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For your SEO practices to work efficiently, you need to equip yourself with more than just basic knowledge.

Canonical tags affect how your website is displayed in the search results and make things streamlined for Google.

Correct canonicalization of pages can offer a good user experience and boost a site’s ranking.

Comprehending canonical URLs, correctly implementing, and identifying canonical issues are all equally important to improving your website’s overall performance. 

A canonical issue check brings errors that are usually concealed or difficult to detect to the spotlight.

So, let’s dive in!

Learn more: Step-by-Step Guide to Conducting a Comprehensive SEO Audit for Your Website

Canonical Tags: Basic Definition

A post defining the meaning of canonical tagsAs your website grows, it’s like a garden that becomes harder to maintain. The more pages you have, the more they start resembling each other, leading to the challenge of preventing duplicate content. 

When two identical pages on a website have previously achieved a high ranking for a specific keyword, search engines find it difficult to decide which page to direct visitors to. 

This problem can be solved by selecting the URL of your choice, which is known as the canonical URL.

Read more: Long Tail vs. Short Tail Keywords: How to Find the Best Ones for Your Content Strategy

Impact of Canonical URLs on SEO

Canonical URLs assist in resolving difficulties with duplicate content on your website.

Search engines may find it chaotic to decide which page to display in search results when several URLs point to the same page.

However, when you define a canonical URL, you specify exactly which page you want indexed. 

Hence, canonical tags are useful for deduplication and helping search engines decide which page should be ranked.

How Canonical Tags Are Related to Repetitive Content?

Before discussing canonical issues, you must know their exact role in managing duplicate content.  

With the possibility of keyword cannibalization and the potential harm it can cause to your site and revenue, fixing canonical issues is integral. 

When several pages on a website compete for the same rankings, they damage one another’s rankings.

Canonical tags help Google comprehend your website’s hierarchy and determine which duplicate page is the better version.

This increases the likelihood that the version you want will appear in search results and be accessible to searchers. 

This may result in increased click-through, engagement, and conversion rates.

Additionally, Google aggregates alternative pages’ ranking power on canonical URLs.

Suppose you have multiple duplicate pages linked via backlinks.

If they canonicalize, Google will treat all these pages as links to the canonical URL. When taken as a whole, they improve rankings.

Google regards it as a duplicate version of a single page. A single website can contain different versions for desktop and mobile devices. 

In these situations, Google will designate one URL as the canonical URL and begin its crawl on it. 

The other URLs will be regarded as duplicates, and Google may only conduct a minimum website crawl on them.

That means you are going to have lesser authority on the pages you want to be indexed.

If you don’t want to lose control, specify the Canonical URL yourself rather than depending on Google to decide. 

Identification of Canonical Issues UsingSearch Console

Using Google Search Console to find and control canonical issues is one of the most popular and convenient options.

You can use the URL Inspection Tool to analyze a different URL in real time or view the canonical-related reports that include all impacted web pages (data collection and updating take time).

In the first scenario, you will need to launch the URL Inspection Tool, input the URL, and start the inspection to test the page for which you wish to verify the canonical tag.

Go to the Page Indexing block and look at the Google-selected canonical field to see which URL Google chose as the preferred page version.

Because the user-declared canonical values do not match, Google may index the alternate version of the page.

Now, go to Indexing>Pages>Page Indexing>Why pages aren’t indexed to find canonical tag problems that are impacting your web pages.

List of 7 Common Canonical Issues

An infographic on common canonical issuesHere are the common canonical issues that can create bumps on the road of your SEO:

1. Shifting from HTTP to HTTPS

Moving websites from HTTP to HTTPS may not seem like a bigger task, considering how often it is done these days.

This migration is normally due to security reasons. Although it is a common practice, the popular canonical issue of the website being double-indexed arises after obtaining encrypted URLs. 

The browsers may label HTTP websites as unreliable. As you may already know, safety is important for search engines. Hence, such websites may find it difficult to rank.

Many websites use both HTTP and HTTPS URLs, which leads to URL variants. This can lead to multiple content-related problems that waste all the efforts you invested in offering an excellent user experience and improving your site’s SEO.

2. Placing Canonical Tags Incorrectly

Put the rel=canonical link element in your HTML document in the <head> section, not within the <body>.

It is against HTML standards to add anything outside of the <head> elements.

It is one of the canonical issues that causes browsers and search engines to misinterpret your page.

3. Using Session & Parameter IDs

Utilizing tracking IDs, parameters, and session IDs is often the reason behind canonical issues. 

This is because each time they index your website, search engines will see many URLs with the same information.

Use the referrer and navigation path statistics from your web analytics instead of tracking and session IDs. 

If you have no other option but session IDs, parameters, and/or tracking IDs, modify your software to utilize a hash symbol rather than an asterisk. 

This won’t cause canonical issues because search engines ignore everything that comes after the hash.

4. Not Using the Same Letter Case

If the URL structure’s letter case is not controlled, it may lead to canonical issues. 

As an example, you can see two URLs: 

As you can tell, the following web pages only have differences in the usage of upper and lowercase. 

Yet, it can create canonical issues because, in the eye of the search engine, these will be two separate sites.

5. Using hreflang Tags Incorrectly

If you want to set up a site that people with different languages can access, then you may be familiar with hreflang tags and their functionality. 

Besides that, you should also know the canonical issues when combining canonical tags with halflings.

For those who are unaware, hreflang tags inform search engines about the page’s language options. 

