The Ultimate Manual to SEO Canonicalization Strategies

6 min read

Ever wondered how Google discerns which of your website pages to prioritize in its search engine results?

Search engines like Google rely on numerous factors to determine your page’s context, target audience, and significance.

But what if you possess multiple nearly identical pages on your site? Enter canonical tags offer Google crawlers guidance, indicating the specific page you wish to emphasize in rankings.

New to the realm of SEO canonicalization? While grasping the concept may pose a challenge, fear not! I’ve crafted this comprehensive guide to illuminate the path. Together, we’ll delve into what canonical URLs entail, where to employ them, and how they serve as your covert weapon in technical SEO.


Understanding Canonical URLs: Unraveling Their Importance in SEO


A canonical URL represents the preferred version of a web page aimed at ranking higher in search engine results.

Imagine you have a web page, let’s name it www.example.com/article. While this stands as the original page, over time, various iterations have surfaced, such as:

  • www.example.com/article/
  • www.example.com/article?utm_source=email
  • www.Example.com/Article
  • www.example.com/article/amp
  • example.com/article

Despite pointing to the original article, search engines identify them as duplicate content. Later in this post, I’ll delve into how duplicate content could lead to issues.


Decoding the Canonical Tag: Understanding Its Role in SEO


A canonical tag serves as the HTML code integrated into your webpage, indicating to search engines your preferred URL for ranking.

Visualize both components akin to a can of chili: the canonical tag represents the can, while the canonical URL is the savory chili nestled within!


Understanding Self-Referencing Canonical Tags in SEO


In addition to employing canonical tags for duplicate pages, it’s advisable to include a canonical tag within the original content source, directing it back to itself. This practice is referred to as a “self-referencing canonical tag.”

You can still integrate a self-referencing canonical tag into a page even if there’s no duplicate content.

According to John Mueller, Google’s Senior Search Analyst, while self-referencing canonical tags aren’t mandatory, they are considered good practice.

This precaution is crucial because your page URL might accumulate UTM parameters or event tracking links, increasing the likelihood of modified links appearing in search engine results. Employing a self-referencing canonical tag helps mitigate this possibility.


Understanding Duplicate Content: Why It Occurs and How to Manage It


Numerous misconceptions surround duplicate content, with some digital marketers fearing it could irreparably harm their websites, leading to potential bans from Google’s search engine results.

In reality, duplicate content doesn’t necessarily plummet your SEO rankings. However, it poses challenges by perplexing search engines, which need help determining the most relevant URL for display in search results. Consequently, search engines may need to prioritize pages correctly.

While eliminating duplicate content is crucial, certain situations necessitate its presence on your site. Here are some legitimate reasons why duplicate content might exist:


Syndicated Content Usage:

Imagine you maintain a blog and syndicate your content across platforms like Medium or content aggregation sites. Canonicalization helps identify the source, ensuring search engines prioritize it over duplicates, preventing outranking issues.


Multiple Site Filters:

Operating a real estate website with numerous property filters? Canonicalization ensures search engines disregard filter parameters, providing only the main page appears in search results, enhancing user experience.



Pagination divides content into separate pages for more straightforward navigation. However, it poses risks of random pages ranking in search results due to URL parameters. Canonicalization allows you to specify the preferred content page, typically the initial one, mitigating ranking uncertainties.


The Significance of Canonicalization in SEO Strategy


Canonicalization emerges as a critical aspect of SEO, primarily aimed at averting duplicate content issues and guiding visitors to the primary version of a webpage.

