Canonicalization sounds like a process for recognizing saints. But it’s actually one of the most important aspects of organic SEO. Consolidating your URLs (see below), or “good” canonicalization means search engines crawl more pages of your site. It means that link authority and PageRank get consolidated, so you have a stronger link profile. It means fewer broken links from other sites. Bad canonicalization gets you all that stuff, but with the opposite effect.
The simple definition of canonicalization is: “every resource on your web site has a single web address.” This means every page, every image, every video, etc.. has only one Uniform Resource Locator (URL) for each page of content, image, video, etc..
A URLs look like this:
Note that I said ‘page of content’. That means that a single page of content, article, product description or list of articles should appear at a single URL. You should never have multiple URLs for one product description, or one article.
Some of the overly complex content management systems and e-commerce suites out there make canonicalization a challenge. But it’s doable.
Here’s an example of “bad” canonicalization:
But it also lives at
http://webtyde.com/ ***NOTE: No www***
People will find the home page at all three versions. They won’t know the difference, right? Well, sure…but search engines will. Googlebot sees the three above URLs as three different pages on the web. That has two major consequences that hurt SEO.
1.) You lose link authority.
If blogger “A” comes to ‘www.webtyde.com’ and links to that page, blogger “B” lands on ‘webtyde.com’ and links to that URL, and blogger “C” lands on ‘www.webtyde.com/index.html’ and links to that page, Googlebot sees three links to three different pages, and applies one”vote” to each one. These three links could have sent three authoritative signals to Googlebot for my site’s home page. Instead, they’re split into three weaker individual votes for three different pages.
2.) Search engines won’t crawl your site as deeply as they might.
Search engines allocate resources for each crawl. No one knows exactly how, but it’s safe to say Googlebot won’t just wander around your site until its found every page. At some point, it gives up and leaves. If multiple pages on my site have multiple URLs, then visiting search bots waste time tracking down all of those different versions. That’s time they could spend crawling other unique pages, instead. So fewer unique pages of our site end up in the search index, and we have fewer chances to rank.
So, if you’re not already a client, give us a call so we can start cleaning up your website. Canonicalization fixes are generally simple, have a broad impact and let you fix multiple SEO problems at once. You’ll get more link authority, deeper site crawls and better rankings. What are you waiting for?