If you hear the word canonicalization, you may think the term describes some big, complicated concept that may or may not involve actual cannons. In truth, canonicalization is an important SEO aspect of digital marketing. And, complex as it may sound, like all aspects of digital marketing it can be simplified into normal, non-techy human terms:
Canonicalization refers to the process of merging multiple pages of the same web content into one.
As a site owner, you want to make sure that every page and resource (video, image, etc.) on your website has one sole web address or URL. Issues with canonicalization occur when more than one URL exists for a webpage or resource. For example, let’s say your homepage is: www.crisantaknight.com. You want that to be the sole URL for that webpage. And if someone types in a deviation of this exact URL, you should still be automatically redirected to www.crisantaknight.com.
Some common deviations could be:
However, no matter which of these URLs you type in, you get redirected to the original www.crisantaknight.com. If this weren’t the case, and each URL existed on its own instead of redirecting, then that means there are basically duplicate versions of that webpage out there, and that would be very bad.
Why Canonicalization Matters
Canonicalization is an incredibly important part of SEO. If you don’t take care of canonicalization issues on your site, the other existing duplicates will detract from the original and confuse search engines, just as clones detract from their original and confuse other people. Three main ways this could affect your site are as follows:
- If you update a webpage, those updates aren’t going to automatically be passed on to the duplicate pages – meaning you will have different versions of the site in existence (the new one you update and older versions that people could find just as easily). You obviously only want visitors to your site to see the latest and greatest version, so you can understand why this would be a problem.
- You will lose link authority because if, say, one blogger links to your site with one URL and a different blogger links to your site via a another URL, search engines will give one point of authority to each URL. Your site could have instead gotten two votes for its authority had the links been combined.
- Third and most importantly, if you have canonicalization issues on your site then the search engines won’t crawl your site as deeply as they might have. Search engine robots only spend so much time trying to understand every webpage. If your website is complicated because there are multiple copies of the same content on different URLs, the search engine robots could waste time tracking down and then reading the same information. By using up their time with these canonicalization issues, you are keeping the search engines from allocating time to other aspects of your site that they could have been indexing. As consequence, you will have less unique pages in the search index and your chance at ranking in the search result pages goes down.
Put The Can In Canonicalization
I realize that some aspects of digital marketing can seem overwhelming at times—there are so many concepts to grasp and new information is developing every day. However, as you’ll note, even the fanciest of terms and most intricate of concepts can be broken down to be made understandable, like canonicalization.
You can and should run tests on your website for canonicalization issues. By seeing to this aspect of SEO, you will allow your site a fighting chance at a stronger link profile and more favor from the search engine robots that crawl your site, which will hopefully lead to better rankings in turn.