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Canonical and nofollow - feedback on a weird implementation

 6:32 pm on May 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

I was doing some research on ecommerce sites and how they are using canonical. I came across a site that had a large category of widgets.

All of the widget refinements (there was like 40) were no followed and if you clicked any of the refinements then they were also canonicaled to the main widget category. Basically all of the juice was going to the main category.

Is this a correct way to use canonical, it seems like Google wouldnt want you to canonical different refinements as blue widgets would be different then red widgets. Also, I thought no following that large of an amount of links on a site was also looked down on as it funnels page rank.

What are your thoughts on this example in terms of the way Google would see what they are doing?



 7:52 pm on May 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

That sounds like a kind of canonical implementation that Matt Cutts recommended in this video: [youtube.com...] What you describe sounds like an appropriate way to keep individual "sorts" of the data from generating duplicate content problems.

What the nofollow is doing in the mix, I can't say - I assume you mean there is a nofollow meta tag on the page, and not a rel="nofollow" attribute on the link pointing to the page. At any rate, rel="nofollow" for an individual link that still points internally is something that Matt recently recommended avoiding, in this video: [youtube.com...]


 7:57 pm on May 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Others should chime in too, for I'm no expert but:

1) 40 pages of thin content.
2) A hub page that is directly related to the 40 pages, probably links to the 40, and probably mentions all of the 40 variations (pink shoes, red shoes).

I think the cannonical set up is reasonable. Clearly they want the hub page to show up in the SERP's. Doing it this way may give up potential for as much long-tail traffic but in light of Panda, maybe an ok way to do it.

I would have thought they would follow,noindex the 40 pages. I'm not sure I get their nofollow,index (index being the default). To me nofollow,index doesn't seem congruous with what I thought they were doing with the cannonical.


 7:58 pm on May 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Guess it took me too long to type.

Robert Charlton

 8:36 pm on May 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

All of the widget refinements (there was like 40) were no followed and if you clicked any of the refinements then they were also canonicaled to the main widget category. Basically all of the juice was going to the main category.

Not sure from this description whether the nofollow refers to a meta tag or to a link. A nav link that is nofollowed is a PageRank black hole. You can't funnel PR with nofollow links... you can only waste it.

With nofollow in the robots meta tag, there would be no link juice recirculation from a nofollowed page.

So, when you say that "all of the juice was going to the main category", I've got to ask "what link juice"?. If the links to the page were nofollowed, then link juice has been blocked from getting to the page.

If the robots meta on the page has a nofollow attribute, then I think we're getting into an area that we're not quite sure about, which is whether a canonical tag confers link juice from a page... and, beyond that, from a nofollowed page.

If you don't want a page indexed by Google, a much better use of internal link juice is to use the noindex,follow meta tag, with nav links back to the main category. This would keep a page out of the index, but would also allow link juice to recirculate around the site.

Also... important to consider is what Broadway brought up, whether we want long tail. I'm not sure from the example how different the widget "refinement" pages are... whether they are individual products worth targeting, or whether they're subtle product variations (like color and size) that are another level down.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 8:41 pm (utc) on May 25, 2011]


 8:40 pm on May 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Actually they only have rel=nofollow on the links and dont have the meta no follow, index on the pages.

What was interesting to me is that this site has done really well for these category terms during the whole panda shift (beating lots of big competitors by coming from second or third page pre panda), and in what i have been reading Google does say remove thin pages. So maybe by canonical all refinements they are technically doing that and looking good in Googles post panda eyes?

I just thought this was an interesting enough idea to look at due to these pages on their site doing so well in the serps.


 8:46 pm on May 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

@Robert Charlton yea it is only on the link so it would be like the black hole that you are referring too, but they do not no follow the pagination so maybe it is only set up as a weird way to attempt to control indexation...

The differences in refinements would be like refinements with a blue widget or an energy efficient widget, to a widget with a specific size. So they do bring up a different results set but the total products in the categories range from 50 to 500.

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