Do you have different pages with same content? In that case Google becomes unsure or confuse to select which version of a URL to index when there are multiple pages with same content. And these issues are exactly called canonical issues.

Canonicalization issues occur when multiple URLs on your website serve the same or very similar content, leading to duplicate content problems. This can negatively impact your site’s SEO, as search engines may struggle to determine which version of the content to index and rank. 

After you find the canonicalization issues you can solve those issues and make google easy to index the original page you want to display to viewers. And this article will mainly focuses on finding issues and ways of resolving them .

What are Canonicalization issues?

The canonical is to let Google know what is the main URL of the site just in case the same page is served in different URLs. In the context of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), canonicalization refers to the process of selecting the preferred URL for a particular piece of content when there are multiple URLs that lead to the same or similar content.

Canonicalization issues in SEO can occur when search engines are unsure which version of a URL to index or when multiple URLs may be indexed separately, potentially leading to duplicate content concerns and negatively impacting search rankings. Canonical issues may appear in the following way.

Here are common canonicalization issues in SEO.

www vs. non-www URLs

In an HTTP URL, the first substring that follows the initial http:// or https:// is called the domain name. This domain name is hosted on a server where the document resides. You should be coherent and consistent with which one is the official domain. This official domain is called the canonical name.

If a website is accessible through both “www” and “non-www” versions (e.g., http://example.com vs. http://www.example.com), search engines might treat these as separate URLs. Canonicalization involves choosing the preferred version and redirecting the other to the preferred version to consolidate ranking signals.

HTTP vs. HTTPS

Similarly, if a website is accessible through both HTTP and HTTPS protocols, canonicalization issues may arise. It’s important to redirect HTTP traffic to the secure HTTPS version to avoid duplicate content penalties and maintain a consistent user experience.

Trailing Slashes

URLs with or without trailing slashes (e.g., http://example.com/page vs. http://example.com/page/) may be considered different by search engines. Canonicalization involves choosing one format and redirecting the other to prevent duplicate content issues.

URL Parameters

Dynamic URLs with parameters (e.g., http://example.com/page?parameter=1) can lead to canonicalization issues. Using canonical tags or setting preferred URL parameters in Google Search Console helps search engines understand the preferred version.

Pagination

For paginated content, such as category pages with multiple pages, canonicalization issues may arise if search engines index each page separately. Implementing rel=”next” and rel=”prev” tags or using canonicalization can help consolidate the ranking signals for paginated content.

Mobile Versions

With separate mobile and desktop versions of a website, canonicalization issues may occur. It’s important to use responsive design or implement canonical tags to indicate the preferred version and avoid duplicate content penalties.

Addressing canonicalization issues is crucial for SEO to ensure that search engines understand the preferred version of content, consolidate ranking signals, and provide users with a consistent and positive experience. Implementing canonical tags, redirects, and other best practices can help mitigate these issues.

How to fix canonicalization issues in WordPress?

Canonical issues in WordPress are fixable or solvable. If you follow the following given steps you can solve issues with canonical issues in WordPress.

Set your preferred domain

Choose whether you want your site to be accessed with or without the ‘www’ prefix, and make sure this preference is consistent across your site.

  • a. In your WordPress dashboard, go to ‘Settings’ > ‘General.’
  • b. Set both the ‘WordPress Address (URL)’ and ‘Site Address (URL)’ fields to either include or exclude the ‘www’ prefix, according to your preference.
  • c. Save the changes by clicking on the ‘Save Changes’ button.

Set up proper URL redirection

Configure your .htaccess file or use a redirection plugin to redirect the non-preferred version of your domain to the preferred version.

a. If you have access to your .htaccess file, add the following code to enforce your preferred domain choice:

For a non-www domain preference:rubyCopy codeRewriteEngine On RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www\.(.*)$ [NC] RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://%1/$1 [R=301,L]

For a www domain preference:perlCopy codeRewriteEngine On RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www\. [NC] RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.%{HTTP_HOST}/$1 [R=301,L]

b. If you prefer using a plugin, install a redirection plugin like ‘Redirection’ or ‘Simple 301 Redirects’ to set up the appropriate redirects.

Use an SEO plugin to manage canonical URLs

Yo can manage canonical URLs by installing and configuring an SEO plugins like Yoast SEO, All in One SEO, or Rank Math. SEO plugins automatically generate and manage canonical URLs for your site. Most SEO plugins automatically add canonical tags to your pages, posts, and other content types, which helps search engines understand the preferred version of your content.

The sample image is of Yoast SEO plugin. Yo can get this option in Dashboard> Posts/ Pages. Then click on Yoast SEO and select Advanced section. Enter the full canonical URL, including http/s and www or non-www, in the ‘Canonical URL’ field.

If you want to manually set a canonical URL for a specific page or post, edit the page or post and find the SEO plugin’s meta box or options panel. There should be an option to enter a custom canonical URL.

