Beware of These 5 Mistakes in Case of ‘rel=canonical’

by Ashwani Kaushik on April 19, 2013

canonical-mistakes

Are you using the canonical element the right way?

“Use rel=canonical” This is what you usually suggest to anyone who is on pins and needles about the duplicate pages existing over the web. But are you using the canonical element the right way?

Where Did I Go Wrong?
If you have just hit the introspection mode and wondering where did you go wrong in using rel=canonical, then come back right away! No need to belabor the various instances where you missed using this connotation in an apt manner.  Enlisted are five common instances described on Google’s Webmaster Central Blog wherein web masters often make a false move in applying the canonical connotation. Have a look.

1. Mistakenly Using Absolute URLs in Place of Relative URLs: Hopefully, you understand the core difference between Absolute and Relative URLs. Absolute URLs specify a complete path of a web page including schemes like http://. On other hand, Relative URLs simply list the path which is relative to the page in question. Where does the problem lie? Well, things get sour when you specify a relative URL inside the <link> tag. For instance if you specify something like this- <link rel=canonical href=”example.com/example1.html”/>, it indicates that your preferred URL is http://example.com/example.com/example1.html, which is certainly untrue.

In such a scenario, search engine algorithms give the canonical element a miss and your ultimate goal remains unaccomplished.

2. Targeting Rel=Canonical Towards 1st Page in a Series: If you have a piece of content which extends to multiple pages, for instance:

example.com/article?story=example1-news&page=1
example.com/article?story=example1-news&page=2
example.com/article?story=example1-news&page=3

And so on…

Then specifying a rel=canonical from Page 2 towards Page 1 isn’t a best practice, since the pages in question aren’t duplicate copies of one another. If you apply the canonical element, the pages beyond Page 2 will not be indexed in SERP. In case you must use a canonical element with paginated series at all, Google recommends the use of rel=”prev” and rel=”next” pagination markup or rel=canonical from component pages to a single-page version of the article.

3. Unintentional or Miscellaneous Use of rel=canonical: At times, your web pages contain canonical elements which have been placed unknowingly. Google doesn’t consider this to be a typo, but instead, explains it to be an action of a busy webmaster who copies a template without remembering to change the link location specified in rel=canonical. Due to this your web page specifies the author’s site page as the favored page. In another instance, webmasters using SEO plugins for their site tend to ignore the hidden canonical connotations added by the plugin. This results into presence of multiple canonical elements targeting to different URLs.

To eliminate these silly issues, you simply need to double check the source code of your web page. Also, remember to remove the rel=canonical specification, while you are copying a template.

4. Specifying rel=canonical Within <body> Tag: The canonical element should always be included in the <head> tag in an HTML document. If search engines locate any canonical element inside the <body> tag, they simply choose to ignore it. So always double-check your code and ensure that rel=canonical falls under the <head> tag itself. Also, to keep HTML parsing issues at bay, use the element at the first possible instance in your HTML code.

5. Specifying rel=canonical to a Featured Article from the Landing Page: For instance, you are operating an online garment store and your site has category pages like “men”, “women” and “children”. Each page has some unique featured content. Suppose your landing page for “men” category features “men jeans.” Since the entire “men” category has content similar to that of “men jeans”, you end up adding a rel=canonical directed from the category page towards the featured content.

If search engines take this canonical element into consideration, the category page on your site will not be indexed. And you definitely don’t want this to happen! So you can choose to use a self-referential canonical element or absolutely no element at all.

How Do I Write An Apt Canonical Designation?
Here are some valuable tactics from Google’s end to help you to be at good terms with rel=canonical.

1.    Ensure that canonical connotation appears only once and that too in the <head> tag.
2.    The canonical page must include most of the text appearing on the duplicate page.
3.    Don’t specify any canonical elements targeting from category or landing pages towards a featured page.
4.    Ensure rel=canonical specifies a valid URL with some considerable content.

Canonical element specifies to the search engine which page you wish to display to your visitors in case of duplicate pages, so be cautious about its use.

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– who has written 1 posts on Hello Bloggerz.

Ashwani Kaushik is online marketing specialist for Mobiers Ltd, a leading iPhone development company. Get in touch with Ashwani on either Google Plus or Twitter.

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