By Anthony Tran
One of the more important developments on the web has been the addition of canonical link elements. This element, rendered as part of the HTML making up a link is seen as: rel=”canonical”, and is in place to help prevent any instances of duplicate content. For a number of reasons, this is extremely important.
While canonical is in place and honored by Google, Yahoo! and Bing, few understand its purpose. The main purpose is, as stated above, to prevent duplicate content issues on a website.
In some cases, the same page may be served from two seemingly different locations on a website. The canonical element helps the search engines to determine which of these pages is the original. This allows search engines to then discount or ignore the duplicate page, as well as to properly rank the original page.
It should be noted that canonical is often compared to the use of a 301 redirect
How To Use Canonical?
It is quite easy to implement the rel=”canonical” tag into a website’s HTML code. For those publishing on a self hosted WordPress blog, simply adding uploading Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin will automatically add the required element into the head portion of a website.
This is the fastest and easiest way to implement this on the majority of blogs online. Joomla! and Drupal also have plugins available that will add this link element into the head section.
The Other Advantage Of Canonical
The other side of canonical link elements has to do with SEO benefits. There are a large number of sites known as “scraper sites”, that copy content for a number of reasons. Some of them are actually beneficial, but most of these are SPAM and can ruin a well planned and executed content strategy.
In this case, since there is no option to redirect a user from the scraper site to the original source, the rel=”canonical” attribute can preserve the original site’s claim to the content.
Prior to the introduction of canonical, it was not uncommon to see the copied version of a post outranking the original in the search engines. This has largely been remedied with the addition of canonical elements and is seen as one of the major SEO secrets to preserving a site’s authority and even its reputation online.
Canonical is a great tool to have, but is not a one size fits all solution. There may be times to use other approaches, but when in doubt, adding this link element is a safe and productive strategy. So if you want more web traffic to your blog then use canonicals to improve your on-page SEO.
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