What Are Canonical Tags? A Beginner Friendly Guide

A chart showing how canonical tags work.

Itching to study canonical tags? First, let me clarify why they’re related to your website rating.

There’s been a longstanding perception that Google penalizes duplicate content material. In case you haven’t already heard, that’s not strictly true.

As Google search advocate John Muller explains:

“…it’s not so much that there’s a negative score associated with it,”

“It’s more that if we find the same information on multiple pages on the web, and someone searches specifically for that piece of information, then we’ll try to find the best matching page.”

Moreover, on its ‘how to avoid duplicate content’ web page, Google states:

“Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely matches other content in the same language or are appreciably similar.”

As Google makes clear, there are occasions when an internet site proprietor has a real motive for having duplicate content material, like online shops or printer-only net pages. Nonetheless, these duplicate pages could confuse SERPs, and so they don’t all the time know which is unique or which web page you need to prioritize.

How do you get previous this? You can strive for 301 redirects or use top-level domains, however, you can additionally use a canonical tag URL.

For those who’re questioning what canonical tags are, otherwise you need to understand how they can assist you, and learn to seek out extra.

The Fundamentals of Canonical Tags

In probably the most primary phrases, a canonical tag is an HTML snippet (rel=canonical). As I’ve touched on within the intro, you implement a canonical tag while you need to point out to the various search engines which is the unique web page. For instance, you may need several variations of a web page if you happen to’re an e-commerce website proprietor or if you happen to’ve bought a cellular and desktop model of your website.

Now, if you happen to need the various search engines to prioritize the cellular pages, you’d add a self-referencing canonical tag to the cellular model to inform the search engine to index that web page. This means that the URL hooked up to the rel=canonical is the web page itself.

In different phrases, when you implement canonical tags, the search engines know which pages to dismiss and which of them to show within the SERPs.

Canonical tags are easy to add to your web page together with rel=” canonical” in your header, however, what does this do to your website positioning?

How Do Canonical Tags Assist Website positioning?

Canonical tags are an important part of any website positioning technique, enabling your website to rank greater. There are several methods they do that:

First, they inform SERPs which URL model is the “correct” one, stopping duplicate content material from rating decrease and guaranteeing you get the precise web page listed.

Additional, a canonical tag assists your website positioning efforts in different methods, like:

Syndicated content material: Canonical tags will let you higher handle syndicated content material. Whenever you syndicate content material from one website to a different one, it’s necessary to make sure the various search engines nonetheless reference the unique content material. Simply add the rel=” canonical” tag to your header to point to which web page you need to index.

Improved rankings: When you’ve got several variations of a webpage or article, including a canonical signify to the search engine you need individuals to go to that particular web page, enhancing the unique rating.

Monitoring: canonical tags allow you to trace visitors from totally different sources. For instance, in case you have two URL variations, say, one with www and one without. This can assist you to establish which model generates extra visitors and optimize your website accordingly.

Common search engine crawling: Right here’s what Google has to say about crawling: “Google will choose one URL as the canonical [main] version and crawl that, and all other URLs will be considered duplicate URLs and crawled less often.” In different phrases, if you happen to don’t need Google to make the selection for you, then add a canonical tag.

Filtering for e-commerce shops: It’s not unusual for e-commerce shops to have giant volumes of duplicate content material that might look like this:

Example of duplicate content in ecommerce stores.

To make sure the various search engines index your most popular e-commerce web page, you would come with a canonical tag.

What Does A Canonical Tag Do?

As I’ve defined, canonical tags can inform SERPs which model of a URL you need them to index. They’re often known as “rel canonical” or a ‘canonical link element.’ You add a canonical tag to the part of your web page, which looks like this:

What a canonical tag looks like.
Examples of canonical tags.

Whenever you use a canonical tag to inform the search engine which model you like, it helps preserve your website’s website positioning constant and may assist stop duplicate content material points.

What Are The Points With Duplicate Content material?

First, let’s clarify what duplicate content material is.

We can outline duplicate content material as identical or related content material showing on several pages of your website. Several components can contribute to duplication, equivalent to reprinting an article from one other website, copying and pasting textual content from one web page to a different one, or utilizing several URLs for a similar web page.

One other widespread trigger is unintentional duplication.

This will occur when two or extra pages have related titles and metadata, and it may happen when website house owners syndicate their content material to different websites or use software programs to generate pages robotically.

An additional motive for duplicate content material is intentional duplication. Typically website house owners create several variations of a web page an try to govern search engine rankings. They could additionally copy and paste content material from different websites to extend visitors or enhance their website positioning rating – which is principally black hat Website positioning.

