SEO & the Canonical Tag for Better Google SERPs

Consider this scenario. You have an eCommerce website (on a platform such as Magento, CV3, whatever), and you track your URLs with appended tracking code such as ?r= or &lid= placed at the end of your URLs (i.e. – Or imagine that your eCommerce site uses session IDs to track user behavior. As a result, you have more than one URL for the same web page. Little did you realize that Google could potentially index all of these various URLs for the same page and hurt your eCommerce website’s ability to rank in Google.

Why are duplicate URLs bad for SEO ?

It’s duplicate content. Imagine if you moved and didn’t forward your address with the post office. USPS would be quite pissed off that they now have two addresses for you. The same goes for Google. They want a single URL for each page. If you don’t give it to them, Google’s spiders could easily index many of these “tracking URLs” for the single web page. As a result, your diverting your “Page Rank” and “link juice” for this single page amongst many URLs, and your page won’t rank as high as it could in Google’s search results.

Using the Canonical Tag to Avoid Duplicate URLs

As reported by SEOMoz, The major search engines teamed up in 2009 and agreed to support webmasters’ use of the canonical tag to solve this problem. The canonical can be easily implemented in the <head> section of your source code as such:

<link rel="canonical" href="" />

That’s the good news. Even better news (if you’re using Magento or WordPress for your eCommerce website) is that there are some plugins and themes that will take care of this for you:

The bad news is that your hard-working eCommerce site very well could be unnecessarily struggling in the search engine results if you aren’t using this tag. So, how do you find out if this is an issue? Read the post, How to Check for Duplicate Content.