Make sure your permalink settings are consistent and user-friendly.

a. In your WordPress dashboard, go to ‘Settings’ > ‘Permalinks.’
b. Choose a permalink structure that provides a clean, descriptive URL format, such as ‘Post name.’
c. Save the changes by clicking on the ‘Save Changes’ button.

Remove or no index duplicate content

If your site contains duplicate content due to content served through different URLs, consider removing the duplicates, consolidating the content into a single page, or adding a ‘no index’ directive to the duplicate content.

a. Use the SEO plugin’s settings to add a ‘no index’ directive to specific content types or individual pages, if necessary.
b. Alternatively, consolidate duplicate content into a single, authoritative page and set up 301 redirects from the old URLs to the new, consolidated URL.

Rely on 301, 302 and 303 Redirects

Redirects, particularly 301 , 302 and 303 redirects, are another way to influence canonicalization. Redirects 301 is mostly used one and it informs both search engines and online users that the original resource is no longer available. Instead, it will permanently redirect to a new page. Whereas 302 redirects temporarily to a new URL.

Redirects function as a “forwarding” mechanism, directing visitors from one URL to another. There are some other common redirects such as 307, 308, meta refresh. You can install redirect plugin, SEO plugins for this function. Or if in case you want to do it manually you can do it via .htaccess File and server side redirect.

What is the best technique or canonical tag to to prevent search engines from treating similar content?

The rel=canonical tag may look a bit strange, but it serves a key role in the world of SEO. It’s an HTML element that functions much like a citation.

It’s a <link> element with the rel attribute set to “canonical,” and the href attribute points to the URL where the genuine content resides.

Search engines will prioritize indexing and ranking that particular URL over any others containing similar content. This approach not only enhances the accuracy of search results but also helps you steer clear of duplicate content issues and potential SEO drawbacks. 

How to deal with canonical issues? How does canonicalization works?

First of all you should identify the canonicalization issues and its distinct location. Which page is infact being colonialized it is the important task you should identify. Lets have a look how you can deal and solve the issues.

  1. Identify Duplicate Content—Website owners identify pages with duplicate or highly similar content. Duplicate content can arise from various sources, such as printer-friendly versions, URL parameters, or slight variations in page URLs.
  2. Canonical Tag Implementation—For the identified duplicate pages, website owners add a “canonical” link element in the HTML header of each page. This tag specifies the preferred or canonical URL of the content.
  3. Search Engine Interpretation—When search engines crawl the website, they encounter these canonical tags. They use the information provided by the canonical tags to understand which page should be considered the primary or original version.
  4. Indexing and Ranking—Search engines then index the canonical page and attribute its content and ranking signals to it. This helps in consolidating the SEO value of the duplicate pages onto the canonical page.
  5. User Experience—From a user’s perspective, they still see duplicate pages, but behind the scenes, search engines understand which one to prioritize in search results.
  6. Eliminating Duplicate Content Issues—By implementing canonicalization, website owners help search engines avoid the confusion of indexing multiple similar pages, which could otherwise lead to lower rankings or exclusion from search results.

What are canonical tags?

The canonical tag was introduced in 2009 by Google, Yahoo, and Bing to reduce duplicate URLs on sites. A canonical tag (or rel=canonical) are small piece of HTML code that helps search engines to determine the original version of the page. In another word canonical tags differentiates the original and copy version of a page. Likewise, they are used to let Google know which version of the page you want to appear in search results.

Adding canonical tags to your pages is pretty easy – just go to any duplicate webpage and add rel=”canonical” tag into the <head> section of the page.

For implementing canonical tags into the HTTP header, you need to access the .htaccess file of your site and add the canonical tag in to form that can look like this Link: <https://www.yoursite.com/random-document.pdf>; rel=”canonical”

How can you indicate to google about canonical pages?

There are some ways you can go through to tell google about canonical pages.

  • Duplicates—Identifying duplicate content across the web.
  • Canonical Link Elements—The presence of canonical link elements in web page HTML.
  • Sitemap URLs—Information contained in XML sitemaps, which can specify canonical URLs.
  • Internal Links—How a website’s internal links are structured and which pages they prioritize.
  • External Links—The influence of external links pointing to a page.
  • RedirectsUse 302 redirects to permanently direct traffic from one URL to another.
  • Hreflang—Signals related to language and regional targeting for international websites.
  • PageRank—The distribution of PageRank, Google’s ranking algorithm, across various pages.
  • HTTPS > HTTP—Favoring secure HTTPS pages over non-secure HTTP ones.
  • Shorter URLs > Longer URLs—A preference for concise URL structures.
  • Original Content Source—Where content was first published or initially seen.
  • Site-Level Signals—Factors like a history of scraped content at the website level.
  • Pages > PDFs—Prioritizing web pages over PDF documents.

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