What Are Canonical Tags & Their Importance in Rankings?

A canonical tag, also known as rel=canonical or canonical link, is a small piece of HTML code used in search engine optimization (SEO) to indicate the preferred or main version of a webpage when there are duplicate or very similar versions of the same content available under different URLs. The purpose of the canonical tag is to help search engines, such as Google, identify and consolidate the link equity (PageRank) from duplicate pages into the main canonical page, and improve crawling and indexing of the website.

When a website contains duplicate or near-identical pages, it can create confusion for search engines on which version to index and rank. This is where the canonical tag comes into play. By including a canonical tag in the HTML of the duplicate pages, website owners can specify the preferred version of the content that they want to appear in search results. The canonical tag serves as a signal to search engines, letting them know which page should be considered as the original or main version.

The canonical tag is placed within the <head> section of the HTML code and typically looks like this:

A screenshot showing canonical tag html code

Here, the href attribute contains the URL of the main canonical version of the page. By setting the canonical tag correctly, website owners can avoid issues related to duplicate content and keyword cannibalization, where multiple pages compete for the same rankings and may harm each other’s search rankings.


The benefits of using canonical tags in SEO include:

  1. Consolidating PageRank: Canonical tags help consolidate the link equity (PageRank) from duplicate pages into the preferred canonical version. This helps improve the overall ranking of the main page in search results.
  2. Managing Syndicated Content: If content is syndicated or republished on other websites, canonical tags can indicate the original source of the content and promote the main version in search results.
  3. Improving Crawling: Canonical tags help search engines efficiently crawl and index the preferred version of the page, preventing the indexing of duplicate or near-duplicate content.


However, it’s important to note that while canonical tags are signals to search engines, they are not absolute directives. Search engines like Google may still make their own decisions based on various factors, and sometimes, they may choose not to honor the canonical tag if they believe there are valid reasons to do so.

In summary, canonical tags are a valuable tool in SEO to manage duplicate content, consolidate link equity, and ensure that search engines understand the preferred version of a webpage for indexing and ranking purposes. Properly implementing canonical tags can lead to higher click-through rates, better user engagement, and improved overall SEO performance for your website.


Since you are here to learn more about SEO, you might find these other articles around my site helpful:

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