Canonical links are used to indicate the preferred URL of a webpage that has multiple versions or duplicates of the same content. When search engines crawl a website, they may encounter different URLs that lead to the same content, which can cause issues with duplicate content and negatively impact SEO.
A canonical link, also known as a “rel=canonical” tag, is an HTML tag that tells search engines which version of a page should be considered the “master” or “canonical” version. When a search engine sees a canonical link, it understands that the specified URL should be given priority over any other duplicate URLs.
Canonical links can be added to any html page, and most content management systems allow them to be added too. WordPress makes it easy to add canonical links to your website. Here’s how to do it:
Install an SEO plugin
To add canonical links to your WordPress site, you’ll need to install an SEO plugin like Yoast SEO, RankMath, or All in One SEO Pack. As well as the usual SEO functionality, these plugins include the ability to add canonical links.
Once you’ve installed an SEO plugin, go to the plugin’s settings and find the option to enable canonical links. Depending on the plugin, this option may be located in a different section of the settings.
After enabling canonical links, you can add them to individual pages or posts by editing the page or post in WordPress and finding the option to add a canonical URL. You’ll need to enter the URL of the preferred version of the page, and the SEO plugin will add the canonical link to the HTML code of the page.
By using canonical links in WordPress, you can avoid duplicate content issues and improve the SEO of your website by helping search engines understand which version of your pages is the most important.
Here are a few examples of where you might use canonical links:
1. Duplicate content
If you have multiple pages on your website that have similar or identical content, you can use canonical links to indicate the preferred version of the content. For example, if you have a blog post that appears on multiple category pages, you can use a canonical link to indicate which URL should be considered the “master” version of the post.
2. Product variations
If you sell products on your website with different variations, such as different colors or sizes, you can use canonical links to indicate that all variations should be considered as a single product. This can help prevent search engines from treating each variation as a separate page with duplicate content.
3. HTTP and HTTPS versions of a page
If you have both HTTP and HTTPS versions of a page on your website, you can use a canonical link to indicate which version should be considered the preferred version (although generally your http pages will already be redirected to your https pages). This can help prevent duplicate content issues and ensure that search engines are indexing the correct version of your pages.
4. Printer-friendly pages
If you have a printer-friendly version of a page on your website that has the same content as the regular page, you can use a canonical link to indicate that the regular page should be considered the preferred version. This can help prevent the printer-friendly page from being indexed as a separate page with duplicate content.
Overall, canonical links can be used in any situation where you have multiple versions of the same content on your website and want to ensure that search engines are indexing the preferred version.
Yes, WordPress automatically generates canonical links for certain types of content, such as category and tag pages, to help prevent duplicate content issues. However, WordPress may not always generate canonical links for all types of content, so it’s a good idea to double-check that canonical links are being used correctly on your website.
If you’re using an SEO plugin, such as Yoast, RankMath, or All-In-One SEO, these plugins will typically add canonical links to your website automatically. You can also manually add canonical links to specific pages or posts in WordPress by editing the page or post and adding the canonical URL using the plugin’s settings.
It’s important to note that while WordPress does generate canonical links for some types of content, it may not always be the preferred URL that you want to use. For example, if you have multiple versions of a page with similar content, you may want to specify a canonical URL manually to ensure that search engines are indexing the correct version of the page.
In general, it’s a good idea to review your website’s canonical links regularly to ensure that they’re being used correctly and that search engines are indexing the preferred version of your pages.
Yes, there can be risks in changing canonical links on an established website, particularly if the changes are not done correctly. Changing canonical links on an established website can have a significant impact on SEO. If the canonical link is changed to a page that doesn’t have the same content or keyword focus as the previous version, it could result in a drop in search engine rankings and traffic.
To minimize risks, it’s important to carefully consider why you’re changing the canonical link in the first place, and ensure that the new link is appropriate for the content on the page. If not, then a permanent redirection might be a better strategy.
It’s a good idea to make changes to canonical links gradually and monitor the impact on SEO and user experience.
