Let’s face it, creating your own website can be a challenge. Things like designing the layout, incorporating features, and making sure your target market finds your site on a search engine isn’t easy. To add to the frustration of making sure you have a flawless site, you also have make sure you follow the ever-changing rules of SEO.
At VIG we understand your frustration and know that navigating the changing world of SEO can be quite confusing. One of the most common issues we see our clients face with their new websites is in the area of duplicate content. While there are several strategies experts use to approach duplicate content, we at VIG prefer the canonical tag.
What is a Canonical Tag
A Canonical Tag is simply an HTML tag that you insert into the code of webpage. This tag helps redirect search engines to a specific version of a webpage for search results. The tag helps alleviate content issues created by identical or similar pages throughout your website.
Many website programmers use the canonical tag for ecommerce pages or when there are duplicate pages on a website that visitors find through different links. We’ve commonly used the canonical tag for clients that sell products with multiple variations on the websites.
How Does It Affect Your SEO
Like many programmers and website owners, you probably want your website to rank well in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS). Some companies help their websites rank organically and others pay to be at the top of the list. If you’re interested in improving your website’s rank overall you need to address the issue of duplicate content.
Google and other search engines have strict guidelines for how they rank websites on results pages. If your website features pages with identical or strikingly similar content, search engines will flag this and it will ultimately have a negative effect on your ranking.
Even if you’re using a paid search campaign, Google and other search engines will reward sites that closely adhere to their guidelines. Implementing the canonical tag will help redirect search engines’ crawlers and bots to pages that you specify.
This in turn will prevent search engines from listing pages with copied text or content that isn’t relevant to users performing a search.
How to Insert Your Canonical Tag
Implementing the canonical tag into your website’s code isn’t difficult. The hardest aspect to setting up the code is choosing a specific page that you want to redirect search engines to. For example, the two URLs below might look similar to ones you would have on an ecommerce site.
The first URL is for a product you are selling. In this case a fast car. The URL below is for the same product in a different color. As you might guess, the descriptions, layout, and content would probably be the same for both pages.
With the canonical tag you can choose to direct search engines to the main product page on the site. In this case, mystore.com/fast-car. To do this, all you have to do is insert the rel=canonical link from the duplicated or similar page to the one you want search engines to find. All you have to do is insert the code below:
<link rel=”canonical” href=http://mystore.com/fast-car-blue/>
Setting up your canonical tag is truly that simple.
Canonical Tag vs. 301 Redirect
Some of you may be questioning whether you should use a traditional 301 redirect tag or a canonical tag to resolve duplicate content issues on your website. The way a 301 redirect tag works is through a line of code that moves users to a separate page. With the 301 tag users who search for one page, for example page 1, will automatically be redirected to another page, page 2. With this, both users and search engines will not be able to locate the secondary page.
Usually this is recommended for forms or pages on your website that you do not want users searching for or locating arbitrarily. For pages that represent similar products on information that you would like your viewers to access, I would recommend using a canonical tag.
Optimizing your website according to SEO best practices is an ongoing challenge. Every day bloggers and industry experts try to uncover hidden insights regarding updates that can affect their sites. At VIG we’ve seen several of our clients leverage the power of SEO to drive leads and grow their business.
If you want to improve the SEO of your site, but aren’t sure where to start. Think VIG!