Role of Canonical Tags in Website Optimization (An Ultimate Guide to Canonical URLs in 2023)

canonical tags

Canonical tags are an integral part of website optimization, privileging web admins to consolidate duplicate content easily. This alerting tag proves to streamline website structures.

Our ultimate guide on canonical URLs explores the ins and outs of canonical tags, including their implementation, benefits, and tips for practical usage. Understand the dynamics of this HTML element and promote your website’s success for years to come.

Understanding Canonical Tags

Understanding Canonical Tags

Here’s a basic understanding of canonical tags and how they benefit the preferred version of 2 similar content pieces:

1. The Backbone of URL Canonicalisation

Technically known as rel=”canonical” tags, they’re HTML elements indicating which of two webpage URLs holds higher authoritativeness, making the selected choice a prioritized version for indexation.

These duplicate-content-flagging tags reflect the workings of a signaling mechanism, wherein search engines learn that specific URLs are low-authority variations of the target page.

Website owners can stabilize logical ranking signals and link equity associated with duplicate pages.

Such practices eliminate setbacks ranging from penalizations for duplicate content to diluting SEO efforts.

2. Canonical Tags Consolidate Duplicate Content

Canonical Tags Consolidate Duplicate Content

Canonical tags abide by one primary purpose – sorting duplicate content to inform search engines regarding pages needing indexation to be ranked and displayed on search results.

Remember, duplicate content can arise from various sources, including:

  • URL variations (such as different tracking parameters or capitalization)
  • Printer-friendly versions of pages
  • Session IDs

The absence of canonical tags may confuse search engines in pinpointing the relevant version of a page, giving birth to potential indexing issues and suboptimal rankings.

How Canonical Tags Work?

The functioning of these tags depends on whether the canonical URL is specified on a page’s HTML code. After crawlers encounter the source URL, they give link equity, SERP rankings, and other ranking signals.

However, user behavior and conflicting signals, among other ranking metrics, may occasionally cause canonical tags not to work as intended.

Implementing Canonical Tags

Here we will discuss how to implement canonical tags with some best practices, from identifying duplicate content to verifying the tags added.

1. Adding Canonical Tags to Your Website

Adding Canonical Tags to Your Website

Access the HTML source code of your web pages and follow these steps to add canonical tags:

  • Identify Duplicate Content Pages: Lockdown on pages presenting duplicate content or multiple versions.
  • Choose the Canonical URL: Use your expertise and content structure records to decide the preferred URL.
  • Add the Canonical Tag: Place the canonical URL in the <head> section and include the ‘rel=”canonical” attribute to position the canonical tag successfully.
  • Verify Implementation: Use third-party auditing tools to double-check the tags’ accuracy.

Best Practices For Proper Implementation of Canonical Tag Syntax

The right canonical tag syntax can ensure ranking signals are properly attributed to preferred webpage versions:

  • Manage Cross-Domain Canonicals: Owning several domains or subdomains with duplicate content may require cross-domain canonical tags, which usually require intricate implementation.
  • Consistent Canonical Tags: Verify whether each page has self-referencing canonical tags highlighting itself as the canonical version. Pages with dynamic parameters and multiple URL variations can avoid faulty indexation.
  • Input Absolute URLs: Combine the complete URL with the protocol (https://) and domain (
    Remember that sometimes 301 redirects or URL parameter handling are better than canonical tags.

Cross-Domain Canonical Tags For Navigating Multiple Website Versions

Cross-Domain Canonical Tags for Navigating Multiple Website Versions

Suppose your website has multiple versions based on country, language, or device. In that case, cross-domain canonical tags can resolve consolidation issues.

For websites with language and regional variations of webpages, the rel=“alternate” hreflang=”x” tags can help as an add-on. This tag guarantees users are displayed accurate versions based on their location or language preferences.

Also, coordinate with webmasters or developers responsible for the domains considered in such cross-domain canonical tags.

Implementing this tag on all webpage versions can improve the probability of sending the right signals to Search Engines.

Benefits of Canonical Tags

Canonical tags play a vital role in your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts by addressing issues related to duplicate content.

