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Home: Vizion Blog > Canonical issues: the details matter

Canonical issues: the details matter

Most people are aware that they’d like their website to be accessible regardless of whether a visitor types in the WWW prefix or not, but they usually don’t think to check whether or not an appropriate 301 redirect is setup to enable this. In today’s post, I will explain why paying attention to such details is important, and how you can bolster your SEO campaign by ensuring consistency in this area.

In brief, most website home pages are accessible through several “different” URLS. For example:

  • http://yourwebsite.com
  • http://yourwebsite.com/
  • http://yourwebsite.com/index.php
  • http://www.yourwebsite.com
  • http://www.yourwebsite.com/
  • http://www.yourwebsite.com/index.php

Because of this, search engines may not always treat each “different” URL as being the same page. In fact, Google (according to Matt Cutt) has reason NOT to equate all variations because there are websites out there that intentionally have different content across such variations.

So what?

It is possible that your SE rankings are being affected by this issue. If the search engines see these “different” URLs for your website as being different webpages altogether, then you are losing PageRank and probably showing up lower in the SERPs than if the search engines saw these variations as ONE web page.

How can you fix it?

You’ll need to choose what you want your default page to be (e.g. http://www.yourwebsite.com/) and get your server admin or webmaster to setup 301 re-directs for all variations to point back to that default page. Then you’ll also want to ensure that your internal linking structure supports this choice (i.e. if the pages on your site link back to your home page they should not link to “http://www.yourwebsite.com/index.php” if your chosen default is “http://www.yourwebsite.com”). Finally, you’ll want to check external links to make sure other websites are consistently linking to your chosen default.

Conclusion

Taking these steps will ensure that your domain is not being penalized in the SERPs from canonicalization, and it will ensure a consistent experience for your site’s visitors.

Here’s a cool tool to help you determine if 301 redirects are setup correctly for your website.

http://www.internetofficer.com/seo-tool/redirect-check/

Interestingly, we noted that several top sites are using varied approaches (if any at all) to canonicalization.


Travelocity.com

Method: None utilized; Meta refresh used to redirect users with Javascript disabled.

Orbitz.com

SP32-20080123-113710.jpg

Expedia.com

SP32-20080123-112155.jpg

Hotmail.com

SP32-20080123-111311.jpg

Articles referenced:

http://diagnostics.googlerankings.com/canonical-urls.html
http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/seo-advice-url-canonicalization/
http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/canonicalization-update
http://www.johnon.com/267/trailing-slash-seo.html
http://www.internetofficer.com/seo-tool/redirect-check/