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Google Canonical: A Complete Guide for SEO




Created by search engines such as Google and Yahoo, the canonical tag helps indicate duplicate content between URLs of a website.

But how can I use this Canonical Google as well as optimize the tag?

What Is Google Canonical?

Understanding the power of Google canonical is crucial for SEO success. Within this guide, we will first delve into two fundamental components: Canonical URLs and Tags.

canonical tags usage

Google canonical tags definition

Canonical URL

A canonical URL is the preferred, primary version of a web page’s content. It is the single, authoritative URL that you want search engines to consider as the main source of the content.

When a web page has multiple URLs that point to similar or duplicate content, determining a canonical URL helps indicate which version should be treated as the primary one for search engine indexing and ranking purposes.

Canonical Tag

On the other hand, Google canonical tags are HTML elements used within the <head> section of a web page’s HTML code. They are employed to specify the canonical URL of a page.

This URL known as a Google Canonical URL checker, because it is point out to search engines that, even though there might be different URLs leading to similar content, the designated canonical URL is the one that should be prioritized in search results.

Ideally, canonical tags help search engines understand which version of a page should be considered the primary source of the content.

In recap, a canonical URL is the preferred version of a page’s URL, and a canonical tag is a piece of HTML code used to identify said URL. Both concepts are crucial for managing duplicate or similar content scenarios, enhancing SEO efforts, and maintaining a clear website structure.

Why Is Google Canonical Important?

Google canonical tags are an important tool for SEO specialists that helps them with one critical element – avoiding duplicate content. This can be considered a prominent purpose of canonical tags.

html tags

HTML tags can help deal with canonical tags

When Google identifies two pages as “duplicate,” it can lead to something called keyword cannibalization. This occurs when two separate pieces of content compete for the same or similar set of keywords.

As search engines continually scan websites to determine the rankings of pages and posts, discovering two pages with identical content creates a dilemma.

The search engine cannot figure out which page should be ranked higher, causing both pages to compromise each other’s ranking potential. 

Therefore, the tags can serve as a guide for search engines, enhance the experience for users, optimize your website’s organization, and guarantee that your content attains the visibility it deserves.

How Do Add Google Canonical Tags?

Now that we have covered the ins and outs of canonical tags, let’s dive into the exciting part: Putting them to work.

Implementing Google canonical tags is a relatively straightforward process and technique. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you out:

Identify the duplicate or similar version

For example, you have these two URLs, with similar content:



Determine which pages on your website have duplicate or closely related content that could potentially confuse search engines.

Then, decide which version of the content you want search engines to treat as the primary one and signal to them using canonical tags. This is the page that will be prioritized for SEO benefits and ranking signals.

Setting canonical tags

where to find canonical tags

How to set canonical tags effectively

Once identified, integrate rel=canonical tags. Manually insert the rel=canonical meta tag in the HTML header of the non-canonical page.

As an example, if you opt for the shortest URL as your canonical choice, link the alternative URL to it within the <head> section:

<link rel="canonical" href="https://example.com/wordpress/seo-ondigital/" />

By including this canonical tag, you are communicating to search engines that the specified URL is the main version associated with this content.

This helps search engines consolidate ranking signals and reduces the risk of duplicate content confusion.

Remember: Each instance of duplicate content should have its canonical tag pointing to its respective canonical URL. This way, search engines can correctly understand the relationship between your different content versions.

Use Cases and Best Practices

Embarking on the journey of implementing canonical URLs necessitates a firm understanding of their significance and how they contrast with alternate URLs. Here are a few guidelines to follow:

Properly authorize your homepage

Duplicate versions of the homepage are quite common, and people can link to your homepage in various ways that you might not have control over. To avoid unexpected issues, it is a smart move to put canonical tags on your homepage template consistently.

Canonizing almost duplicate sites

While the Google Canonical Tags URL checker is generally associated with exact duplicates, they can also be employed on similar contents. However, you must proceed with caution.

Canonical tags can be applied to pages with minor differences, such as product pages with varying product names, locations, or attributes. Also, non-canonical versions might not rank and too dissimilar pages might not be affected by canonical tags.

