What are Canonical Tags and Where/How should you use them?

If you are new to SEO, you may have no idea what a Canonical tag is and how you should use them. Google and other search engines are changing all the time and canonical tags are another technique to use to improve your website’s SEO ranking. 

Here is a short guide to using Canonical Tags:

What is a Canonical Tag?

A canonical tag is a small HTML Code that is used to define the main or original version of a page from any duplicate or similar content. If you have similar content on different URLs then a canonical tag specifies which is the original URL and should be indexed. In a way a way, canonical tags act as a type of redirect but only for search engines. 

This tag can have benefits for SEO as well as your website’s SERPs as the correct URL is indexed and not ignored by search engine crawlers.

what are canonical tags? code on a laptop

Where do you use Canonical Tags?

Similar to other tags, the canonical tag is placed in the <head> section of the page’s code. 

<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://example.com/sample-page/” />

You can see that the tag indicates that the following URL is the master version of this content. 

But where do you really need a canonical tag, especially if you have not intentionally duplicated content?

  • Search engines will see http//: and https//: and the inclusion or exclusion of www. as separate domains and index them individually.
  • URLs created through filters, for example this is usual for eCommerce websites when customers filter price, colour or size.
  • Country URLs for example, adding /en to serve European users. 

These, and many more, are instances that are not purposely duplicated and are different URLs hosting the same content. Duplicate content can usually be found on different domains completely. 

How should you use Canonical Tags?

Canonical tags are beneficial for SEO and search engines as they specify:

  • Which version of the page to index
  • The version to be shown in relevant search queries
  • Which page should benefit from ‘link juice’ or if it should be split between the URLs

Duplicate content can negatively impact your website as it tends to be ignored by search engine crawlers. This is to avoid having multiple results of the same page in their search results. Therefore, a canonical tag means search engines can priorities that URL and ensure it appears in SERPs.

You must ensure that you choose an appropriate URL as the canonical version. This can be the most important URL or the one with the most links. Also, remember to use the correct http or https to specify the main version of the page.

This may seem complicated and technical, but when used correctly, it can contribute to your SEO strategy and improve rankings of certain pages. Get started straight away in implementing canonical tags!