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The Beginner's Guide on Canonical Link

The Beginner’s Guide on Canonical Link

The term of “Canonical Link” might be strange for many webmasters. You may know that it is good for website SEO, but do not know how it works and how to apply to your site. In this case, we have made a beginner’s guide about this terminology, introducing its definition, usage and methods for starting the WordPress canonicalization. If you are not the WordPress user, you can also learn its principles and apply it to your own content management system.

What Is Canonical Link?

The canonical link, or also called as the canonical tag, is what you can use to prevent content duplication by specifying the preferred version of a webpage. With it, search engines can easily figure out which one to crawl and index when they find multiple versions of your single page.

In fact, it is a huge problem for search engines to determine the correct link to be pushed up for the online ranking if there are multiple entrances for the same content. With the canonicalization, you can help the searching spiders understand which pages are the carbon copies of others, thus selectively index the necessary options.

To check whether you have started the canonicalization, you can open your homepage and any other blog posts, right click the webpages and choose the View Page Source button. If you can find the rel=”canonical” tag, you must have given your pages the canonical links.

Canonical Link

When Can It Put to Use?

In a simple word, the canonical link is used to stop the issue of content duplication. In this case, if you have your webpages or the whole site redirected from multiple versions of links, you’d better carry out the practice of canonicalization, telling search engines which one should be prioritized for indexing.

Since the update of Google Panda, websites that have duplicated posts have been punished greatly with a sharp drop of online ranking. Therefore, almost all the webmasters now have paid much attention to this aspect by coming out original articles. However, the truth is that your site may still have some hidden duplicated links that you do not know. Check the following situations.

Duplication Caused by URL Parameters

Have you found that you can access your site via multiple links as listed in below? Even, the choices can be more if you use the HTTPS for the secured communication over the internet.

  • www.yourdomain.com
  • yourdomain.com
  • http://www. yourdomain.com
  • http://yourdomain.com
  • www.yourdomain.com/index.html
  • yourdomain.com/home.asp

All of these links are unique options, but can display the same contents. Therefore, you have to use the canonical link to tell search engines which option you want them to look, deciding whether to use the “www” and “http://” in the beginning and the slash at the end.

In addition, this practice can be beneficial for link juice, which avoids the fact that your link juices are divided among multiple URLs even though they indicate the same site or webpages.

Duplication Due to the Taxonomies

It is possible that you may include one of your posts into multiple categories or groups, and this can also cause the duplication links.

For instance, if you set up an e-commerce site and have the product of chocolate appeared in both the categories of Food and Candy, search engines can find the same content via the following two separate links.

  • www.yourstore.com/food/chocolate
  • www.yourstore.com/candy/chocolate

Duplication Caused by Content Scraping

To be frank, content scraping is really annoying, but also, cannot be avoided effectively. Once this happens, your blog post can be checked via two or even more links, which results in content duplication.

To deal with this issue and remove your suspicious of content scraper, you have to tell searching robots that your post is the source information by leveraging the canonicalization. This way, robots can find the content origination by checking your source code of:

<link rel="canonical" href="http://yourdomain/sample-article" />

When You’d Better Not to Use the Canonical Link?

It is possible that you have an “About Me” page to introduce your company, groups, history and many more, and you showcase the same words again in your social media platforms, such as the Google Plus Business Page, Facebook Business Page and LinkedIn Company Page.

If you are in this situation, you’d better not to use the canonical URL for your “About Me” page to avoid the duplicated self-introduction. If you insist on doing so, you need to come out the completely new words for the external utilization.

How to Start the WordPress Canonicalization

You firstly have to make a decision of whether your website can be accessed with the “http://”, “https://,” “http://www” or “https://www”. After that, you can carry out the following three steps to make sure that your website is optimized properly with the canonical links.

Step 1 – Verify Your Homepage in WordPress General Settings

To begin with, you should enter your WordPress admin and click the General button under the drop-down menu of Settings tab. Then, you need to make sure that the links entered for WordPress Address and Site Address are totally same. Personally, we recommend you to include the “http://” in the beginning and without the slash at the end for both options.

WordPress General Settings

Step 2 – Verify Your Canonical Link in the Webmaster Tools of Search Engines

Now, you have to inform search engines of your decision for the canonical link. Here, we take Google Webmaster Tool as an example.

First of all, you should log into this page using the Google account and click the link of “Sign in to Search Console”. Here, you can find the Add Property button. Enter your canonical homepage link and hit on this button.

Add Property Button

After that, you need to verify the ownership of this website. For this, the webmaster tool offers you several methods, such as uploading the HTML verification file to your site, copying the special HTML tag to your homepage, leveraging your Google Analytics account or using the Google Tag Manager.

Upon the successful verification, you should click the Add Property button again and add another version of your homepage link. This practice is particularly important if you have unified your WordPress Address and Site Address in the step 1.

Now, you can set the Preferred Domain by clicking the Settings button under the Configuration tab of your Google Webmaster Tool. Note that the preferred domain should be your canonical link you have added firstly.

Preferred Domain

Step 3 – Set the Canonical URLs for Your Webpages

In common situations, we highly recommend you to set the canonical URLs for all your webpages. To do this, you can make use of the All In One SEO plugin.

After installing it on your WordPress dashboard, you need to click the All in One SEO button to enter the setting page of this plugin. In the general settings part, you should check the box after the option of “Canonical URLs”. This option automatically generates the canonical links for your entire WordPress site, so you can find the rel=”canonical” tag in all your webpages.

Canonical URLs Button

In addition, you also need to check the box that enables the custom canonical URLs. In this way, you can customize the canonical links for some special posts based on your requirements.

Custom Canonical URLs

Special Notes for WordPress Canonicalization

After carrying out the above-mentioned steps, you can easily enable the canonical links for your WordPress sites. However, there are also some notes we want to mention in the following.

  • Never use the URL removal tool for the canonicalization, for it simply deletes all the versions of your website URL.
  • Do not use the robots.txt fie to achieve this goal.
  • Do not mix up canonicalization with the 301 redirection. The former one aims at dealing with content duplication and the loss of link juice, while the latter one is used to redirect one webpage to another.


Susan Rose is a freelance writer who has a deep knowledge about WordPress. She loves everything related to website building since the freshman year at Christopher Newport University, and loves to share her experience with people all over all the world. In the daily life, Susan loves detective novels as it can train her logical thinking and creativity.