Duplicate content becomes more manageable with canonical tag

February 13th, 2009   |  

Not much prompts a buzz of excitement in the SEO world. Today, fortunately, we have an exception.  The big three – Google, Yahoo, Microsoft – have proposed a solution to the always challenging issue of duplicate content. In separate announcements, each search engine covered their explanation of the new tag and how it should be used. And don’t worry, Google even included pictures.

It might be slighly daunting for an SEO beginner to understand the use for it, or even say the term for that matter (it’s pronounced [kuhnon-i-kuhl], I looked it up). As explained by Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, “Canonicalization is the process of picking the best url when there are several choices, and it usually refers to home pages.”

Duplicate content can come in the form of URLs that point to the same page, and this can happen for a couple different reasons. Sometimes eCommerce sites will allow various options to sort merchandise for a given section (lowest price, newest merchandise) and each result page will have a different URL while still having the same content. Or, your marketing team may want to add tracking codes to website analytics to see how effective different promotions are in driving traffic to a webpage. There are problems that can stem from this: search engines won’t know what page to include in their index, or which version to rank for query results.

By using a canonical tag, which looks like this:

<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.example.com">

search engines now see the URL “www.example.com” as the URL they want to use, even if there are similar ones, such as “www.example.com/index.htm”, or “www.example.com/home.asp”.

Of course there are safeguards in place to make sure that ambitious web developers do not abuse this code. The canonical tag will only be effective for pages within the same domain, and that have the same or very similar content.

For more reading on the subject, be sure to check out some of MediaG’s favorite technology blogs, like SearchEngineWatch, or TechNewsWorld.

For any questions, you can contact Media Genesis at inquiry@mediag.com.

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