What is the Meaning of ‘Canonical URL Issue’ in SEO ?

There are so many aspects to good SEO, and what we are going to talk about here is one of those many important aspects. Not many pay attention to this problem, but ignoring it might be costing your website a lot of goodwill and resultant traffic. Worry not! This problem of canonical URL and it’s content will be explained here in the simplest way possible, along with the solutions that you need to keep in mind.

Canonical Definition

When a website can be accessed and is displayed via different links (for e.g. http://www.website.com, http://website.com, https://website.com, https://www.website.com) then it is referred to as a canonical issue.
Search engines treat each of these as different websites and end up penalizing your site for duplicate content.
The solution is to redirect all the possible options for your website address to any one URL.

What is a Canonical URL Problem? A little more explanation…

In simple terms, a canonical URL issue can be defined as when your redirects are not properly in place. What it means is that your website can be accessed by using different URLs. Here is an example to make understanding the problem simple. Say you have a website named ‘www.justanexample.com.’ But if this same website of yours can be accessed by different URLS, like.

http://www.justanexample.com
http://www.justanexample.com/index.html
http://justanexample.com
http://justanexample.com/index.html

This may not seem like an issue to you, or maybe even to your users. But it is an issue where search engines and crawlers are concerned. It would mean that search engines could go on to index your website with different URLS, like any of the above examples. This would, first of all, make your website seem like one with a lot of duplicate content. So, if you are trying to rank well in today’s super competitive Internet market, you are just pulling your website lower even before it gets a chance to flex its muscles and even think of ranking well.

And wait. Maybe you cannot ignore it completely from a user’s point of view also! Imagine a user comes to a document or page on your website through two different URLs. Wouldn’t he be confused as to which is the correct or authentic one? Yes. Think about it! He would like to see the ‘canonical URL’ so as to be sure he isn’t referring to the wrong page.

So what needs to be done here is choose the best URL out of all. It is the accepted or standard ULR for a specific piece of content on the Internet. You don’t want 50 people coming to your page through 5 different URLs. That would simply dilute the value of the incoming link such a lot. You surely do not want the popularity of one or more of your pages split. Search engines do not want you clogging up their search results. Unique links and URLs is the way to go. It would be like you trying to clone yourself ten times and running a race, without anyone else to challenge you. No way are the crawlers going to take this lightly. After all, search engines will never want to be left looking dumb.

Resolving the Canonical Issue

You need to employ proper canonical tags to relevant pages on your website. Doing this will streamline your SEO practices, and your website will obviously become more robust, thus improving rankings to a great extent.

What to Do?

The first thing to do is, tell the search engines which page is the main one. So considering the above examples, you’d want ‘www.justanexample.com’ to be portrayed as your original page, and given a canonical tag. For this, you need to add a link tag to the head of the HTML code, the same place where you would find the title attribute and meta description tag.

The code for this would be something like . Not to forget, do this for all the pages on your website that you want to make canonical.

What it Does

This would tell all search engines that all the link and content metrics that it applies should link back to the said page. From an SEO perspective, it is pretty similar to a 301 redirect. But you are telling search engines that any multiple pages should be considered as one, but not redirecting users to a new URL.

What this actually does is merge two pages into one from a search engine’s perspective. Now, links to different URLs will end up as counting for the single canonical version of the proper URL. So now you know what a rel canonical is.

Canonical for WordPress

As far as WordPress, you can use the WordPress Seo plugin. When you install this plugin, it will not only help you take care of the canonical URL and content issues, but also a lot of your other SEO problems.

Canonical and External Duplicate Content

You cannot use this for external content that you own. For example, if you write a page about yourself on your website, do not make the mistake of writing the exact same content on other websites like Facebook, Linkedin, Google+, and the like. Then you can’t use the above method for such pages. Simply write different content on external websites. Well, you’d want your website page to rank on its own merit, right?

Canonical URL Checkers

Yes, there are tools where you can check your website and its pages, and also solve the issues. To help you out, here are some tools that would come in handy. Try this checker and get the canonical URL issue resolved. You could do this URL canonicalization test too. Another useful one is the canonical tag tester.

So get on with it immediately. Make sure all your website URLs are organized and redirected in a proper way. Just do not dilute your link authority. This could help your SEO efforts positively in a really big way. After all, the last thing you would want to do is confuse search engines, and in turn they would just end up penalizing you. Hey, they aren’t there to sort out your problems, are they?

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