URL canonicalization denotes a specific web address as the “master copy” of a page. This action prevents search ranking problems caused by duplicate content. When identifying the master copy of a page, a website communicates to search engines which URL they want to appear in results. Failure to apply URL canonicalization can cause an abundance of SEO problems. Duplicate content across multiple URLs confuses search engine crawlers and can dilute ranking potential. Though we tend to think of pages as singular entities, search engines interpret each URL differently. For example:
- URL 1: http://www.roofingwebsite.com
- URL 2: https://www.roofingwebsite.com
- URL 3: http://roofingwebsite.com
- URL 4: http://roofingwebsite.com/index.php
While users perceive each of these URL’s as the same page, search engine crawlers interpret each one as unique. The example above doesn’t even scratch the surface of the number of URL variations on an average website. Search crawlers construe thousands of individual pages, with the majority of them presenting identical content. Content Management Systems complicate the problem by allowing multiple paths by default, a setting that isn’t changed unless the admin has knowledge of SEO. For URL canonicalization for your roofing website, give us a call at (800) 353-5758.
URL Canonicalization Best Practices
Most duplicate content is accidental. While there are instances in which a website will scrape content from an external source, most content duplication issues stem from URL variations. This is particularly true on the homepage of your website. If you, or your website manager, have not proactively canonicalized, it is most likely that your website currently suffers from identical content which can impact search rankings. To combat this, follow best practices for URL canonicalization:
- Avoid Cross Signaling: Never canonicalize multiple pages both to and from each other
- Focus the Homepage: Most homepages have multiple paths, so it is important to canonicalize one of them
- Multiple Domains: If you have an older website and a new one, utilize canonicalization across both domains
- Self Reference: A page identified as the “master copy” can be canonicalized to itself
Content Management Systems are important to website performance but can add further complications to the canonicalization process. Often times, CMS’s will write a separate canonical tag for each URL variation, defeating the intended purpose of canonicalizing. For this reason, it is important that a web developer monitors your URLs and ensures that they are optimized for search engine crawlers. Roofing Webmasters is a full-service internet marketing company and can help you improve your search engine optimization today.
To Canonicalize, or Redirect?
What is the difference between canonicalization and 301 redirects? A redirect essentially hides a web page from a user by automatically directing them to a different URL. Canonicalization, in contrast, keeps every page visible, but notifies search engines as to which one is the “master copy”. Which method should be utilized depends on the individual situation. Generally speaking, canonical tags are best practice for URL variations, while 301 redirection works best for distinct web addresses.
One major advantage to 301 redirects is their ability to maintain link equity. In other words, a web page that has built up SEO over time can be redirected to a newer page and maintain the aforementioned SEO. This helps websites migrate to newer domains, without sacrificing their search engine optimization. Does link equity also travel with canonicalization? While there is no confirmation, one way or the other, the evidence suggests that it does. For roofer URL canonicalization services, call us at (800) 353-5758.