SEO: Canonical Tag Not What I'd Hoped

Well, there are no free passes are there? I mean, yesterday (or at least I first heard of it yesterday), the major search engines came up with this cool link tag, called a “canonical tag,” which tells the spiders not to worry about duplicate content and points them to the proper page, or the canonical, where the original content sits, right?

I thought, Wow! That will solve a lot of problems. You just add this:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish” />

to the <head> section of your page and it tells the search engine what the preferred URL is. Here’s what Google said:

“Now, you can simply add this
tag to specify your preferred version:

inside the section of the duplicate content URLs:

http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish&category=gummy-candy

http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish&trackingid=1234&sessionid=5678

and Google will understand that the duplicates all refer to the canonical URL: http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish. Additional URL properties, like PageRank and related signals, are transferred as well.”

(Read the full article at: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/02/specify-your-canonical.html)

So before I got too excited about the possibility, I found that this tag only applies in connection with dupe content on the same website. Oh, sure. They couldn’t possibly make it easy for us original content providers, now could they?

I mean, think about how that works. You write an article and put it into a directory. Lots of folks post it to their sites, newsletters, what have you. Does your original article get the credit? Maybe, maybe not. I’d love for there to be a way that I could tag my content as original, wouldn’t you? But I have no clue how they could make it happen. Anyone could tag a piece of content, original or not. Still, would be nice to be able to brand your work, eh?

So, this canonical tag is good for what it does, but it only applies to dupe content within a single website. If you’re an e-commerce site, it’s quite probable that you have duplicate content on your site, so this new tag will be a good thing for you. All of the search engines are supposed to recognize it.

For the rest of us… There may be applications, but it’s not as cool as I had hoped. Oh, I dared to dream, anyway.



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