Google debunked common myths about canonicalization

In the latest installment of the SEO Mythbusting video series, a Google employee Martin Splitt together with Rachel Costello from DeepCrawl has debunked common myths about canonicalization.

In particular, what is canonicalization: a signal or directive, whether it can be used as a redirect, and others.


Below are the questions that were covered in the video, and the answers to them.

  • Canonicalization is not thematic grouping

Canonicalizing a URL does not mean merging pages with similar topics. The content of the pages must be identical or close to that.

  • The most common myths about canonicalization

The most common myth is that canonicalization is a directive and that it can be used as a redirect.

Both statements are untrue.

      • Canonicalization is a signal, not a directive

A directive is an instruction that search engines automatically follow. But canonicalization is not a directive, but a signal. That is, a hint for search engines that they may or may not use.

“Placing the canonical tag on different pages won’t work. Placing a canonical tag on each of the absolutely identical pages will also not work. This is a signal. It helps us determine what we want to canonicalize, but it is optional to use, ”explained Splitt.

      • Canonicalization is not a redirect

Costello noted that canonical tags can sometimes be used by site owners to focus link power in a specific location. However, this is not what they were created for.

Canonically, tags are intended to be used in situations where identical content is posted to different locations on the internet.

This tag sends a signal to Google which is the preferred page to show in search results.

  • What are the factors of duplication and deduplication?
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When it comes to deduplicating search results, in addition to the canonical tag, Google uses fingerprinting and a scoring system.

“Duplication and deduplication are actually performed without much human intervention. We identify the content and look at things like the essence of that content, what information is available, how it relates to the structure of the site, what the sitemap says. That is, we look at many different factors, but mainly technical factors. “

Google also created a scoring system based on all the technical factors that a search engine uses to deduplicate.

If content changes, the final grade is always revised.

  • What’s more important: site preferences or user preferences?

Google may override the canonical page specified by the site owner and use whichever is best for users. This often happens with identical content in different languages.

For example, if the canonical tag points to the EN version of the page, and the user is in Germany, then Google will show him the German version.

  • Unique content on pages with a canonical tag

Google may accept the preferred canonical page on a site even if it contains a small amount of unique content that other pages do not.

However, if there is a lot of unique content, then Google will not recognize the page as a duplicate, and the canonical tag in this case will be meaningless.

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Lane Derrick

My name is Lane Derrick, back in 2014, he began to take an interest in SEO and webmastering, and started real projects six months later. For 6 years of practice, skills were formed that I use to this day. The main activity is website promotion and contextual advertising.

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