What is The Process of Canonicalization?
The process of canonicalization in search engine optimization means to choose one specific URL as a single web address for the resources on your site. For instance, although you might consider the .com and .com/html on your site to be the same URL, search engine crawlers see them as different URLs. This affects your results and weakens your overall rankings.
This is common when it comes to product pages and blog posts. The same product could have dynamic URLs as a result of search preference or user session. For example, the same pink handbag could be found at an URL such as category=handbags&color=pink and /handbags/pink/pinkhandbag.html. With a blog post, the same exact thing can happen. The URL as a result of a search is different than the URL assigned to it from the platform when you published the blog page.
Even though visitors to your site will still find the same page, regardless of the URL, crawlers will still view them as separate pages. This means that you lose link authority overall. It might also cause some problems if Google accuses you of having duplicate content. However, even high ranking SEO sites can have canonicalization problems. It’s not easy to consolidate every page on your site or blog into a single URL.
There are a couple of ways to do it, however, with the most common being 301 redirects and the rel-“canonical” tribute. There are certain instances when one of these techniques would be better than the other.
Deciding on a Canonical URL
The very first step is to decide which URL you want as your canonical URL when consolidating multiple pages. Ideally, it should be the easiest web address to remember www.___.com is easier to remember and type out than http://www.____.com/html.
Using the 301 Redirect
The 301 HTTP redirect code has always been the standard for managing page redirections. It’s commonly used whenever a page is no longer available under a specific web address. It tells both search engines and visitors that the original page is no longer there. Visitors are redirected to the page at its canonized address.
While this method sounds easy enough, it does have its problems. You might not be able to implement HTTP status codes. Even if you can, it might not always be the ideal solution. It can take some time for search engines to actually attribute the new page with the same amount of search authority that the original page had. If you don’t know what you’re doing with 301 redirect, things might get messy.
Only use 301 in these circumstances:
- For pages that you actually plan on moving or replacing permanently.
- As the default URL.
- To redirect expired content or 404 pages.
- For domains that are being rebranded or acquired elsewhere.
Using rel=”Canonical” Attribute
This is an method for informing Google search crawlers that while you acknowledge more than one page is the same, you are placing the importance on one page, and consider it to canonical. An example of this is when you have more than one page featuring the same products but in different order depending on the price or color or size. Unlike 301, it doesn’t physically redirect visitors to another page.
You use this attribute by marking up the canonical page with the link element. Simply place the rel=”canonical” attribute with a <link> element to the <head> section. You can avoid errors by using absolute paths. Submit the canonical URLs in the sitemap.
There are instances when using this attribute is not ideal, such as when you have one long article or report broken up into different part, each with its specific URL. You will want the search engines to pay an equal amount of attention to all the parts, and not just one.
Another problem with rel”canonical” is that it doesn’t work with some search engines.
If you’re going to perform canonicalization with your website, make sure you do it correctly. Consider what would be the best for each page.