Canonical URL and SEO

David Ashurst Design - SEO & SEM development

Canonical URL and SEO

Although your choice of using either WWW or non-WWW for your site’s domain doesn’t, in itself, impact SEO, NOT having a Canonical URL can definitely affect your SEO!

Google specifically says “If you don’t specify a preferred domain, we may treat the www and non-www versions of the domain as separate references to separate pages.” And this can expose your website to duplicate-content issues, with both WWW and non-WWW versions of your pages being included in the search engine indexes.

How to Convey your Canonical URL to Google and other search engines

  • Put a “rel=canonical” tag in the <head> of your HTML pages;
  • Setting your “Preferred Domain” in Google’s Webmaster Tools;
  • Using your preferred domain in your XML site map;
  • Adding a 301 Redirect in your .htaccess file (on Apache servers).

For more excellent info, read Google’s Webmaster Tools article on Canonicalization.

Setting the canonical URL via the “rel” tag:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”” />

Whereas a 301 redirect re-points all traffic (bots and human visitors), the Canonical URL tag is just for engines, meaning you can still separately track visitors to the unique URL versions.

This approach can be cumbersome and is somewhat limited, and a better approach is using a 301 Redirect in your site’s .htaccess file. However, modifications to your .htaccess file should only be done by someone familiar with such work. If you don’t have someone who can do this, then the rel=canonical approach would be the way to go.

Setting the WWW canonical URL via a 301 Redirect:

You can do this by including either of the following “directives” in your .htaccess file. NOTE: Only servers running Apache (usually on the Linux OS) use the .htaccess file. If your hosting OS is Windows or something other than Apache, consult your provider or webmaster about setting up 301 Redirects.

This is the best method for setting your Canonical URL, because it redirects all traffic to the preferred domain URL. This helps ensure that your Canonical URL is always reflected on your site (in the browser address bar, or when a page is bookmarked, etc.).

Website references

Website Design and Development toolbox – canonical URL and SEO, by professional Graphic Designer and Website Designer. David Ashurst Design, Springwood QLD 4127

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