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Can canonical tags be used on thin pages?
arieng




msg:4322562
 6:05 pm on Jun 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

My experience with the use of the canonical tag is limited, and I've always thought of it as a tool to minimize rogue duplicate content within a site.

Lately, in light of Panda, I've been trying to get proactive about identifying and addressing "thin" pages. (All of this is in the context of an ecommerce store.) By "thin" pages, I'm mostly talking about individual product pages where there is little content on the page beyond a basic description. I would agree that there is very little for googlebot on those pages, and they probably aren't necessarily appropriate to be included in the index. However, many of them have inbound links and are an important part of rounding out that category of products. It seems a shame to discard their importance.

Mostly, what I'm hearing is that the best practice is to apply a no-index tag to these pages. While that is a viable option, I hate to completely lose any importance the Google has attributed to them.

In one of the Matt Cutts videos, he made a short reference to using the canonical tag to group together similar pages, not necessarily duplicate. He even made a brief mention of using canonical to roll a page up to a category type page.

Is this a legitimate use of the canonical tag in an ecommerce environment? For a thin product page, would it make sense to link it to a similar product page, or even the appropriate category page? If so, that's great, though it seems like a radically different interpretation of the canonical tag than its original purpose.

 

tedster




msg:4322638
 10:01 pm on Jun 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

While that is a viable option, I hate to completely lose any importance the Google has attributed to them.

You can use noindex,follow so the link equity continues to flow.

In one of the Matt Cutts videos, he made a short reference to using the canonical tag to group together similar pages, not necessarily duplicate. He even made a brief mention of using canonical to roll a page up to a category type page.

Is this a legitimate use of the canonical tag in an ecommerce environment?

If you would have asked me that question when the canonical tag was first introduced, I would have said "No way, Jose!" Now that Matt has suggested it, I'm seeing this approach in the wild and it's apparently successful. So in my view, the canonical link has now mutated. Especially with pagination issues, placing the canonical from deep pages back to page 1 seems to be the way to go.

For a thin product page, would it make sense to link it to a similar product page, or even the appropriate category page?

I'd say no on that - but remember I was wrong about the earlier question.

For me, the bottom line has been sites finding ways to do less wor, to serve their visitors less and less, and still getting good Google traffic. Then one day it falls apart and all that work that was avoided becomes what you must now do to succeed.

The only real answer for shallow content is to beef it up - especially if we're talking about something like reproducing a manufacturer's product spec the same way hundreds of other sites are doing. Add value or fold up your tent.

arieng




msg:4322651
 10:58 pm on Jun 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

Add value or fold up your tent.


Couldn't agree more, but let me see if I can clarify.

Let's say I sell varieties of widgets, and I have invested a lot of effort into building very comprehensive, content-rich pages for every individual variety.

My site is known for its widgets, but I also sell widget cleaner, which has its own product page. There is only so much that I can say about my widget cleaner. Within two sentences, I've completed and accurately described my widget cleaner and anything else would be superfluous.

Over the years my widget cleaner page has generated quite a few links to it and it has developed a reputation as a good product. I don't receive much search traffic to it because everyone is searching for widgets, but I'd still hate to lose what importance Google has attributed to my widget cleaner page.

Now imagine that I also have widget bolts, widget screws, widget repair kits, and widget t-shirts for the widget fans. None of these auxiliary product pages have the robustness to stand on their own in the SERPs, but they are an important part of the widget category of products. Is there any way to use the canonical tag so that these lesser pages can boost the performance of the pages around them?

Here's the Matt Cutts video I was referencing: [youtube.com...]

After watching it again, I think maybe I read more into it than was intended since he was referring to review pages. However, he seems to describe the concept of "glomming together" similar pages rather loosely, as if it was a perfectly natural way to deal with lower quality pages.

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