Canonical tags instruct search bots to index only the primary version of the page, whereas hreflang tags instruct them to follow and index all of those pages.

Search engines will only become confused if you canonicalize a single page out of a group of alternate pages if hreflang tags indicate that the page has other alternatives. 

This mistake will lead to canonical issues. Thus, a self-referencing canonical should be present on every page in an alternate language. 

The hypothetical versions below provide a fantastic illustration of when a canonical tag would be required within an e-commerce platform:

These routes lead to the same product, “4567,” but would probably result in redundant information. 

Using a canonical tag, the following should be added to the HTML to fix this problem:

<link rel=”canonical” href=””>

6. Missing Elements in the URL

This is another situation that causes canonical issues. It happens when neither an HTTP header nor a link element containing the canonical URL is available. 

If a page does not have a canonical URL, Google will choose which version or URL it believes to be the best. 

Since this may result in unpredictable rankings, all URLs should typically designate a canonical version.

7. Multiple Link Elements Or Headers

If the opposite of the last pointer discussed happens, it will also be one of the typical canonical issues.

A URL has more than one canonical set, i.e., an HTTP header, multiple link elements, or both. 

Since a page should only have one canonical URL—a link element or HTTP header—set by one implementation, this can cause unpredictability.

Effective Ways To Avoid Canonical Issues 

A circular diagram listing ways to avoid canonical issuesHere is how you can prevent common canonical issues:

1. Avoid Forming Canonical Chains

Canonical chain creation can cause common canonical issues. When a canonical tag leads to a URL with a canonical tag directing to yet another URL, this is known as a canonical chain. 

Search engines may mix up the information due to the intricate arrangement and have trouble granting permission to the appropriate URL.

If you want to fix a canonical chain, run a canonical issue check to find out that the tag doesn’t lead to a duplicate page with a different canonical tag.

You need to ensure that every page’s canonical tag points straight to the canonical version of the page. 

2. Use Absolute URLs

Because an absolute URL has all the information needed for a document, search engines can grasp it with clarity, and people may easily bookmark it. Hence, you can use this practice to steer clear of the canonical issues.

For those who are unaware of how it will look, here is an example: is the URL.

Conversely, a relative URL offers the document’s path: /dir/page.html. Canonicalization problems may arise from using relative URLs in your site’s canonical tags.

This removes all doubt, makes your website extremely obvious to search engines, and avoids canonical issues.

3. Refrain From Using 404s As Canonical URLs

When a website or resource cannot be located, the browser returns a 404 error code. This usually occurs because the page has been removed or taken offline.

If this is one of the canonical issues you are struggling with and don’t know the reason for,

It occurs mainly when users frequently modify or remove pages from websites over time. 

As a result, ensure you don’t miss out on any pages that are not functional and are designated as canonicals.

4. Issues with HTTP/HTTPS and WWW/non-WWW 

Using site-wide 301 redirects is the easiest solution to address these problems. 

Canonical tags, on the other hand, can be used if there is a reason not to redirect visitors from one version to another. 

To help you learn how to fix a page with a redirect, we have this guide for you.

5. Resolving Issues with Duplicate Content

In cases where the material is completely unranked and offers no benefit to users or the website, it is advisable to entirely 301. 

If the two pieces of material are not exact duplicates, think about combining them into a single, better piece of content. 

By doing this, you can be confident that users will find the new page and that any link-building efforts and ranking signals will be transferred to it.

It’s a good idea to fully 301 redirect a page to a more relevant article fully if it provides no value to the website, search engines, or users.

Use the canonical tag if you still wish to maintain the page on your page for people. 

This will instruct Google to index the old, duplicate version of the website and allow users to view it while passing link equity to the canonical version.

6. Include Canonical URLs in Your Sitemap

The last one of the best practices to fix canonical issues is to limit your sitemap only to include canonical URLs. 

Sitemaps give search engines a blueprint of your website, making it easier for them to index and crawl your material.

Create a sitemap with all of the recommended pages’ URLs. 

Additionally, make sure you exclude any URLs from your sitemap that are essential duplicates of other sites. This comprises nearly similar pages with the possible exception of one or two words.

Your sitemap should be up to date with your website’s current status, which means it should be updated whenever you add, modify, or remove pages. 

Routinely upgrading your sitemaps ensures that search engines see only your most recent, original content.


How can I discover a page’s canonical URL?

Check the HTML of the page or view the page source. To determine the Canonical URL, look for the tag with rel= “canonical”.

Can I use canonical tags across domains?

Yes, you can use canonical URLs to indicate which version of a page is preferred across domains, but be sure that cross-domain canonicalization works according to your SEO plan.

How can canonicalization be used to remove duplicate content?

Determine which content pages are duplicates and use the tag to set the canonical URL for each page. This makes the primary version easier for search engines to grasp.

What is the method to remove canonical URLs?

Either modify the Canonical URL to a different preferred URL or remove the tag from the HTML head section to remove a canonical URL.

Closing Thoughts

Correct canonical implementation is the key to preventing canonical issues.

All duplicate pages should point to the main page using canonical tags to avoid content duplication problems and improve the website’s search engine ranking.

A company will get high search engine results and a strong online presence if it can control these issues.

If you think canonical implementation is not as easy as it sounds, you don’t need to worry.

The Dreams Agency has SEO professionals for canonical issues, checking and analyzing if your efforts align with your SEO plan.