Canonical issues are most often encountered when a website contains more than one URL which has the same or identical content. These are usually the result of not having correct redirects in place, but they could also result from the search parameters of e-commerce websites as well as by syndicating or publishing content across multiple websites.
For instance, a site may load its homepage on any possible URLs listed below:
The exact same page appears for each URL however, since each page has a distinct URL, the search engine perceive that they are four distinct pages. This leads to duplicate content issues that could be unavoidable for SEO.
What are the reasons Canonical Issues Are a Problem?
There are many reasons why Canonical issues are difficult for SEO.
In the first place, Google isn’t looking to add duplicate information into its index. When it finds multiple pages it picks the authoritative (default) edition of the page, and blocks any other versions of that page in the results of its search. This may be an issue in the event that Google decides to select a URL which isn’t one you would prefer to have included in the index.
If your site can be accessed via multiple URLs, other websites might connect to other URLs when citing contents on your site. This can spread the link equity of your site across many pages, which can reduce it.
The problem is the result of an amalgamation of the two issues mentioned earlier. If you have 100 links that point to URL 1, while you have 10 links that point towards URL2. In the end, Google chooses URL 2 as the version that is considered to be the most authoritative version of your site. It will only take into consideration the hyperlinks that point to URL 2–not the ones pointing to URL 1–when evaluating the website, which may cause your rankings to fall.
What are the most common causes of Canonical issues?
There are many scenarios that could cause canonical definition. However, here are a some of the most frequent, according to Google:
HTTPS CSS vs. HTTP: If your site is secured with the SSL certificate, then it’s likely that it loads while you type in both HTTPS as well as HTTP variants of your website’s URL. This creates duplicates of each page on your website.
WWW in contrast to. non-WWW If you haven’t provided a default version for your website’s URL, then it’s likely that your site will load when you have your URL prefaced with WWW and not prefacing the URL with WWW. The issue is that it creates duplicates of every page on your website.
URLs that change depending upon user interaction for example: Certain sites, ecommerce sites , in particular–create various URLs based on the parameters of search or filters. For instance:
URLs that alter depending on the device on which you access the page in the event that you have an alternative website that is designed for mobile and desktop users (m.[site].com as opposed to. [site].com) as well when you are using AMP (amp. [site].com instead of. [site].com) this could cause canonical issues.
Content that is syndicated If you publish the same content across multiple sites or permit it to be syndicated – for instance when you publish every newly published blog on your own website and Medium, it could cause canonical issues.
The problem lies in the fact that you have plenty of ways that you can accidentally create canonical issues for your site. The positive side is that these canonical errors are all fixable.
How to Find Out if Your Site is Canonical?
Issues with HTTP/HTTPS that are caused by Canonical or WWW/non-WWW are the easiest problems to spot. To determine if there are issues with your site try typing every possible version of your website’s URL in your browser. For instance:
If all of those URLs redirect to one of those URLs (for example, each of those AuthorityLabs URLs redirects to https://www.authoritylabs.com), then you do not have those canonical issues on your site. If however, any of these URLs fail to redirect to your desired URL, then you’ve got an issue that is canonical.
Other issues could be more time-consuming and difficult to identify. One option you can try is to go to Google and entering site:[yoursite.comand looking through every page in Google’s index to determine what might surprise you.
However, navigating through dozens or hundreds of results on Google might not be optimal and a better option is to employ a program such as Screaming Frog to scan your entire website and create an exhaustive list of the URLs.
If you want to avoid needing to review all of your URLs in order to find problems, use the features for site audits of popular SEO tools such as Ahrefs, Moz or SEMrush. They all come with tools that search for duplicate content as well as Canonical problems on your website and create a simple report that you can use to address the issues.
How to fix common Canonical Problems?
There are two solutions to resolve how to fix canonical issues that a website may have such as implementing redirects to 301, or by adding canonical tags to your website’s pages to inform Google which of the similar pages you have chosen to use. The best option is based on the problem you’re trying to solve.
Implement Sitewide 301 redirects to duplicate pages
resolves issues with HTTP/HTTPS as well as WWW/non-WWW.
Issues with HTTP/HTTPS as well as WWW/non-WW are easily fixed with an all-site 301 redirect that will use the proper variant of the URL.
There are a variety of methods to create a websitewide redirect. The most straightforward, safest approach is to create the redirect via your site’s host.
You can begin by looking on Google for “HTTP for HTTPS redirect (host namehost name]” and “WWW to redirect non-WWW [host name(host name)” and then checking whether your host has a support page that explains how to implement the modification. In addition, you can reach the support department of your host for assistance.
If you’re fortunate enough to have developers who could help, they may also be able to setup your redirects with .htaccess (Apache) redirects, NGINX redirects or other methods.
When you’ve made the change You may see some changes in your rankings and traffic. As per Google this is normal. After an insignificant amount of time your ranking and traffic will return.
It is possible to use tools such as AuthorityLabs to keep track of the ranking for your website’s pages both prior to and post-redirect. This will allow you to keep watch for any changes and ensure your site eventually recovers.
It’s also important to note that there could be additional changes you’ll need to make in addition redirecting your URLs. For instance, you may need to update to your robots.txt document, your sitemaps and any URLs that are hard-coded. You might want to follow the HTTP-to HTTPS guide to ensure you don’t miss any crucial actions.