Rel=“Canonical” vs. 301 Redirection

If you think duplicate content isn’t an issue or a problem that you will ever have to deal with, think again. Just about every site editor and producer will face a duplicate content issue of some sort, and it pays to know how to handle it, so you can keep on top of your SEO. So, which is best for Technical SEO? Let’s talk SEO and canonical and 301 redirect and SEO.

What’s The Problem With Duplicate Content?

First off, duplicate content might not seem like much of an issue but left alone it can damage your page ranking and cause problems and confusion for your users. When it comes to duplicate content you want to deal with it in a way that will not damage your SEO. You, therefore, have two options: use canonical tags or, a 301 redirect. Which is better? It depends on your approach and your needs.

When To Use A Canonical Tag

canonical tag is used to tell the search engine which version of your web page you would like indexed. If, for example, you have two pages that are exact copies, but with different URLs, one of these pages can refer to the first using canonical tagging. Using a canonical tag in this way is your way of telling Google which of the two copies you would like indexed. The other page, also known as ‘the referring page,’ is crawled as per usual but not indexed.

How And Where To Place A Canonical Tag?

To optimise your SEO and the canonical tag, you need to position it in the header section of that web page. Fortunately, this does not necessitate you making any changes at the server level. Instead, the crawler will read the tag in the header and understand it needs to index this page. Other uses for a canonical tag include using it to prevent plagiarism, or for SEO purposes where there is repeated content or, for whatever reason, you are unable to generate a unique URL.

To give you an example of when you might use a canonical tag, let’s take an online store selling dancewear. In this store are hundreds of different leotards, stockings and dance shoes, all very similar yet slightly different in style, size and colour. Regardless of any differences, your product descriptions will be similar if not exact copies which are reflected in your URL and will lead to duplicate pages.

To avoid interfering with your SEO plans and the user problems that will arise, you can use a canonical tag to ensure that Google only indexes one page.

When To Use 301 Redirect

Unlike a canonical tag, a 301 redirect takes users to a different URL from the one they typed into the browser – usually without them noticing. In most cases, this redirection does not damage the ranking ‘power’ of the page.

How To Put A 301 Redirect In Place?

Unlike a canonical tag, you will need to make changes to your .htaccess file to use a 301 redirect tag and position it in the server. Doing so, allows the browser (or crawler) to send a URL request which is matched at the .htaccess file and redirected to the URL you want to use.

301 Redirect And SEO

301 redirects for SEO are set up for a number of different reasons. You might, for example, need to change a URL and want to avoid unpleasant error pages for your users. As with canonical tags, they are also used to prevent a duplicate content issue.

How And Where To Place A 301 Redirect

Let’s imagine that you manage the social media for a travel company, and some of the details about their cruises to the Caribbean need updating. Rather than lose traffic, links from other sites and the link strength, you can redirect users to the new page about 2019’s cruises using a 301 redirect.

No more cruises to St Lucia? A 301 redirect is also useful if a product/service is no longer available. Rather than the user see a ‘sorry we can’t find this page’; you can redirect them to a similar product. So, if the travel company has stopped selling cruises around St Lucia, you can redirect visitors to the page for cruises around nearby Martinique.

Finally, what if you’ve decided to create a brand-spanking new website for the travel company? You won’t want to lose their existing page ranking (especially if it was at the top). Again, it’s a case for a 301 redirect. You can redirect the URL to the new site without any damage to the existing ranking or disruption to users. It’s crucial to make sure all of the pages from the ‘old’ site are correctly tagged.

So, are you now in the position to challenge your technical SEO and implement canonical and 301 redirects? We hope so. However, if you need help, we’re here to help. Contact us today.


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