The Power of Canonical URLs and Why You Should Care

The Power of Canonical URLs and Why You Should Care
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Photo by Merakist / Unsplash

Every SEO enthusiast knows about Canonical URLs and their importance. But, bloggers and writers often glaze over these small details that make the most difference. I’m here to help you with that! If you’re not familiar with them, here’s a little explanation from Google:

If you have a single page accessible by multiple URLs, or different pages with similar content (for example, a page with both a mobile and a desktop version), Google sees these as duplicate versions of the same page. Google will choose one URL as the canonical version and crawl that, and all other URLs will be considered duplicate URLs and crawled less often.

If you don’t explicitly tell Google which URL is canonical, Google will make the choice for you, or might consider them both of equal weight, which might lead to unwanted behavior.

Defining a canonical URL helps google’s crawling bot decide what should appear in search results and what is considered duplication.

Next, we’ll go over why you should care about this and how to start using it right away!

You’re Destroying Your Own SEO Efforts

There are a few reasons why you should care about canonical URLs. The main one is that if you’re syndicating your content to multiple platforms and not defining a canonical URL on them back to your website, you’re destroying your efforts.

Both the platform you’re syndicating content to, and your original content might suffer a duplication penalty from google for having the same content on multiple websites.

An example use case that might hurt your efforts:

  1. You publish something on your main blog.
  2. An automation platform like Zapier is distributing your content to other blogging platforms like Medium, Tumblr, and Ghost.
  3. None of them define a canonical URL, but all of them have the same content as your blog.
  4. Googlebot is confused, and your Pagerank suffers from duplication penalties.
  5. Googlebot will crawl your articles less and less, and you won’t appear much in results.

Now, in the above use case, you publish and put your best work out there. But something is missing. Unless you have at least some SEO knowledge, you won’t realize that an invisible setting is hindering your efforts to getting discovered.

But, aside from the negative, there is also a critically good reason to define canonical URLs.

Canonical URLs Tremendously Affect PageRank

Google PageRank is one of the most critical factors in the Search Engine world. It’s an algorithm that defines the worthiness of a page, or it’s value to the person searching something on Google.

Many parameters affect PageRank, but for now, I want to focus on the importance of Canonical URLs. Here’s what google has to say about that:

If you syndicate your content for publication on other domains, you want to consolidate page ranking to your preferred URL.

That is extremely important for writers that manage a personal blog and syndicate content to other platforms. Canonical URLs have a symmetric effect on your website. If you don’t use them, your PageRank goes down. If you do use them, your PageRank may soar.

For example, Medium and Tumblr currently hold a PageRank of 9 out of 10.

In comparison, my ghost blog holds a rank of 1 out of 10. Hundreds of thousands of websites may never go above zero.

When you set a canonical URL from a website such as Medium to your blog, Google decides to raise your blog’s PageRank accordingly. This doesn’t mean you’ll immediately jump to 9/10 but keep it up and you’ll base yourself as an authority in the eyes of Google’s Bot.

Keep in mind that this is different than linking from popular high-ranking sites like Facebook and Twitter to your blog. A Canonical URL is a defined configuration that you add to the data of a page.

Hopefully, this short article has opened your eyes to some work you need to do in case of syndicating your content around. Medium published an article explaining how to optimize for SEO on the platform. If you follow the instructions, you’ll find Advanced settings on the same page and you’ll be able to configure the canonical URL.

Use Canonical URLs, and they’ll serve you well in building authority online.


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