Also referred to as the canonical tag, the canonical is a kind of suggestion to the search engine, whose job it is to tell its bots which page within a domain is ‘more important’ relative to a particular subpage. In practice, the canonical tag is primarily used in cases of search result generation or filtering or when, for example, we have different variants of a particular product in an online shop.
The tag canonical is placed in the <head> section, where it should point to the URL of the subpage to be prioritised. Correct implementation of the tag minimises the risk of problems with duplicate content within the site. It is worth knowing, however, that there is always a danger that a search engine will ignore the clues placed in the canonical tag. The canonical tag is an indication to search engine robots of which web pages should be considered original and which should be considered duplicates or copies. If different versions of the same content exist on a website, it is the canonical tag that is used to indicate which version should be considered original.
The canonical tag avoids the problem of duplicate content on a website. By letting search engine robots know which version of a page is original, there is no risk of a website being penalised by Google for having duplicate content.
How does the canonical tag work?
The canonical tag works in a simple way. It indicates in the code of a website which version of the page is original and which is a copy. This way, search engine robots know which version of the page should be indexed and which should be ignored.
If there are multiple versions of the same content on a website, indicate with the canonical tag the version that is most important from the user’s point of view. For example, if there are pages on a website with different parameters, such as sorting, then indicate the version that contains the most important information for the user. It is important that the canonical tag is only placed on a page that is not original. It should not be used on the original page, as Google may consider that this particular page is a duplicate of others.
What are the advantages of using the canonical tag?
- Avoiding duplicate content: The canonical tag helps to avoid duplicate content issues that can negatively impact a page’s positioning in search results.
- Focused SEO power: When there are multiple versions of the same content on a page (e.g. with different URL parameters), the canonical tag allows you to focus SEO power on one selected version of the page.
- Improved indexing: The canonical tag allows search engines to index a page faster and more efficiently, which can improve a page’s ranking in search results.
- User behaviour: The canonical tag allows users to easily find the ‘main’ version of a page, which can improve the user experience and encourage them to continue browsing the site.
- Error prevention: the canonical tag allows you to prevent 404 or other duplicate content errors, which improves the overall performance of your site.