Check if dynamic canonical tags are correct

It never hurts to be precise, especially in SEO. Sometimes incorrect coding can result in your site generating a distinct canonical tag for each URL version, missing the entire purpose of the canonical tag and creating unwanted inefficiency. Always double-check your URLs, especially on e-commerce platforms and content management systems (CMS).

Self-referencing tags

This basically means it’s alright if the canonical tag points to the same URL that it’s on. In other words, if you have versions X, Y, and Z of a page that are similar, and X is the version that you want to prioritize, it is totally fine to put a tag pointing to X on the X URL itself. This might seem obvious, but it’s a common area of confusion.

Verifying duplicates across domains

If you have control over multiple sites, you can use canonical tags across your domains. Imagine you are a publishing company frequently posting the same article on several pages. By employing canonical tags, you can focus your ranking strength on just one page.

Keep in mind that applying canonical tags prevents non-canonical pages from ranking, so ensure this approach aligns with your business strategy.

canonical tags

Common mistakes while handling Canonical tags

Common Google Canonical Mistakes You Need to Be Careful

Canonical tags have major implications on your website’s overall performance, make sure to steer clear from these mistakes while implementing them, or it can diminish from your SEO performance.

Implementing Canonical Tags for Non-duplicate pages

In some cases, you might consider using canonical tags to consolidate the ranking impact of separate web pages. In fact, canonical tags are not intended for every page, especially those with content that is not duplicated.

Therefore, you do not need to implement canonical tags universally across all your pages. Canonical tags are most effective for dealing with duplicated or closely similar content.

So, it’s wise to reserve their usage only when needed. This approach ensures that you are using canonical tags in line with their intended purpose and optimizing their impact on your SEO efforts.

Pointing Canonical Tags to Redirected URLs

Here’s another example of what not to do.

Let’s say you have two pages: Page A and Page B. Page A is configured to automatically redirect visitors to Page B. Such redirection serves various purposes, such as content consolidation or URL structure modifications.

Canonical tags come into play when indicating to search engines the primary content source among pages. In this context, using canonical tags and directing them to Page A (which redirects to Page B) can create confusion, especially for search engines.

To avoid this confusion, it is advisable not to implement canonical tags pointing to redirected pages. Instead, direct canonical tags straight to the destination page, which is Page B in this case. This approach furnishes a clear directive to Google, specifying the main content source, even if redirection is involved.

When dealing with redirected pages, ensure your canonical tags unequivocally point to the ultimate destination page (Page B). Steer clear of using them on the page that conducts the redirection (Page A) to preempt any potential complications for search engines.

faqs about canonical tags

Frequently asked questions about canonical tags


Q: How do Canonical tags affect ranking?

A: Canonical tags can influence ranking by consolidating ranking signals and preventing dilution of SEO efforts due to duplicate content. They guide search engines to the primary content source, which can positively impact search rankings.

Q: How often should I review canonical tags?

A: It is advisable to review canonical tags periodically, especially when making changes to your website’s content or structure. Ensuring that canonical tags accurately point to the most relevant version helps maintain the effectiveness of SEO strategies.

Q: Can canonical tags be used on all types of pages?

A: Yes, canonical tags can be used on various types of pages, including blog posts, product pages, service pages, and more. Any page with potential duplicate content can benefit from canonical tags.

Q: Do canonical tags prevent content from being indexed altogether?

A: No, canonical tags do not prevent indexing. They guide search engines to the preferred version of the content, but it is possible that search engines may still index other versions to some extent. Canonical tags help prioritize the main version for ranking purposes.

Q: How long does it take for canonical tags to take effect on search rankings?

A: The impact of canonical tags on search rankings can vary. It depends on how frequently search engines crawl your site and update their indexes. Generally, you may see changes in rankings over the course of a few weeks after implementing canonical tags.

Learn more: What are some Google advanced search operators that you should use?

Final thoughts

In the end, while Google canonical tags may not yield instant results, their impact on search rankings can become evident over time. Regular review and proper implementation of these tags help maintain a clear structure for your website, optimize content, and elevate your online presence. We hope this guide clears up any misunderstandings about Google Canonical and the potential behind this tool.

Having trouble with SEO? Don’t hesitate to contact On Digitals for assistance. As a digital marketing agency, we can provide a helping hand with any issues, whether it be SEO, social media, or web design. Feel free to contact us for your upcoming projects, we are ready for you at any time.

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