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Does your website have any canonical URL issues?

By : Categories : SEO Blog

In the simplest sense, a Canonical URL is the internet address that you want your visitors to see. From an SEO perspective, a canonical URL is what you want the search engines to treat as authoritative and important. Essentially, it is used to describe your homepage. Examples of canonical URLS are as follows:

  • www.yourdomainname.co.uk
  • yourdomainname.co.uk
  • www.yourdomainname.co.uk /index.html
  • yourdomainname.co.uk/home.asp

For ordinary internet users, these URLS are just the same. This is somewhat true as we’re talking about the same homepage. Unfortunately, from the search engine’s point of view, all these URLs are different from each other. There are instances when a user navigates away from a page (i.e. product page) and goes back to it but returns a different URL—same page but a different URL. As a result, since the search engine sees this as 2 different pages, it would view it as having a duplicate content issue. This could sabotage all your SEO efforts and, in the process, cause a negative impact on your ranking. Hence, the idea of canonicalisation was introduced.

Canonicalisation is the process of choosing the best URL to use and present to search engines. Simply put, the use of a standardised or consistent URL for your website. Normally, the search engines choose the best URL for a web page. The drawback of this automatic selection is, search engines may, in fact, select the wrong ones, and hence, URLs are not normalised properly. In addition, some pages may have more than 10 different versions of URLs for the same page (similar to the example cited in the preceding paragraph where the search engine had the host names confused). Therefore, it is imperative to let the search engines and the users know your “preferred URL” or “canonical URL” by redirecting all of the URL variations to your “canonical URL”, your one final destination.

Improper canonicalisation of search engines may result to a lower page rank than they would otherwise or, worse, not rank them at all. If people link to your webpage using one of the many URL variants, it can lead to the splitting of the link juice between these pages. Thus, affecting your page rank and crawl depth. Link juice refers to the quality of your inbound links. High or low quality links are considered to have more or less “link juice”, respectively.

There are various types or ways to get your URLs canonised. We have the use of www or non-www where a 301 permanent redirect from the non-www URL changes to the www URL. Other methods include, but are not limited to, the removal of trailing slashes, conversion of upper case URLs to lower case, removal of session Ids from bulletin boards or other software.

The best way to avoid a canonical issue is good site planning and architecture from the word go and this will save you a lot of problems in the future. Choose a convention for linking and consistently use it. If you want the search engines to pick-up www.yourdomainname.co.uk as your authoritative URL, always link to this address rather than yourdomainname.co.uk or yourdomainname.co.uk/home.asp.

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