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We’ve recently talked about the Canonical link element in our blog and I just wanted to bring it up again with a couple of examples of where you might consider using it.

As most of you already know this is the latest tool in our arsenal of weapons to help combat the problem many of us are facing with duplicate content. We are able to let search engines know which page should be getting credit when there are multiple versions of similar or identical content.

With this new tag I like to think of this it as a Plan B. I say this because you should really look at your problem closely and determine whether this is the most effective way to deal with it.

  • Are your problems caused by bad URL structure? Perhaps time should be spent having development fix these issues.
  • Would using 301 redirects be more appropriate? Remember there are some limitations to the canonical tag and search engines look at it only as a strong hint.

There is no real hard rule that should always be used. Each website needs to be looked at on an individual basis to figure out what is the most appropriate way to deal with the problem. Let’s take a look at some areas where you may consider using the Canonical tag.

Ecommerce Pages:

Do you run an ecommerce website where you sell a number of products in a variety of different colors, makes or models? This is an ideal situation where you can utilize the canonical tag. Basically each page will be displaying the exact same content in a slightly different order. Go ahead and use the tag here to tell search engines what page it should be crediting.

Do you have the same product appearing in multiple categories, each with a different URL string? You don’t want all of these pages indexed when they are exactly the same so this is another instance to consider using it.

Affiliate Programs

If you are currently running an affiliate program then you are probably also using unique identifiers for tracking purposes. If these pages get indexed then there is a potential for problems. Use the canonical tag in this instance so that the appropriate page is getting credit and you don’t have a hundred pages with identical content indexed.

Multiple Testing or Landing Pages:

Are you testing multiple versions of a page with the exact same or similar content? Here is another scenario where you can consider using the tag. While most would consider the event of having these pages indexed within Google unlikely I would still recommend using it. You never know when someone will come across this page and link to it.