Here are some benefits of using canonical tags:

1. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Advantages

Understanding how implementing canonical tags can up your SEO game can be crucial for achieving higher rankings of your web pages on SERPs.

I will discuss this in more detail in the following section.

2. Consolidating Link Equity For Enhanced Rankings

When URL variations and duplicate content create multiple versions, your entire linking architecture automatically dilutes the link juice.

Such dilution impacts the holistic performance of your internal and external strategies, leading to a downfall in SERP rankings.

Using canonical tags ensures you merge the link equity from every duplicate version into a single canonical URL.

Expect a more concentrated presence of authority and link-relevancy, amplifying the SERP position on the canonical page.

3. Preventing Duplicate Content Issues

Preventing Duplicate Content Issues

The presence of duplicate content can directly affect your website’s SEO ratings.

Such carbon-copy content creates fogginess in Google’s decision-making process, translating to missed ranking opportunities and plummeting organic traffic.

Luckily, canonical tags ward off duplicate content problems.

Their presence tells search engines to prevent displaying multiple variations on SERPs. Thus, you’re relieved of prospective penalties because of duplicate content.

4. Facilitating Indexing And Crawling Efficiency

Search engines crawl and index individual web pages to decode their relevance to low and high-volume search intent.

But if duplicate content exists, you’re wasting your assigned crawl budget, opening the doors to inefficient crawling.

Avoid such budget limitations by deploying canonical tags to boost crawling and indexation efficiency.

Moreover, when search engines crawl and index the authoritative version, you also get a boost of page authority (PA).

Enhanced User Experience (UX) And Site Performance

Here’s how the benefits of canonical tags stretch into the fields of UX and website performance as well:

1. Streamlined Navigation And Content Consistency

Eliminate any chance of website users navigating across two similar web pages.

Using canonical tags streamlines the navigation experience and creates an added layer of protection for better website usability.

Develop better content consistency and kill repetition to relieve users of reading through conflicting versions of content.

In the end, your digital footprint gains the reputation of credibility and trust from the visitor’s perspective.

2. Improved Page Load Times And Mobile Optimisation

Improved Page Load Times and Mobile Optimisation

Canonical tags significantly improve page loading periods after stating the canonical URL between duplicate content pages.

Since the need for loading extra content reduces, visitors are rewarded with rapid page rendering and one-step-better website performance.

It’s even better to canonicalize a single version optimized for smartphones. It leads to multi-device accessibility across multiple screen sizes.

Tips to Remember When Using Canonical Tags

Follow these tips when dealing with canonical tags:

1. Find The Sweet Spot For Canonical Tag Placement

Find the Sweet Spot for Canonical Tag Placement

It’s crucial to place the canonical tags appropriately within the HTML code.

Positioning them in your HTML code’s <head> section permits quicker discovery routes for search engines. What’s more, this helps in quicker interpretation and faster indexation.

Ensure you don’t place them in dynamically generated HTML sections. Be cautious if your digital footprint dynamically generates webpages through pre-built templates or content management system (CMS) functionalities.

Modify the template or CMS configuration to account for the canonical tag in the static areas of HTML code.

Lastly, if your website has a huge repository of web pages, consider adding canonical tags through server-side implementation. This process is scalable since it automatically generates and adds canonical tags based on your inputs.

2. Canonicalise Like a Pro Across Dynamic And Pagination-Based Content

When working with paginated content split across several web pages, use the rel=“prev” and rel=“next” tags in conjunction with canonical tags.

Such tags give search engine crawlers an error-free understanding of the logical sequence and relationship between web pages.

Furthermore, suppose a website generates webpages dynamically. You must check whether these pages hold a self-referencing canonical tag pointing to the webpage’s URL.

The above step is imperative for webpages displaying distinct content revolving around user selection.

Finally, review parameter handling tactics if your website uses URL parameters for filtering or sorting functions. It may comprise removing specific parameters from canonicalization or, for better results, using the “rel=canonical” HTTP header to specify canonical URLs.

