Diving straight in, first, you need to know what SEO canonical issues are. SEO includes tactics and strategies to enhance the quality and increase traffic visiting a website. One of the main attractions – or should we say SEO methods – is deploying quality content on the website. At times, websites have similar content on various URLs. Having duplicate material on the same webpage or multiple websites causes diversion in the traffic, decreasing the content visibility on the search portal. To solve this, a simple canonical tag is attached with a particular URL to instigate content supremacy. This causes the search engine to send traffic to that specific URL when people look for related material.
Therefore, canonical issues occur when a website has directional flaws in the canonical tag that distract the search engine from signaling the master URL. These problems have a significant influence on the progress of a website. Thus, it is necessary to identify the sources of these issues.
Some common reasons for SEO Canonical issues
Canonical tags can be a complex component to include in your link structure. Any good authentic ebook or Beginner’s Guide to Canonical Tags can help develop a preliminary understanding of how to incorporate these tags in a website’s links. However, we will discuss some common causes that can create trouble in the proper inclusion of canonical tags.
- Exemption of canonical URL through robots.txt
A robots.txt is a file on your website that tells a search engine the areas it can access and the areas that are restricted. It functions as a guide, directing the search engines towards the original content and even listing how it can crawl the content with the website’s targeted keywords. Sometimes due to negligence, the canonical tags are blocked in the coding of the robots.txt file. In that case, the search engine cannot locate the canonical tag on the page, diminishing its link equity on SERPs. Careful measures must be taken when writing robots.txt files for any website to avoid such problems.
- Placing canonical URL under no-index directives
In some cases, the webmaster makes certain pages unreachable by the search engine using a no-index directive. Those pages are not indexed by the search engine on the online platform at all. Suppose a canonical tag is placed under such a directive. In that case, it causes the page to disappear from search engine indices, losing valuable traffic. Again it is necessary to be extra vigilant in developing a website by placing each URL and tag under the right directive.
- Self-referencing and canonical tags to mobile URL
Canonical tags have pointers that point to the master copy of the content while separating it from the duplicates. It sometimes creates confusion as well. However, suppose A is the canonical page on the website and B and C are its duplicate. In that case, the canonical tag should exactly point towards A on the link of the website. Often web developers self-refer canonical tags to the mobile version of the website. The correct method is to have a tag pointing from the mobile URL directly towards the desktop URL. And an alternate tag should also be in place to direct the desktop URL to the mobile URL.
- Paging canonical tags
Paging or pagination is the process of separating pages containing similar content. While canonicalizing a web page, never canonicalize the main pages with the ones that follow it. It creates a disturbance in the search engine crawl, giving it faulty signals. It would be best to canonicalize each webpage separately if necessary.
- Misconception about SSL certificate
Suppose a website has a secure socket layer certificate. In that case, its URL shifts to an HTTPS version alongside an HTTP version. The Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) ensures that the connection between a browser and web server has a protected layer that stops external interference. Simply, it saves the data on the website provided by people from hackers. Most websites have adopted the certificate as Google considers it while determining rankings for SERPs.
However, this is the root of a significant canonical issue because it causes duplication of almost all the website pages. Research suggests that having an HTTPS version increases ranking on SERPs but not by much. Instead of being a beneficial move, it can affect the process of canonicalization. So the website should only be switched to HTTPS URLs if it needs high security for its users and if the business can benefit economically. Also, having a prior canonical tag on the HTTP version of the link makes Google check it, despite its alteration to an HTTPS version.
- Avoid multiple canonical tags:
The Google search engine has been updated to be extremely smart and critical while ranking a website on the SERP. It crawls the web looking to deliver the best of the best information to users. The multiple canonical tags added to a site through CMS or JavaScirpt allocate uncertain signals to the search system. Having multiple canonical tags does not help your ranking on the engine. Instead, it manifests doubt and descends on result charts.
- WWW VS Non-WWW effect on canonical URL:
Over time people tend to write a website’s name on the search bar instead of starting it with WWW. Web creators have realized this and now direct one towards the other. This is imperative as the naked domain authority propels search engines to perceive the two as two different entities. If they are not redirected, websites lose potential traffic. Likewise, having a canonical tag on WWW and not linking it to the non-WWW version leads to a decrease in rank as duplication of all the websites’ pages occurs.
Canonical tags consolidate URLs for identical material, regulating the cluster of content to be tied in a proper casing for the search engine to navigate easily. All the pages don’t come into view on the search results page, effectively erasing competition and preference is given to the websites with premium content. However, if you don’t avoid these mistakes, it negatively impacts the website’s SEO and ranking. Hence use canonical tags smartly.