I know, it's a funny name and I realize this might be the first time you've seen the term, but the truth is you should be well versed in the importance of this helpful URL tag if your business is serious about online content creation. With the vast online universe that is far too big to police, content thieves and hacks are getting away with taking others' original content and using it for their own benefit – which sometimes can even come back to harm you as the original author based on Google's duplicate content penalty.
This blog will explain what a canonical URL tag is, how it's intended to be used, and how you can begin utilizing it to secure ownership and authority of the online content you and your team work so hard to create.
What Is a Canonical URL Tag?
A Canonical URL Tag is a simple HTML snippet (see example below) that instructs Google and other search engines on what the preferred web page should be when a set of multiple web pages have the same or highly similar content. As stated by Google, it tells their algorithm "of all these pages with identical content, this page is the most useful. Please prioritize it in search results."
Without this tag, search algorithms will make their own judgements on which of the duplicate pages should be indexed and ranked in search results ahead of the others – which doesn't always result in the original content publisher being indexed and ranked ahead of the duplicate pages that followed.
So, in summary, this tag is important to instruct search engines which website originally published a specific page or section of content.
How Should a Canonical URL Tag Be Used?
To properly utilize a Canonical URL Tag, it needs to be placed in the <head> section of the web page you wish to make it the Canonical Page. Placing it in the body of the web page would make it far too easy for others to hack this, according to Matt Cutts of Google.
Hopefully, you have the luxury of being able to easily access the <head> section of your individual blog articles; it's also possible that your blogging platform adds them automatically for you. This will make life much easier since it can then be an afterthought! If not, talk to your website programmer to see how this can be added so that it's automated.
Use of Canonical URL Tags for Blog Syndication
If your business is currently syndicating your blog content or is looking into the benefits of syndicating to reach a larger audience, a Canonical URL Tag can help ensure you always get the credit as being the originator of that content so you're found in search first. Although there's no guarantee Google and other search engines will always take the direction from this tag, your chances are pretty good.
A common practice for blog/content syndication is for the syndicated website to also link back to you as the content originator. This helps protect them from the high amount of duplicate content they're publishing and is an easy way for you to gather inbound links back to your website. So, don't hesitate to request this when syndicating your blog content on other websites.
Internal Website Uses for Canonical URL Tags
It's important to know that Canonical URL Tags can also be used on other pages within your own website if you have a series of pages with similar or duplicate content. Simply use the tag in the <head> section of those similar or duplicate pages, pointing to the MAIN page URL that you want search engines to index and rank versus the other page variations.
Here's some examples of where this would be useful:
Online store items that are shown or linked via multiple distinct URLs
Various pages listing the same set of products (by price, alphabetically, rating, etc.)
Printer-only versions of your web pages
We all know how much effort goes into creating valuable, original content. And you want to ensure these efforts are paying off by getting your business found in search so you can attract new business leads. The implementation of Canonical URL Tags will help secure the ownership and value of your content so you can utilize your time creating more of it rather than hunting down content thieves, or worrying that syndication will have a negative impact on your own website traffic.
Posted by Frank Isca Frank has been key to establishing Weidert Group as an inbound marketing leader over his 10+ years with the agency. He has a knack for using technology to amplify smart marketing strategies, and a deep knowledge of SEO and content promotion, exceptional project management skills, and a thorough understanding of HubSpot's marketing and sales products.