What is a Canonical URL? A Guide for SEO

The expression “canonical tag” frequently shows up in conversations around SEO, and likely more so when dealing with cross-functional partners like engineering, analytics, and so on

In the beginning glimpse, it may appear a bit challenging, specifically if you are more recent to the SEO area.

Fantastic news, though: With this guide, we will stroll through the small print around what a canonical tag is, why they matter, what they appear like in the wild, where they belong, and some nitty-gritty information.

What Is A Canonical?

Firstly, prior to we even specify a canonical tag, if there is one piece of details you draw from this guide, let it be this: Canonical tags are not instructions like Robots.txt file.

This suggests Google views canonical tags as a strong tip, however at the end of the day, it thinks about numerous signals and chooses whether to honor them.

Now that we have the principle out of the method, let’s enter what it is!

The canonical tag entered into play in 2009 as an HTML tag discovered in the source code to inform online search engine which URL is the master variation of a page. This can be leveraged to inform Google what page variation it need to index for users.

A canonical tag is the HTML tag itself on a page, however the “canonical”– now, that’s a bit various.

There are 2 basic methods to specify the canonical variations: a user-declared canonical and a Google-declared canonical.

  • User-declared canonical: This is exactly what it states; it’s the canonical defined in the canonical tag.
  • Google-declared canonical: This is the URL Google picks to honor as the canonical.

If you have access to Google Browse Console, you can utilize the URL Evaluation Tool to see both of the above canonical types.

In a perfect state, they match– however what if they do not? We will talk more about that next.

Screenshot from Google Browse Console Check URL, October 2022

How Google Picks A Canonical URL

When Google crawls and indexes a website, it evaluates the main material on the page. (Pro idea: Do not puzzle material as entirely composed material).

In this crawl, it will likely find comparable pages, and Google will then pick the page it feels is the very best representation of what the page is attempting to communicate to users and pick it as the canonical.

As we talked about above, a canonical tag is not a regulation, so besides the canonical tag itself, Google thinks about other signals– so correspond!

Internal links and external links are simply a number of the extra elements Google thinks about with a canonical tag.

Care: If you internally connect your pages with inquiry specifications like /? some_parameter= xyz, there is a high opportunity that Google will neglect your canonical meta tag and pick a URL with a question specification as canonical.

Google crawls RSS really strongly, so make certain your stated canonical matches to URLs in your RSS feed.

If you include URLs to your RSS feed with specifications like/? source= feed in order to track traffic to your website from RSS customers, there is an opportunity that Google will pick a canonical with the inquiry string e/? source= feed despite the fact that it is a tracking specification– and Google learns about that.

You might utilize link-shortening services for your URLs in the RSS feed to be able to track click them or utilize RSS services like FeedPress.

Google will likewise choose for the sake of user experience.

If you have a desktop variation of your website, Google might serve the mobile variation to a user on a mobile phone.

How Canonical Tags Can Be Practical For SEO

Canonical tags are important for websites with a handful of pages and countless pages.

They are required for numerous factors.

1. You Pick The Canonical Tag

The canonical tag is the chance for you to recommend to Google the best variation of a page on your site that you wish to supply to users.

2. Replicate Material

Replicate material is among those locations that appears basic on the surface area however is more complex than its name lets on, and tends to bring an unfavorable undertone with it.

So you might be believing, “I do not have any replicate pages,” however prior to making that statement, let’s take a glimpse at what can be specified as “replicate” by means of Google Browse Central Documents.

Replicate pages can be categorized as any pages which contain the very same main material in the very same language. Expect you are utilizing various pages to support mobile pages (an m., amp, and so on) and vibrant URLs that assist things like specifications or session IDs.

Because case, your blog site produces courses in numerous folders; you have an HTTP and HTTPS variation of your website, and your website has replicate material. This is absolutely nothing to worry about and rather typical, for this reason the canonical significance!

3. Google Utilizes Canonicals As Its Main Source

Google leverages the canonical to identify a page’s material and quality.

The canonical is crawled more regularly than non-canonical pages.

4. May Assist With Crawl Spending Plan

You have actually most likely heard the expression “crawl spending plan” considered a fair bit if you have a reasonably big website.

When done properly, canonicals can assist reduce the problem of your crawl spending plan, as Google will crawl the canonical variations of pages a lot more regularly than the non-canonical variation.

This is not a replacement for no-index tags, reroutes, or a robotics instruction.

5. Combine Link Signals

Canonicals guide online search engine to take numerous details they have offered for numerous comparable pages and combine that into a single URL, increasing its worth.

6. Material Syndication

If you have a website that distributes its material out for publication or is being leveraged by partners, you wish to make certain it’s your variation that appears in the search engine result.

How To Execute A Canonical Tag

Now that we have actually discussed the what and why of canonical tags, let’s talk a bit more about how to execute a canonical tag on your website.

Pages can (and need to) have self-referencing canonicals when they are the very best variation of the page to combine things like metric tracking, HTTPS variations, mobile experiences, and so on

Unless you can modify the HTML straight, you will likely require to deal with your development/engineering partners.

A canonical tag is a line of code that you contribute to any page’s << head> > area.

It can appear like this:

HTML Canonical Tag Example Screenshot from author, October 2022

Canonical Tag Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I Canonical Throughout Domains?

A: Yes, you definitely can. For example, if you have a range of websites you release the very same short article throughout numerous sites, utilizing a canonical tag will focus all the power on the variation you chose as the canonical. This would likewise be excellent practice for syndicated material finest practices when dealing with websites you do not own.

Q: Do Canonical Tags Pass Link Equity?

A: The agreement is yes, they do, however canonicals need to not be misinterpreted as the very same thing as a 301 redirect.

Q: Should I Utilize a Canonical Tag or No-Index Tag?

A: Firstly, a no-index tag is a regulation, unlike a canonical tag meant to drop a page out of the index. A Canonical tag is a terrific option when you wish to combine all the links and relative signals into a single URL.

Our preferred response in the SEO area uses to this concern, “it depends.” In an SEJ where John Mueller goes over when to utilize a canonical or noindex, he goes a bit more in information on concerns to ask yourself when choosing one over the other or … both.

Q: Should I utilize a 301 Redirect or Canonical Tag?

A: A 301, like a no-index tag, is a regulation. This is another “it depends” circumstance; nevertheless, there are some things to think about when picking one over the other. If you have 2 really comparable pages and do not require both to be live for service factors, a 301 redirect may be a great option.

A fine example would be on an item page that is completely out of stock or an old page that isn’t worth upgrading any longer. You can find out more usage case circumstances in this short article that explains around 301 vs. canonical tags.

Q: What if Google Does Not Regard the Chosen Canonical?

A: As pointed out above, there are times where Google might not appreciate the canonical you have actually selected, and you can see that details by means of the URL Evaluation tool in Google Browse Console. There can be numerous reasons that Google isn’t appreciating the user-selected canonical.

It is possible the tag isn’t properly carried out; website signals oppose the chosen canonical and numerous other possibilities. It is most likely you will require to carry out some analysis to identify the origin.


We hope that this guide has actually assisted you comprehend the what, where, and why of canonical tag use. Make sure to examine your canonical tags and see where enhancements can be made to assist get your chosen details observed by online search engine.

More resources:

Included Image: Luis Molinero/Shutterstock

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