Canonical Tags Still Necessary for SEO?

Written by Nick Stamoulis

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Canonical tags have been known to help Google and other search engines better understand which pages of a website have original content and which are duplicates. Currently, Google states that canonical tags are not recommended for syndicated content. Why is this? The canonical link element is no longer recommended for avoiding duplication because the pages are generally quite different. Here is a closer look at canonical tags and how they may affect SEO efforts:

Canonical Tags and SEO

A canonical tag is a way of telling Google or other search engines that a specific URL represents the main (original) copy of content when there are duplicates. As the original source of material, you want Google to recognize you as the original (canonical) source and others to be duplicate pages.

While canonical tags might not be able to remove all duplicates, reducing as many as possible might help your SEO efforts. Duplicate copies of content make it hard for Google to choose which version of a page to index and they will only index one. Google will also have a difficult time choosing which version of a page to promote for relevant queries.

Too many duplicates of your content can affect your overall crawl budget, which means Google spends too much time crawling many versions of the same page on your website instead of finding important and new content you’ve posted. Can canonical tags help? Possibly, but blocking indexing of duplicates will work better and is recommended by Google. They will tell Google which version of a page they should visit and rank.

Canonical Tags and Syndicated Content

In the past, Google required those who use syndicated content to use canonical tags in order to let Google know that the content has been copied from your site. Syndicated content is content that is republished on one or more different websites. This content can help you to reach a broader audience. Canonical tags don’t always prevent syndicated content from outranking the original source. Today, Google says that using canonical tags is not a strategy that will work in combatting duplicated content that other publishers have posted. In fact, Google News no longer supports a specific tag that was used to indicate the original source of your content, so they stopped using it.

Since Google has updated its stance on canonization, it’s no longer necessary to use canonical tags. Today, Google has a section outlining not using canonical tags for syndicated content and they don’t recommend using noindex to prevent selection of a canonical page within a website as it will block the page from search completely. One option you can go with, if you choose, is to block indexing, which Google considers the most effective solution. Google News recommends that if you have publishers syndicating your content, you should ask them to proactively block the content which allows the original content to be found and appropriately credited.

Google no longer recommends using canonical tags for syndicated content. Instead, block the page from being indexed and your SEO efforts will benefit.


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