that the target to your canonical doesn't lead to a 404 page.

  • The original page must not contain a "noindex" tag.

  • Include in the head - Make sure you place the rel=canonical in the <head> section of your site. If it comes in the body, it will simply be ignored.

Hope these best practices will help you out, and make you use rel=canonicals better. If you have questions, shoot them our way! Cheers :)

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