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How the canonical tag can hurt your search engine rankings

Every website has pages that can be
requested with different URLs.
This can lead to duplicate content issues with search engines.

canonical tag

Several things can lead to duplicate
pages with different URLs:

  • the HTTP and the HTTPS version of a
  • the www and the non-www version of
    a page
  • index and default pages (index.htm,
    index.php, /)
  • pages with and without trailing
  • URL parameters that do not change
    the content
  • URLs with session IDs
  • faceted website navigation (the
    same content can be found in two different categories)
  • alternate page versions (regular,
    mobile, print, etc.)

Although there is no duplicate content
penalty, search engines might
pick the wrong version for the search results. The canonical tag
enables you to show search engines the preferred version of the page.

What is the
canonical tag?

The canonical tag is an HTML element
that enables webmasters to
prevent duplicate content issues by specifying the “canonical”, or
“preferred”, version of a web page.

Actually, the canonical tag is an
attribute of the link tag:

link rel=“canonical“

In this example, the canonical tag
tells search engines that
‘’ is the preferred URL for the page,
even if the same page is available under several different URLs. The
canonical tag can be added in the head section of a page.

When should you
use the rel=’canonical’ attribute?

What can go

Can Google
ignore the canonical tag?

The canonical tag is not a directive.
That means that search engines
can ignore it. In the past, Google said that they see the canonical tag
as a strong recommendation. If the linked pages aren’t a close enough
match, Google might ignore the tag.

How to check
your website for canonical tags

Use the website audit tool (infographic)
in SEOprofiler to check your web pages for canonical tags. In addition
to the canonical tag, the website audit tool checks many more things
that can influence the position of your web pages in Google’s search
results. If you haven’t done it yet, try SEOprofiler now:

SEOprofiler now

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