There are many aspects of SEO and online marketing that go unnoticed but which are absolutely essential to ensuring that your website ranks where it deserves. One such issue is that of canonical URLs – if you’ve not heard of these, the chances are that your website may be suffering as a result. Fortunately, the majority of SEOs will have an in-depth familiarity with canonical URLs (largely because their clients don’t have the foggiest about them) and will know of the necessary procedures to stop this problem for negatively impacting upon the performance of your website in the SERPS.
Duplicate content is a problem. SEOs know this. Judging by the content of thousands of websites out there, not many companies know this. With the increasing emergence of ecommerce websites, canonical problems have become a MASSIVE problem for many websites out there and just taking a look through Google Webmaster Tools on various large retailers’ websites will show you some astounding results regarding canonical URLs.
Essentially, the process of canonicalistion occurs when the same webpage can be loaded via multiple URLs. This typically occurs on ecommerce websites when the user is filtering the results to their own requirements – although there are other ways in which canonical URLs will arise. It’s not actually that much of an issue to deal with providing that it is caught early but if left unchecked for a long time, some poor internet marketing company are going to be left to trawl through the site fixing substantial amounts of canonical issues.
Why you Need to Address Canonical URLs
It’s not just the duplicate content issue that will impact upon the optimisation of your website if it is suffering from canonical URLs – it will also give Google a tough time in establishing which of the multiple URLs with the same content is the most popular and this will often lead to problems in the search results for a given query. The main problem is that incoming links will have their authority spread out across each of the canonical URLs and this will diminish the overall authority of the domain.
Having just realised that I’m yet to actually provide an example of a canonical URL issue, this may be the ideal point in which to interject one:
If you type – http://bbc.co.uk – into the address bar it will redirect to – http://www.bbc.co.uk – However, there are many cases where this redirect doesn’t take place and the same content is found on both URLs. This, my friend, is a canonical URL. And it is a problem for your website. But fear not, internet marketing professionals know what to do.
Generally speaking, almost all SEOs will aim to resolve canonical issues through a 301 Redirect – which indicates to the search engine spiders that the page has been permanently moved to the new location. Once all canonical URLs have been redirected to the most popular URL, it is usually the case that you will start to see your search engine rankings improve and your traffic increase.
The world of SEO is famed for the pace at which the goalposts are moved by Google who, let’s face it, are blatantly the referee in this scenario – what they say go. It is issues such as canonical URLs that make using online marketing specialists so crucial as it is the type of occurrence that why continue to cause problems for website, progressively getting worse, unless the wheels are set in motion to address it and, more importantly, prevent it from happening again.
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