Beyond its fundamental purpose, canonical tags offer additional SEO advantages:

  1. Consolidation of Link Equity: By channeling link equity towards the original page instead of dispersing it across various versions, canonical tags amplify the ranking potential of the primary page in search engine results.
  2. Facilitated Website Crawling: Canonical tags streamline the process of website crawling for search engines, ensuring that recent site updates are promptly reflected in search results enhancing the freshness and relevance of your content.
  3. Enhanced User Experience: Eliminating confusion among web visitors, canonical tags prevent the proliferation of multiple pages or unfamiliar URLs in search engine results, fostering a more intuitive and user-friendly browsing experience.
  4. Improved Site Architecture: Canonicalization contributes to optimizing site architecture, which augments user experience and positively impacts search engine rankings. Further insights into enhancing site architecture can be explored here.

In summary, canonicalization serves as a cornerstone of effective SEO strategy, promoting clarity, efficiency, and user satisfaction across digital platforms.


A Guide to Implementing Canonical Tags on Your Website


Implementing canonical tags on your website can be accomplished through two methods:


1. Direct HTML Integration:

The more intricate approach involves manually inserting code into your page HTML. This code belongs within the <head> section of your page and typically resembles the following format:

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

If you need clarification on this process, seek assistance from your web development team or agency.


2. Integration via Content Management System (CMS) or Plugins:

Alternatively, you can add canonical tags through your CMS or via plugins. Here’s how it’s done on some popular platforms:

    • WordPress: Utilize SEO plugins like Yoast, All in One SEO, or Rank Math to set canonical URLs easily without delving into HTML coding.
    • Magento: Configure canonical links in your store settings for product pages. For other website sections, extensions are available to manage canonical URLs.
    • Shopify: Integrate a canonical tag into your website’s theme file, or opt for apps like the Canonical Tag URL Wizard for more straightforward implementation.
    • Squarespace: Utilize the code injection feature in Squarespace to add canonical tags to individual pages seamlessly.
    • Wix: Modify the canonical tag in Wix via the SEO basics menu for straightforward implementation.

By selecting the appropriate method based on your platform and preferences, you can effectively manage canonical tags and enhance the SEO performance of your website.


Common Mistakes in Canonicalization Practices


Canonicalization is an essential aspect of SEO, but it’s crucial to remember that canonical tags serve as suggestions rather than directives. Search engines may choose to disregard them if they deem them inappropriate. Here are some common canonicalization errors to watch out for:


Usage of Multiple Canonical Tags on the Same Page:

It’s imperative to specify only one canonical tag per page. Multiple tags confuse search engines, leading them to disregard all canonical URLs associated with the page. Tools like Google Search Console, Screaming Frog, or Sitebulb can help identify instances of multiple canonical tags.


Misplacement of Canonical Tags:

Canonical tags must be added to the <head> section of the page, not the <body>. Placing them incorrectly may result in search engines ignoring them. Ensure your code is correctly implemented, or utilize extensions or apps to manage canonical tags effectively.


Pointing to the Wrong Page:

Ensure that your canonical URLs point to the correct pages to avoid confusion for search engines and web visitors. Regularly audit your canonical links, especially after deleting or renaming multiple pages on your website.


Using URL Variations:

Canonical URLs are more effective when they are identical. Differences in case, trailing slashes, protocols, or URL encoding can lead to canonicalization issues. Maintain consistency across canonical URLs to avoid confusion.


Using Relative URLs:

It’s best to link to absolute URLs (“http://www.example.com/article”) rather than relative ones (“/article”) for canonicalization. Absolute URLs make it easier for search engines to identify the canonical URL and reduce the chances of displaying incorrect website links in search engine results.

By avoiding these common errors and adhering to best practices in canonicalization, you can optimize your website’s SEO performance effectively.




In a perfect scenario, duplicate content wouldn’t exist on your website. However, certain situations may unavoidably lead to its presence.

During such instances, employing canonicalization grants you the authority to determine which content receives prominence on search engine results pages. Canonicalization emerges as a valuable asset in your technical SEO toolkit.

If navigating through these complexities seems daunting, consider exploring our monthly SEO packages. Our team of experts is ready to provide guidance and assistance to elevate your SEO strategies.

Shilpi Mathur
[email protected]