3. International SEO And Hreflang Tags For Harmonizing Regional Variations

Tags such as hreflang teach search engines which web pages to display when the user’s language or location changes. Merging these with canonical flags optimizes your website for accessibility to international audiences.

Try matching the hreflang tags to canonical URLs for every language and regional variation. With improved page interpretation between variations, your digital visibility grows.

Remember, as and when your website introduces new language or location variations with growth, your hreflang tags need reviewal and updating.

Conduct frequent tag audits to seal the deal on search engines crawling appropriate content versions.

Real-Life Examples of Canonical Tag Use Cases

These are some use-case scenarios of canonical tags in the digital world:

1. Blogging Platforms And Content Syndication

Blogging platforms may encounter circumstances when similar content is published across several websites. Some content may even be syndicated across platforms.

Duplicate content can affect indexing with the result that your desired page might not get ranked in search engine results pages.

For example, suppose you’re a blogger syndicating your blogs on your website, LinkedIn, third-party websites, and Medium. Typically, you’d create canonical tags on the syndicated versions, redirecting them to the original post on your website.

Such canonicalization practices signal search engines of the preferred content source, preventing syndicated copies from competing against the original post and ruining your ranking goals.

2. eCommerce Websites And Product Variations

eCommerce Websites And Product Variations

As an eCommerce businessperson, your website may market color, model, and size variations of single products. In this case, canonical tags guarantee that crawlers have no difficulty understanding the relationship between each SKU.

For example, imagine a website selling a shirt in several colors. Each color variation has a unique URL, but the product description remains the same.

You can designate a single URL, such as “,” as the canonical version, signaling crawlers of your preferred product page.

It consolidates authority and helps maintain rankings for better eCommerce store visibility.

3. News Websites And Article Updates

The frequency of updates on news websites are higher than on average websites. New industry developments or freshly recognized factual inaccuracies can require iterations and corrections, respectively.

When these content pieces undergo repair, crawlers won’t hesitate to treat the updated copies as new web pages. As a result, those pages may be penalized for content duplication.

You can implement canonical tags to the original article’s URL to fight this SEO setback.

Search engines will then attribute ranking signals to the original piece and uphold its authority.

Using Canonical Tags to Solve Keyword Cannibalization Issues

Using Canonical Tags to Solve Keyword Cannibalization Issues

Keyword cannibalization is common when several web pages unintentionally play the competitor role for the same keyword in SERPs.

Such conflict may reduce organic traffic for the affected pages and reduce the potency of accurate ranking signals.

An ideal remedy to this is canonical tags. Follow these steps to combat keyword cannibalization:

  1. Identify Keyword Cannibalization Cases: Perform a thorough website analysis to spot repeated target keywords across content pieces.
  2. Choose Preferred Page: Determine the content quality, its relevance to search queries, and the SEO metrics of each piece showing keyword cannibalization. Shortlist the webpage demonstrating the strength to display high authority.
  3. Implement Canonical Tags: Position canonical tags to the web pages you don’t prefer, redirecting them to your choice. You’ll ensure the selected page is considered the primary crawling source for the targeted keyword.
  4. Optimise On-page Elements: Strengthen the page with the target keyword across the page title, variations in sub-headings, meta descriptions, and content blocks.


Should I use canonical tags?

Yes, if your website struggles with duplicate content issues, implement canonical tags for accurate page indexation and ranking. This signals to Google’s bots about the original page you wish to rank.

Are canonical tags a technical SEO metric?

Canonical tags can be categorized as a technical SEO metric. This is meant to communicate to search engines the preferred web page version when there are multiple versions with similar or duplicate content.

Are canonical URLs bad for SEO?

No, canonical URLs are great for SEO as long as your instructions in the HTML code are clear and don’t offer conflicting advice to search engine crawlers.

Verdict on Canonical Tags

It’s fair to say that deploying canonical tags optimizes the visibility of relevant web pages. Consider proactively canonicalizing your webpage and spot-checking dynamic canonical tags for duplication and URL errors.

As our final advice, never give mixed signals to Google or any search engines for that matter. It can lead to avoiding the tag altogether or misinterpreting it.

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