When several pages on an internet site comprise identical or very related content material, it may confuse SERPs and dilute the rating energy of these pages, which stresses the significance of including a canonical tag.

How To Examine Duplicate Content material

There are several methods to establish duplicate content material on your website.

The only is to do a Google website search; this could appear like website:yourdomain.com, and see if any outcomes present up that you just didn’t anticipate. If in case you have an XML sitemap, you can even use Google’s “site:www.yoursite.com” operator to examine for duplicate pages.

Different strategies to examine for duplicate content material are:

  • Checking your website’s index standing in Google Search Console. Examine the variety of pages listed in Google with the variety of pages you assume must be listed. The outcomes might look one thing like this:
How to check for duplicate content.
  • Utilizing the “site:example.com” search operator to seek out pages which can be solely on your website and never on different websites.
  • Recognizing duplicate content material through the use of a device like Copyscape or Siteliner. These instruments will scan your website and report any cases of copied textual content.
  • You can additionally use a tool like Screaming Frog to crawl your website.

How To Implement Canonical Tags

There are two methods to add canonical tags to your pages: manually or with a plugin. For those who’re including them manually, you must add a tag to the part of every web page that you just need to canonize (make your predominant/authentic web page).

For those who’re utilizing a plugin, many platforms give an easy manner to add canonical tags to your pages. Beneath are a number of the choices for including tags to varied predominant internet hosting choices.

Implementing Canonical Tags in WordPress

For those who’re utilizing WordPress, the best manner to add a canonical tag is with a plugin. WordPress users can install it by:

  • Going to the setup web page on WordPress and deciding on ‘Add new’
  • search for the Yoast Website positioning plugin
  • Activate Yoast
  • Then go to the ‘after activation’ choice

You can even set up canonical tags manually by including some PHP code in the header, which seems like this:

Implementing canonical tags in wordpress.

Implementing Canonical Tags in Shopify

Shopify has information explaining how to add a canonical tag URL.

Or to add canonical tags manually, simply:

  • Go to your admin panel
  • Discover the ‘sales channels’ choice, go to ‘online store’ and click on ‘themes’
  • Choose the theme to edit, choose ‘actions’ then ‘edit code’
  • Go to structure and select a theme. liquid
  • Insert code into closing ‘head’ tag
  • Enter the code, which looks like this:
Implementing canonical tags in shopify.

Implementing Canonical Tags in Squarespace

Happily, canonical tags are easy to implement on Squarespace websites. Within the Squarespace editor, all you must do is:

  • Go to ‘Pages’
  • Select the gears choice
  • Choose ‘advanced’ from the menu
  • Observe the instructions from there.

Greatest Practices For Implementing Canonical Tags

With canonical tags, there are several finest practices to bear in mind. First, all the time use a canonical tag when you’ve got several web page variations.

Second, ensure the canonical tag factors to the proper web page. For those who unintentionally level to the mistaken web page, it can lead to decrease rankings for that web page. :


  • Use canonical tags on all duplicate pages; this ensures that the various search engines solely index one model of every web page.
  • Implement absolute URLs when specifying the canonical tag to allow users to index pages appropriately.
  • Solely specify one rel=” canonical” tag per web page.

One good thought is to just remember to audit your canonical tags to assist establish any potential implementation points and proper them. SiteChecker affords a free trial of a canonical URL checker.

Lastly, solely use canonical tags when obligatory; too many canonicals can hurt your site’s ranking potential.


What is An Instance of a Canonical Tag?

A canonical tag seems like this: instance.com?gown=1234 and instance.com/clothes/1234 (Supply: Google).

Is a Canonical Tag Obligatory?

Some individuals argue that canonical tags are pointless, as Google has said that they don’t use them as a ranking factor. Nonetheless, if you wish to keep away from duplication points and have a most popular web page you need to direct visitors to, then a canonical tag will be the strategy to go.


A canonical tag is necessary for serving to SERPs perceive the connection between pages on an internet site. Canonical tags can stop duplicate content material points and improve your website positioning efforts, permitting your most popular pages to get listed by SERPs.

There are vital advantages to including canonical tags, equivalent to improved net web page efficiency, extra common crawling, and simpler monitoring. They’re additionally extremely useful for e-commerce website house owners who typically have several pages of duplicate content material.

Though there are different strategies you can use, a canonical tag is fast to implement, and main platforms like WordPress and Shopify have choices to add plugins to simplify the duty.

Do you employ canonical tags? How have they helped you?

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