What Are Canonical Tags and Why Do I Need Them?

Online marketing experts who are well connected know for a fact that SEO isn’t dead, no matter how many times it’s been reported to be. The truth is— it had just evolved over time.

One of the newer additions of SEO essentials is the use of canonical tags, which all SEO professionals know is a definite must if you want to increase your search ranking.

What Are Canonical Tags?

Canonical tags refers to the code that specify URLs which point to master copies of your webpages. It’s found on the technical side of your site and applied to prevent issues of duplication. After all, search engines frown upon duplicate content. You can therefore avoid this problem and instead point to source URLs.

How Do Canonical Tags Actually Work?

With canonical tags, you can declare a particular page as its own source or you can direct the search engine to the primary page.

It’s highly important to implement these tags to avoid SEO vulnerability especially when you have an eCommerce website or if you’re utilizing a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal.

So how can you apply these canonical tags?

Most eCommerce platforms either offer built in canonical tags, or they can be added by the use of a plug in.

If you run an eCommerce site or online store, the first thing you ought to do is spot-check some of your URLs to see if you are currently using canonical tags.   A canonical tag looks like… 

<link rel=“canonical” href=https://www.your-store-url-here.com />

You can easily check by loading your webpage, then right clicking on your browser to “view source”, and using CTRL-F to find, or you can ask your web developer to check for you.

You also have to know that when choosing the URLs on which to apply canonical tags, it’s also good to include those with nearly the same content and not just stick to those with exact same content. This means that if two pages provide the same information but perhaps you modified the locations or currencies on them, then they should also have the right canonical tags.

The same goes for multiple domains. Some companies, for example, use different domains for different target locations. Let’s say one e-store was created for your US-based customers and another one’s for Canada-based consumers. You can actually apply canonicalization across domains.

Furthermore, one question that often comes up within this topic is that about using 301 redirects. This is often confused with the use of canonical tags. But you have to be aware that the two are completely different both for web users and for search engines.

You need to be careful about this because they lead to different results— 301 redirects will make a site visitor skip a specific page and instead be directed to another one. Meanwhile, if you simply put a canonical tag, the visitor can still see that page and the other one too separately. However, only the search crawlers will recognize that one is the source URL of the other.

Why Are Canonical Tags of Great Value?

Due to tons of internal searches on your website, referral links, and visits from various social media networks, a webpage can end up having different unique URLs that could ruin your chances of an SEO boost. On the contrary, these appear as duplicate content which is a huge no-no for search engines.

Take note that virtually all eCommerce platforms allow multiple URL paths to lead to the same content. Hence, it’s also considered duplicate content since all of these URLs can be crawled by Google and other search engines.  This is where the big problem lies. The search engine crawlers don’t know that they’re all one and the same. In their “eyes”, these are considered unique URLs with duplicate content.

You must take note that not only will duplication of content hurt your ranking but it’s also bound to make people miss out on your unique content because of so many same content pages that search crawlers need to paddle through.

Another reason that canonical tags are important is that it also prevents some pages of yours from being mistaken by search engines as the original content. With the use of canonical tags, you can indicate the actual original URLs.

Understanding the value of canonicalization as well as knowing how it works will surely help you apply it to your own website. It can boost your overall SEO and in the long run help drive more traffic to your site.

For your Yahoo! Store, if you are not sure if you have canonical tags, or you need them, please visit https://yahoo.yourstorewizards.com/canonical-tags.html to learn more.  For Shopify stores, the use of canonical tags is generally theme specific and it is recommended to contact your web developer if you are unsure.  Big Commerce also offers canonical tags and you can read their blog post on Canonical Tags for additional information.

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