Canonical Tags and how to Use Them

What you'll learn:

  1. What a canonical tag is
  2. Why you need them
  3. Why they're valuable
  4. How to verify they are on your page
  5. How to use them

What is a canonical tag?

A canonical tag (aka as 'rel canonical' because of the html code that is used to add them) is a piece of code (it sounds more intimidating then it is I promise) that tells bots that crawl a specific URL that it is a replica of a master page.

canonical tag located inside head tag
Here is an example of a canonical tag in use, and you can see here exactly why it's known as a 'rel canonical' tag.

As you can see, the canonical tag is located inside the 'head' section our html. The 'head' section of the html code is the area where the code that typically goes unseen by a browser on your website but is still necessary in order to make the site function/be found/add scripts for different functions and so on. This area is especially important for SEO purposes because it typically consists of various things that are required to optimize your page for search engines. So the head area is where you put the meta title, meta description.

The Problem

We (humans) see every page of a website as a 'unique page', but when a bot crawls a URL they see our website differently. Bots see all variations of a URL as 'separate' pages. For example, even though this same page can be reached by using the different communication protocols (https, http) the bot sees these different communication protocols used in the URLs as totally different pages. So now you have bots crawling these two 'completely different' websites https://www.zeusforge.com and http://www.zeusforge.com, but it's seeing the exact same content on all pages, and this is where the problem occurs.

Making sense now? This is why it's necessary to use canonical tags. Because as far as the Google crawler is involved it's literally seeing two websites side by side that are the exact same copies of one another.

The Solution

Use canonical tags on each page to signal that it is the master copy of that content, and yes we even mean the home page. So, if your homepage or main url is 'http://www.zeusforgedemo.com' then your canonical tag would be as follows:

<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.zeusforgedemo.com/>

However, if you're command protocol was 'https' and not just 'http' then it would be the same thing except 'https' instead of just 'http.' Command protocols are not interchangeable unless you know you have the secure sockets protocol (or https). The command protocol https adds a secure socket layer (which is also called a SSL Certificate). Anwyays, just thought we'd mention that.

Verify The Solution

Now in order to verify that everything has worked as you intended, and once you add the canonical tags to each one of your pages, you can visually verify that your tags are there.

Do this using the steps below:

Step 1: Go to your website (or the one you want to verify), right click on it, and click 'view page source.'

screenshot of where 'view page source' is located in the menu after right clicking your web-page
This is a screenshot of where 'view page source' is located in the menu after right clicking on the website.

Step 2: Once you're at the 'view page source' page hit CTRL+ F and type 'canonical' and this should take you to where your canonical tag is and you should be able to verify that it matches up with the url being displayed in the top of your browser.

Step 3: If it doesn't match the URL at the top of your browser then just go back into your code and change it.

Dynamic websites that include a CMS (or content management system) can make this task more difficult than working with a static website because sometimes they put in their own tags to complete the URL.

Here is a copy of it so you can just replace the URL with your own. We thought it might be easier to be able to just copy and paste it rather than typing it.

<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.zeusforge.com/marketing-articles/>

Those are the essential steps. Now you need to make sure that your communication protocol match up (http or https), under most circumstances it's a fairly safe bet to just take the canonical tag and place it onto every individual page. Placing the tag on every page is a bit redundant, but having a little bit of redundancy is better than not having enough.

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