Thread: Canonical urls

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    Question Canonical urls


    Hi there. Has somebody got two minutes to explain to me the concept of canonical urls?? i understand that one type has www. and one does not. Does this mean i have to register two domains or what? Is it something that you set up on your server/hosting account. I am puzzled and have never come across the term before.
    Thanks.
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    it refers to the usual way to display your url.

    www.domain.com
    domain.com
    domain.com/index.html

    these are three different URL's even though they point at the same document. They are as different as subdomain.domain.com and domain.com/anotherpage.html.

    it is technically possible to have different content on all of these pages. However 99% of websites have their homepage located there. It is a standard way that your registrar/webhost sets up your DNS.

    In short, when you buy domain.com your webhost should route www.domain.com and domain.com to the same file in the file system. So no you dont purchase different domains.

    There are rare cases when a search engine may become confused and consider www.domain.com and domain.com different URL's with the same content, creating a "canonical issue".

    There are three main ways of preventing this from happening and it is S.O.P. for most SEO savvy webmasters

    1. 301 redirect domain.com to www.domain.com or vice versa
    2. use the canonical meta tag
    3. specify the preferred domain in Google Webmaster tools.

    I prefer the 301 method because it also passes link juice.

    301's can be technically challenging especially for internal pages with variables in the URL.
    preferred domain in GWT only solves the www-non www problem
    the canonical tag can be used on a page by page basis and is a good solution for the individual who knows how to update page headers but not much else
    Last edited by googler; Sep 1st, 2009 at 03:15 PM.
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    So you could be penalized for duplicate content?? To be safe i should use a re-direct for every single page?? is there a preference for www vs non www?
    thanks.
    Last edited by eddie21leeds; Sep 1st, 2009 at 03:21 PM.
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    Originally Posted by eddie21leeds
    So you could be penalized for duplicate content?? To be safe i should use a re-direct for every single page?? is there a preference for www vs non www?
    thanks.
    You could be penalized technically, though I have not seen this as an issue worth struggling with as far as the home page goes. That is more of a problem with internal pages with variables which cause identical content on pages with different URLS. This more prominent problem at the root level is the issue of your links being counted toward the wrong page. You want all of your incoming link power to be directed at a single page with one set of content. If you do not address the canonical issues you could split your link power amongst the non-www and the www version of your website.

    as far as preference for www vs non www there is no preference as far as search engines are concerned. But I will tell you that unless the non-www has already been established I would always go with the www version. People who link to you are much much more likely to use http://www.yoursite.com than http://yoursite.com.

    You should 301 each page to its respective www version, except the default document (i.e. index.php, index.html etc.)

    so yourdomain.com/index.html www.yourdomain.com/index.html should both redirect to www.yourdomain.com same with yourdomain.com/folder/index.html and www.yourdomain.com/folder/index.html should redirect to www.yourdomain.com/folder and so on in the document tree.

    the other pages, i.e. yourdomain.com/widget.html shoudl redirect to www.yourdomain.com/widget.html on a page by page basis. yourdomain.com/widget.html SHOULD NOT redirect to www.yourdomain.com ( a common mistake).

    whether you have an apache server or a windows server makes a difference in how it is implemented. apache uses a script which you can upload called htaccess while IIS has to be done via the server itself, either by your webhost or yourself if you have root access.
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    ok makes sense now thanks. i am familiar with .htaccess files so i'll look into it.
    thanks alot!!
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    Interesting thread... i am new at this aswell. Out of interest, are there any other seo tricks that can be acheived with a .htaccess file??
    also, what about using the re-direct for say - a wordpress installation? do you re-direct every .php file or what? just thinking about it confuses me - lol
    any input appreciated.

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