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Rel=canonical. Why is it important for your SEO link building strategy?

6 minutes of reading
Rel=canonical. Why is it important for your SEO link building strategy?
Category SEO

Even though there are plenty of different types of links, canonical URLs are among the most important and most commonly used in any optimization strategy. However, you may be confused as to why they’re so important and how they differ from other types of links. To clear up any confusion and help you understand this valuable link type, take a look at these benefits that come with canonical URLs.


An often overlooked factor when assessing your website’s search engine optimization is link building. Link building involves obtaining links from other websites to your own site. This builds trust and reinforces the perception that your content is valuable to a given topic. The more relevant sites you get linking back to your page, the higher it will rank in organic search results. But how do you go about getting those first few links? One way is by using canonical URLs.

Canonical links are a type of link that is usually created when one URL has more than one piece of content on it. When two URLs have the same content, and the only thing different is how it’s accessed, such as through social media or a mobile site, these two URLs are considered to be canonical to each other. The majority of websites use canonical links to consolidate efforts for search engine optimization purposes.

To date, there are two types of canonical links:

  • a standard canonical link instructs search engines to index only one URL as the preferred URL for the webpage. The other URLs on the page point back to this chosen URL;
  • an internal canonical link instructs search engines not to index a URL at all, but rather to index one or more pages linked from it instead.

Why are they important for SEO?

Canonical links provide a sense of assurance to search engines that they are crawling and indexing the content that you want indexed. Canonicals also create a more cohesive user experience for users. A lack of canonical links can confuse web crawlers, which could lead to errors during indexing, so it’s important to include them when appropriate. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to fix broken links within your site.

If you have an e-commerce site with different product pages targeting different keywords, you should use canonicals on those pages to designate which page is the main one. You should also use canonicals on paginated articles like blog posts or tutorials that span multiple pages, as well as on articles with duplicate content (textual or visual).

What does Google say about the importance of canonicals?

Since the launch of Google’s new Quality Ratings system, it is more important than ever to make sure your site is set up properly with a canonical link. Without a canonical link, visitors may experience duplicate content while they browse your site, and if they find your links through a search engine and there are multiple listings, they will not know which one is the most relevant to them.

Google suggests that websites have both a home page and canonical page when they don’t have one. Without this, the site might be considered thin content and be penalized by Google. Sites should also update their canonicals whenever content changes or redirects.

When is the canonical address not a must?

In case of overlapping content, there are two options to overcome this problem. The first is to reach the 301 redirect. In such a case, we want the page to be invisible to the user and that he or she will be redirected to the right place right away. Rel=canonical, on the other hand, does the opposite. It gives a signal that the page should not be included in the ranking. However, remember that the canonical link can only be specified for already indexed pages.

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Step 1: The canonical tag is placed in the header of the page in the head section.

Step 2: Adapt rel=canonical to mobile devices. This is especially important in the context of the Mobile-First Index.

Step 3: Remember to apply only one tag per page.

Step 4: Avoid the so-called chain letters, they mislead search engine robots.

Step 5: Remove out-of-date pages as they hinder the indexing process.

If your data is not saved in html but in PDF form, then the canonical address must be configured in the server space and in the .htaccess file. Unfortunately, we do not have access to the http header in this situation. And when it comes to websites created in WordPress, just use the Yoast SEO plugin.

Watch out! If you do not select a canonical tag for a page, you have to take into account that the search engine algorithms will decide which page is the original. Of course, this has an impact on your online visibility. However, it should be remembered that this tag is not a command for the search engine, but only a suggestion.

How should you use rel=canonical?

  • The rel=canonical link attribute should be used to point to the original, authoritative version of a web page (not the duplicated version) and must be on every duplicate web page.
  • They are not only used for content duplication but for site navigation as well.
  • Make sure you include them when linking from social media channels like Facebook or Twitter.
  • Make sure that you keep all versions up-to-date with the latest changes made by updating all links to the most recent versions.
  • Make sure that you redirect old pages that have been removed or replaced with new ones so visitors will find what they’re looking for more easily and won’t get frustrated when they click a link that doesn’t work anymore because it has been moved or deleted altogether.

Canonical links in e-commerce

Canonical links are an important part of an e-commerce website’s optimization strategy. With canonical links, you can specify a single link to be shared across your site which will help improve rankings and cut down on unnecessary efforts. The idea is that if one content source is available on multiple platforms, it should only have one canonical URL, rather than sharing the same content on each platform independently. This helps avoid duplicate content and optimizes the website’s appearance.

Last words

There are many ways to improve a website’s rank on search engines. Keyword optimization, quality content, and site design are all necessary for an effective search strategy. However, the canonical link is one element that needs to be executed perfectly if you want your site to rank high. As long as you take care when crafting your site’s navigation and linking structure, this page will do wonders for your website’s rank.

Aleksandra Pietrzak
Curator at the National Museum in Poznań, graduate of Art History at the Jagiellonian University and Contemporary Art at the Pedagogical University of Krakow, curator of exhibitions and author of scientific and popular texts. A lover of contemporary art, literature and travel.
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