What Is a Canonical Tag and How Can It Help Your SEO?

Do you know why your website ranks where it does on a search engine results page? Would you like to improve your site’s ranking?


It would be nice if Google provided a full report as to why a website ranks where it does. Unfortunately, even the most experienced SEO professionals don’t have the full answer sheet. Over time, however, Google and the other search engines provide the public with information on how they can improve their search ranking by implementing technical changes to their website. One of the biggest evolutions to come out of these releases, and still one of the most misunderstood, is the development of the canonical tag.

What does a canonical tag do?

A canonical tag specifies the source URL (or original content page) of a given page to a search engine such as Google. Canonical tags are used to declare a single page as its own source or for duplicate pages to reference their source / originating page. Search Engines use the canonical tag to combat duplicate content issues and assign search engine ranking  value for that content to the page designated as the “source” URL.

Why do canonical tags matter?

Duplicate content is a big no-no to search engines. Having pages of identical or very similar content on your website is seen as a negative, and may be used by Google to devalue your website when determining rankings. If you use https on your site, utilize a content management system like WordPress or Drupal, or run an eCommerce website, the combination of different URLs people can use to access your website opens you up to a major SEO vulnerability if not properly addressed. By properly employing canonical tags to pages on your site, you can avoid this pitfall and take full advantage of both a robust site and streamlined Search Engine Optimization practices.

How do I apply a canonical tag?

On the pages that you want Google to recognize as canonical, add a link tag to the head of the HTML code. For example, to designate www.LTnow.com with the canonical tag, the code would look like:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.ltnow.com” />

Rinse and repeat for every page on your site you want to make canonical. Again, the use of a Content Management System such as WordPress can streamline this effort.

What pages should I put the canonical tag on?

As many as appropriate. Visits from social media, internal site search, referral links, and other inbound references all have the potential to generate a unique URL that could have a negative impact on your website’s rankings. Additionally, many content management systems allow for multiple URL paths to access the same content. All of these paths can be crawled, and Google potentially could identify them as separate pages of duplicate content.

If you aren’t sure if issues with duplicate content are affecting your SEO, we can perform a full SEO Audit of your website to identify issues that impact how your site is crawled and where it ranks. Once you know what the issues are, you can get started on fixing them. Contact us and we can get started right away!