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Briefly: What is Canonicalization of URLs?

The term “canon” is derived from the Greek word for “measuring rod” or “standard.” It is often used in English when referring to literature. When a piece of writing is around long enough and has acquired a certain amount of esteem in the community, it is entered into the “canon.” It’s kind of like a record of greatness.

When we talk about canonizing links, we are still talking about a “standard,” but the parallel stops there. Everything about the Internet is fast, fast, fast. Users generally want instant gratification or nothing at all. The great works of literature in the canon are unique and outstanding. Link canonicalization actually came about because of duplicate content. As Google says, a Canonical Page is “is the preferred version of a set of pages with highly similar content.”

Some websites list similar, or even identical, content across the board. This generally happens on sites listing products for sale, and the products are categorized in some way. A common example is displaying a product with different sort URL; you will only want 1 version of that item to be displayed in results. This is also because websites list the same content in various places so that shoppers will have an easier time finding what they want.

Canonical example:
http://www.yourstore.com/products.php?item=blenderhttp://www.yourstore.com/products.php?item=blender&sortby=pricehttp://www.yourstore.com/products.pgp?item=blender&sortby=best-match

For the link above, you will only want 1 of the links to be indexed, most likely, the first one in the example above. If you add the code rel=“canonical” to the <head> section, search engines will index that page instead of all of the other links as well.

Search engines will make the ultimate decision of how to display the results, but by using the canonical tag, it will help the search engines determine the best way to display your results. Having multiple URLs of the same product does not help you search engine optimization by having more links; it actually hurts it.

As a side note, it is best to choose the URL that has the most specific search terms in it, as this will improve rankings on search engines. It’s still about earning that street cred with the authorities. Maybe the parallel does continue after all.

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