Canonical URLs and Canonical Tags

What is a canonical URL and how do I use canonical tags?

What is a canonical URL?

The canonical URL is the best/main/priority URL of a set. This often applies to the home page of a website which may have multiple versions, such as: “https://www.example” or “https://example”. It is important, for search engines, that you identify which of these URLs you recognise as the main page. This tells search engines which page or set of pages should be indexed.

What is a canonical tag?

A canonical tag is an html tag that lets search engines know the main content or origin of the content. Often this refers to content which has been syndicated across multiple sites. For example: press releases are often duplicated or partially duplicated. It is beneficial to add a canonical tag to each copy to identify the source.

How do I inform search engines of our canonical URLs?

There are several ways to identify canonical URLs. We recommend using all of the methods mentioned in this section (make a note of what you have done to avoid conflicting signals in the future).

One method, is to point all internal links on your website to your main URLs. If you choose to use the “www” version of your site, it is best to use the “www” page versions in all your internal links.

You can set your preferred domain in Google Search Console:

You can demonstrate your chosen URL structure by setting 301/permanent redirects site-wide from your various URL versions to your chosen version. For example: all non-www URLs would be redirected to the www URLs or vice-versa.

Also, create an xml sitemap with your preferred URL structure and submit it to Google Search Console.

How do I use canonical tags?

To identify a preferred URL or main source of content with the rel="canonical" link element. Once you have chosen the preferred URL, place the following html tag on each of your pages:

Be sure to use absolute paths rather than relative paths. For example:

What are canonical errors?

Canonical errors can take many forms. All of the following examples may cause confusion when search engines index your content:

How do I know if I have canonical errors?

A great tool for finding canonical errors is Screaming frog SEO Spider. If you have a relatively small website (less than 500 urls), this tool will be able to crawl your site. Once the crawl is complete, head to: “Reports” > “Canonical errors” and save your report.

How do I fix canonical errors?

Once you have identified the errors, go through them and fix the issue. Either fix or remove the canonical tags (if they are broken or no longer apply), or manually solve each problem:

If you need help solving these problems, get in touch.