Why Google recommends the use of Canonical URLs for SEO
It’s important to know how a search engine works and tries to find and index all the pages on the internet. They rely on unique URL as pointers to each piece of content. Well, there should be a single unique URL for each page on the internet. Often our web pages can introduce slightly varied URLs for the same piece of content resulting in duplicate URLs in the search engine index. A common reason for this is the use of URL parameters.
What are URL parameters?
These are extra bits of data that are appended to the end of URLs and they can be used to do a variety of things. Sometimes they can actually control what content shows on the page. And in those cases, the different URLs are actually different pages. Other times, though, they have nothing to do with the content. They could be used to store session ids or tracking parameters and the URL may be different, the content is unaffected. The problem is search engines can’t decide which URL parameters are important and which are not for a content.
Using Rel Canonical meta tag
One way to resolve this issue on your side is to use the rel canonical meta tag. A meta tag is added to your page that acts as an instruction for search engines telling them that no matter what URL might be showing up in the address bar for this content, make sure that the right URL is indexed as the primary URL to access your content. You need to be aware of the meta tags that Google understands.
Another reason why duplicate content might exist is because content may have moved from one location to another on your site. The new location could potentially be in the search engine index at the same time and to avoid this situation whenever you move content around its important to implement redirect rules. There are a few redirect types that you or your webmaster can use like 302 Temporary Redirect. This should be used only for short-term content moves like when you want to show an alternate page when your site is down for maintenance. It tells a search engine that the page is looking for isn’t there right now and will be back very shortly. So don’t do anything to your index.
For a long term or permanent content which search engines are really concerned with a move, you want to use a 301 Permanent Redirect. These types of redirects tell a search engine that although they may have indexed a previous URL for that content, that old URL is no good anymore and a search engine should take everything it knew about that URL and should apply it to the new content.
Ensuring that the search engine knows which URLs your content lives on and you have unique URLs for each of your pages will help them index you page properly and this a building block on the path to the top of the search results.
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