It is perhaps SEO’s most intimidating term, but canonicalisation is derived from a math term meaning to choose one from many. When there are many versions of a website, for instance, which one do you want indexed? Let’s go over some canonicalisation best practices so you can be sure your content is getting the authority it deserves or avoid getting penalised for duplicate content.
- If you have multiple URLs, use a 301 redirect to divert search engine traffic to the main URL. All traffic should be pointed to this one URL. If, however, different versions of a site serve different purposes (such as if they are intended for different geographical locations), then you will use a rel=canonical.
- Stay away from 302s because these do not allow you to use that saved up “link juice.”
- When you are linking to your homepage internally, always use the same version of the URL, obviously the one you want the search engines to pick up on. Don’t link to one version here, another here. Keep it consistent.
- If you can, avoid using tracking IDs. When indexing your site, search engines will see different URLs for the same content. This means you could get penalised for duplicate content, a huge no-no given recent algorithm updates. If you do have to, use a “#” instead of a “?”. Search engines stop reading after the “#” so you’ll avoid this problem.
Canonicalisation is important not only to prevent penalties but to ensure your content is working efficiently and optimally for you. One study found that a split site lost 40% of its backlinks because of canonicalisation problems. When the problem was fixed, traffic increased 300% and the site gained traction in the rankings. It’s worth taking the time to avoid these problems in the first place.