Canonical tags – when and how to use them

Your goal as an affiliate is always to get your content to rank well in search engines – which is why a lot of your marketing effort is bound to be focused on SEO.  The technical elements can be more difficult to get a handle on, and canonicalisation is one of them.  It plays a large part in the quality score of your pages – and is not something that should be ignored.

Let’s start with what a canonical tag is

Canonical tags are what tells search engines what the authoritative source of content is, and what you would like for them to crawl.  If there is the same content across more than one URL, canonical tags are used to identify the primary source.  
The concept behind this is simple, everyone knows you shouldn’t cut and paste content and masquerade it as original material – but you need to delve further into your technical SEO strategy, to limit any possible issues of duplicate content and you can do this using canonical tags.
Take our own site as an example.  Upon searching for our website, the user could think that and is the same page.  It’s created and built as one page, it looks exactly the same, and there is no real difference in the URL, just how someone gets here.  What humans see is different from what search engines see.  They will note that there is a URL for each version of that page, and therefore classify them as 2 pages.  As such, there would then be an issue of duplicate content. 

When canonical URLs could be useful for an affiliate

The previous example isn’t the only situation where it may be appropriate for an affiliate to include a canonical URL.  With a significant focus on mobile first – it could be that you have developed your site in such a way where there are landing pages that are mobile specific, however, feature the same content as a desktop version of your site. If you have implemented AMP, you also need to make sure that you have differentiated your AMP page from the standard page.  Google is very clear on how to do this as part of the initiative.  
If you are an affiliate that is taking advantage of the growth of iGaming in other companies to generate revenue from different geo locations – then it could be that your slug or subdomain is regional specific for example  It’s critical that you ensure that the pages that are region specific direct to the canonical version of the page to avoid duplicate content issues.  

What about 301s?

Many people use 301s as part of their SEO strategy that effectively sends the user from one URL to another.  By implementing a 301 – you are telling search engines that the URL that the page gets forwarded to is now the authoritative source of content.  
301s should be used sparingly – and only really when you are deprecating a specific version of a page.  If you use it frequently in other scenarios, then you could cause problems with your sitemap – and further issues if you then want to go on to reuse the URL for different content.
When you set a canonical URL for your pages your investing in ensuring that your portal is performing as best it can on search engines. 
If you want to learn more tips and tools to get your affiliate site ranking better – REGISTER for our Affiliate Bootcamp 21-22 March in London.  

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