Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Canonicalisation of URLs in SEO

If there are two or more different URLs pointing to the same website, it could be an Internet marketer’s nightmare. When such a thing happens, all efforts of SEO are divided across the different URLs. As a result, no single URL gets the maximum mileage out of the SEO elements that have been put into practice, and the prospects of the website are definitely harmed. Canonicalisation can be quite technical, especially on a dynamic retail site with lots of products, and it may be necessary to employ the SEO services of a dedicated company to review issues and create a plan of action for developers.  

That’s the reason why SEO experts should know the concept of canonicalisation.

In plain terms, canonicalisation means to standardize one URL out of many, so that search engines know that this is the URL the webmaster wants to promote. The search engine will then automatically convert all other URLs into this canonical version. Hence, the SEO efforts get a focus; they get centralised around this single URL that prevails over all the other versions.

Let us understand this with an example.

Now, for most users of the Internet, the following URLs mean one and the same:-

Though all these URLs mean the same thing to the users—and definitely people from all over the world are going to use different versions—they are quite significant when you consider SEO. The search engines construe these URLs differently. Hence, for them if you are trying to promote, it is not quite the same as They will take these are two different URLs completely, and your efforts will be divided.

The answer lies in canonicalisation. As an online marketer, you should first think of one of these forms, and stick to it as a standard. This is your canonical URL. Further, you should help your SEO ratings by canonicalisation of your web URL in the following ways:-

1.       Always use only the standard form of your web URL. Use a single form when you are putting in anchor links, posting the URL on social networking websites, using it on your article submissions and blogs, and so on. This way, people visiting your website by clicking these links will always be clicking on your canonical URL and it will be the one that gets the best SEO in terms of inbounding.

2.      The best idea—and one that is recommended by none other than the head honchos at Google itself—is to add a 301 direct to all your other URLs, i.e. except your standard URL. When anyone clicks on a nonstandard form of your URL, a 301 direct steps into action. This is a permanent redirect, and it will instruct the search engine to always convert a particular nonstandard form of the URL to the canonical form. Thus, the canonical form gains precedence.

3.      Use the Google Webmaster Tool. This is a way of temporarily addressing the situation. You can tell Google which URL version you prefer. So, any SEO happening through other versions of your URL will be diverted to this main standard one.

If ignored, different versions of your website URL can seriously hamper the prospects of your website. But, if you use the right canonicalisation, you will find that your SEO efforts begin to bring the efforts you expect.

Great. What's next? How about learning about LSI

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