Url Canonicalization

Sometimes when you access a web page, different URLs can land you at the same page. While this my be fine for visitors, you need to help Google understand that you are aware the two URLs are the same page, and which one you want them to focus on as the preferred (Cannonical) URL.

The reason setting a canonical URL is important is because sometimes Google can misinterpret things, and believe they are seeing duplicate content on multiple web pages. If your website contains duplicate content that already exists on another web page (Your site or external) a search engine may decide your web page really doesn’t add any additional value to the internet, which can negatively affect your search engine rankings.

There are several ways you can help Google understand this. One common way is by implementing a 301 redirect from the non-preferred URL to the preferred one. You can also indicate the preferred URL by using the rel=”canonical” link element. Check out this article if you’re not sure which one to use. However, as I recommend you leave this to an experienced web master, I won’t get into the technical details on how to do this.

Canonical URL Image

Canonical URL Example

Canonical URL Definition

A canonical URL is the preferred URL you want search engines to treat as authoritative when multiple URLs can land a visitor at the same web page. Setting a canonical URL is an SEO best practice, and it also is the URL your visitors see in the browser address bar. There are a number of ways to communicate your preferred (Canonical) URLs with search engines, including a 301 redirect & the rel=”canonical” link element.

Canonical URL Example

Below are some examples of canonical URLs. One is the most common one I see with my local SEO clients, and the second is a my attempt at (arguable) nerd humour.

Common example:

http://www.site.com/

http://site.com/

In the above example, your web browser SHOULD direct you to the canonical URL you’ve selected. The URL should ultimately appear the same, whether the person had initially typed in www or if they had omitted it. If when you type in http://www.site.com/ and http://site.com/ nothing changes in the browser address bar, this means you have not properly set your preferred URL and risk Google viewing your website as duplicate content.

Another example:

http://www.site.com/shop?category=dressgate&color=gold

http://site.com/dressgate/gold-dress

The above example is more common in larger websites and Ecommerce websites. In this fictitious example, both URLs would lead the person to the page that sells gold dresses. The important thing is that when you type both URLs into your browser, you should end up at the same preferred URL no matter which one is typed in. If your internet browser address bar simply displays the URL exactly as you typed it in, then you may risk duplicate content issues and lower search engine rankings.

Next Step

Depending on how large your website is, this likely shouldn’t be a time consuming issue to resolve, though it is best left in the hands of an experienced website developer. I recommend you contact your web developer or you can enquire about our SEO services.

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