If duplicate content exists on a website without canonical links, or if the canonical links are left to the defaults that platforms like WordPress generate, there is a risk that search engines will not know which version of the content to index and rank in their search results.
This can lead to lower search engine rankings if search engines are unable to determine which version of the content is the “primary” version. They may choose to rank a different version of the content or choose not to rank any version at all. They are less likely to rank both versions. This can result in lower search engine rankings and reduced traffic to your website.
Wasted crawl budget – Search engines have a limited amount of resources to crawl and index web pages. If duplicate content exists on a website without canonical links, search engines may waste their crawl budget by crawling multiple versions of the same content instead of more unique pages on your website. This is more likely on a site with a very large number of pages.
Marking a duplicate content page as “noindex” can have a similar effect as using a canonical link, but there are some important differences to consider.
When a page is marked as “noindex,” search engines are instructed not to index the page or include it in their search results. This can be useful in cases where you have a page with duplicate content or thin content that you don’t want to appear in search results.
However, marking a page as “noindex” does not necessarily address the issue of duplicate content. Other pages on your website may still have similar or identical content, which can lead to confusion for search engines and potentially lower search engine rankings.
In contrast, using a canonical link tells search engines which version of the content is the preferred version and can help consolidate the link equity of multiple pages into a single page. This can help improve search engine rankings and reduce the risk of “so-called” penalties for duplicate content. Note: there isn’t really such a thing as a duplicate content penalty. Moreover, better-organised content will just rank better!
In general, if you have a page with duplicate content on your website, using a canonical link is often the preferred solution. However, if you have a page with thin or low-quality content that you don’t want to appear in search results, marking it as “noindex” may be a useful strategy. It’s important to consider the specific situation and goals of your website when deciding which approach to take.
In a multi-language website, where several versions of English are used, should the language with the largest potential audience be the canonical version?
In a multi-language website with several versions of English (US, Canadian, Australian, etc.), it may make sense to use the language with the largest potential audience as the canonical version. However, it’s important to consider a few factors before making this decision.
Firstly, ensure that the content on the canonical version is the same or substantially similar to the content on the other versions of the page. If there are significant differences in the content or structure of the page, using the version with the largest potential audience as the canonical version may not be appropriate.
Secondly, it’s important to consider the language preferences of your target audience. While a particular version of English may have a larger potential audience, your target audience may prefer a different version of English based on their location or other factors.
Finally, it’s important to consider the impact of this decision on search engine rankings and traffic. If the language with the largest potential audience is used as the canonical version, it may result in higher search engine rankings and traffic. However, if users are searching for content in a different version of English, they may not find the content they’re looking for if it’s only available on the canonical version.
So is the best approach to make each English variant of a page contain local nuances specific to the way people in that country search?
Yes, it’s generally a good idea to make each variant of an English page contain local nuances that are specific to the way people in that country search. This can help ensure that the content is relevant and useful to the target audience and can improve search engine rankings and traffic.
When creating content for different variants of English, it’s important to consider factors such as local spellings, idioms, and cultural references. For example, while people in the United States might search for “apartment rentals,” people in the United Kingdom would search for “flat rentals.” Including these local nuances in your content can help ensure that it resonates with the target audience and is more likely to be found in search engine results.
While some local differences are necessary, the overall structure and message of the page should be consistent across all variants.
In general, creating localized content for different variants of English can be a time-consuming process, but it can be worth the effort in terms of improving search engine rankings, traffic, and user experience.
If your website has pages that are the same as, or substantially similar to, other pages on your site, you might need to point the ‘duplicate’ pages at a ‘master’ page. The master page would be the preferred page that you want to rank in search.
Canonical links are used to indicate a preferred page to search engines for ranking.
Many website builders, such as WordPress, automatically generate canonical links for archives and other pages (category and tag pages, for example). SEO plugins can be used to manage canonical links for individual pages.
Canonical links can be vital for larger websites, as they can greatly reduce the crawl budget (a limit that search engines have for the number of pages they crawl in one visit). This means that more of your higher-value pages will get crawled more often, resulting in a better search performance.
We are WordPress experts. If you need professional WordPress help with your website, please get in touch.