On any website – ecommerce websites, in particular – search engine optimization (SEO) is extremely important. Our site architecture must be clear for it to be considered reliable and trustworthy by the search engines. Therefore, one way we can increase our ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs) is to be sure our links are clear and concise.
What is a Canonical URL?
We may have different URLs pointing to the same content or product page on an ecommerce site. Canonical URLs help the search engine identify the correct URL and ensure your website does not get penalized by search engines. Sounds tricky? Let’s break it down.
URLs can vary for many different reasons and yet still bring the user to the same page or content. Google needs to know which URL is the trusted version, so we need to identify that for them clearly with a canonical tag. Identifying this for Google, instead of letting the search engine pick for you, is a valuable advantage in your ranking.
Multiple URL Example (these are just examples and not real websites):
Each of these URLs is different, but they will bring the user to the same page for “Bright White Lights.” So how does the search engine know which one to choose and index that specific page to bring the best information back to the user? This is the reason we employ the canonical tag (rel= “canonical”) in the head element of our preferred page for ranking.
Origin of the Term Canonical
The term originated in the Middle Ages as a religious reference to a rule or identifying what was true and approved. In modern SEO, the canonization of a URL indicates that a particular duplicate is the one with authority and chosen as the primary URL among a list of duplicates. Identifying canonical URLs is most advantageous to your ecommerce website SEO. You identify which URL is true and approved for use.
3 Reasons Canonical URLs Matter:
1. You can specify the URL
2. Simplify tracking methods
3. Consolidate link signals
1. You decide which URL people see in search results.
You may have a preference regarding which URL is used to reach your “Bright White Lights” web page. Using a canonical tag is the clearest way to tell Google you’ve made that choice. Canonical tags also keep your search results clean and attached to one URL.
2. Canonical URLs simplify tracking for a particular product.
If your customers are reaching a particular product from a few URLs, it may be difficult to rate the success of that item. Canonical URLs create a simplified and organized way to report results. Canonicalization is helpful to your overall SEO strategy and its effectiveness.
3. Consolidate links for duplicate pages into one authoritative link.
Canonical URLs help identify one authoritative link for the search engines. For example, if you have duplicate content on a page because of syndicated content for publication on other domains, creating a canonical link to your preferred URL will avoid competition for traffic and ranking in search engines.
You can avoid the common pitfalls of duplicate content and URLs by hiring an expert. Your site architecture is the key to your success in all areas of ecommerce SEO, and proper linking is essential. If you are unsure about the benefits of using canonical URLs versus 301s, that is an SEO strategy best discussed with an SEO consultant.