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To help meet this challenge, Ask is announcing today that we are joining forces with other major search engines in a timely partnership to support a special search index feature called "canonical URL tag".
This follows on from
Search Engines Agree on "Canonical tag" [webmasterworld.com]
The "canonical URL tag" does not solve anything
There are situations where a canonical tag will help sort out URL->content confusion, as discussed very thoroughly in the recent homepage thread.
Dynamic pages with unique URLs that order or sort or highlight or annotate page contents in subtle ways may have very similar - or identical - content. Instead of plopping a "no-index" on those views, or employing a "scrub-and-redirect" technique, you can put this tag on the page and it's much simpler, sematically honest, and possibly more effective. Actually its effectiveness remains to be proven; I hope in the next 6mo someone here will bless us with some empirical evidence to show this tag used successfully to its fullest potential.
Not my problem how search engines sort this out
A very laisser-faire attitude, a luxury enjoyed by those whose sites are naturally popular, enjoy other traffic streams, or don't NEED the leg-up from good SERP placement. For sites that only stay viable on the merit of their good SERPs, understanding this new tag is significant, just like understanding <meta> tags was significant 10 years ago.
A very laisser-faire attitude, a luxury enjoyed by those whose sites are naturally popular, enjoy other traffic streams, or don't NEED the leg-up from good SERP placement.
i wouldn't say 'naturally' popular because it still takes a considerable amount of effort to build your brand to the point that people will visit it by typing in the url in the address bar or clicking a feed. but i believe its something for which all webmasters should aim.
what if google were to tank tomorrow? or next year? it happened to some pretty big financial institutions last fall, so no company is immune to collapse.
i advocate leveraging every source of traffic, so in absence of more effective solutions - e.g. redirects - a canonical tag may help some challenged webmasters aggregate page/trust rank, link juice or whatever is required for more exposure on the search engines.
The bigger problem is that you are now letting google make a decision. Google will see 2 identical pages and see that they both have the same tag. Your still making google think.
If you are going to go through all this trouble anyhow it is just as easy to put a 301 redirect. Just put in a few lines of code that detects what the right url is and if it is wrong 301 to the right one.
Also this tag does nothing for the pages that are 90-99% identical.
To have duplicate content on my website is perfectly legitimate. Not my problem how search engines sort this out.
I agree, unfortunately if they index just one page you have nothing else "unique" left to offer. The benefits of links pointing to pages deemed duplicate are then lost. It pays to TRY to have every page be different when possible.