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Today it was annouced that the 3 big search engines have come up with a new tag to help with canoncial issues.
Using the new canonical tag
Specify the canonical version using a tag in the head section of the page as follows:
<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish"/>
You can only use the tag on pages within a single site (subdomains and subfolders are fine).
You can use relative or absolute links, but the search engines recommend absolute links.
This tag will operate in a similar way to a 301 redirect for all URLs that display the page with this tag.
Links to all URLs will be consolidated to the one specified as canonical.
Search engines will consider this URL a “strong hint” as to the one to crawl and index.
< See also Canonical Tag Results: Share the stories - Positive / Negative / No Impact [webmasterworld.com] >
[edited by: tedster at 6:08 pm (utc) on April 2, 2009]
Note to self - I wish someone would write a book about how much economic damage is done by dumb ass programming and lame software.
From the Yahoo article:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/products” />
The above tag indicates to the crawler that the URL it is present on should be represented canonically as http://www.example.com/products. This would eliminate the following duplicates:
...relative paths are recognized as expected with the <link> tag. Also, if you include a <base> link in your document, relative paths will resolve according to the base URL.
That said, absolute paths are recommended for the canonical tag.
That said, it's in the toolbox. I'm curious as to whether this would work for pagination, but the FAQ implies otherwise:
Is it okay if the canonical is not an exact duplicate of the content?
We allow slight differences, e.g., in the sort order of a table of products. We also recognize that we may crawl the canonical and the duplicate pages at different points in time, so we may occasionally see different versions of your content. All of that is okay with us.
Page 2 is obviously going to be substantially different from page one, but this element would be ideal for that scenario.
Well said - it's like robots.txt, nofollow, sitemap.xml, etc. The search engines own the Internet now, so why not redecorate to suit their taste.
I get what this means, but I wonder what it means, right? I guess it's a lazy way to imply a 301 redirection without actually redirecting, for content publishers who don't have access to modify the HTTP headers. I'm going to spend the rest of the week imagining ways this could be abused.
I wonder if this would be useful for tagging a print version to reference its screen version for indexing too.
There, I got your attention. Using this tag is merely fighting symptoms, instead of properly addressing the underlying problem. The problem in this case being poor site structure and/or server configuration. I'm already appalled by the large lazy bunch that will see this tag as an excuse to ignore the task of properly structuring their content and correctly configuring their server. The canonical tag should, in my opinion, be viewed as a supplementary tool to prevent any unwanted duplication in cases like campaign tagging.
Poor structure is not only confusing to search engines, but also to users (and linkerati)
[edited by: johnnie at 3:42 pm (utc) on Feb. 13, 2009]
Will Google handle this the same way it does with other blocked pages and sometimes add the physical URL in the SERPS?
What is the difference between this and the robots="NOINDEX " tag.
How is the link juice distributed via the canonical tag? Would these links be devalued or not counted at all because of the canonical tag?
I'm very hesitant to release the hounds at the moment.
site is built around asp and .net
alot of pages within the site are linked as "/goodtimes/bettertimes.asp?id="
we use a CMS so there are several templates that users can grab to create a page, and they all have the: <base target="_top"></base> which is for frames right?
can i use the base tag to implement this new tag?
essentially, i am finding that in my Google Webmaster Tools they see:
as two separate pages on various pages throughout my site...which i would like to avoid.
how should i implement this new tag? or should i at all?
I've not looked at the details yet, but I think this is a well thought out addition to our toolkit (ignoring underlying technological problems of course).
[edited by: Asia_Expat at 4:12 pm (utc) on Feb. 13, 2009]
Do we all agree that fixing canonical issues "for real" is better than using this tag?
You've got my vote and I say we put the onus on those providing the hosting services. This is something that should be part of a basic package these days but yet many hosts are freakin clueless, especially Windows hosting providers. Bunch of lazy cheap individuals who don't want to take the little bit of time that is involved to protect their network of hosting clients. Dingbats!
Okay, so this covers the BIG 3, what about 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10? Did we forget about those? What about any other crawler/bot that is indexing? How come Ask wasn't included in this? They are in a close race with that #3 position. ;)
I sit here and try to imagine what happens in the overall scheme of things. The BIG 3 adhere to these standards. The others could care less. Now you've got all these other indexing entities doing who knows what. How does that effect the BIG 3's view of the target domains?
Ya, a band-aid for sure but it does help quite a few with the BIG 3 only. One of these days Webmasters will realize the importance of addressing issues such as this at the root of the cause. Not 2, 3, or 4 steps into the process. I have a feeling that this leaves the door open for a bit of confusion when looking at the global aspects of it.
More like Canonical Tag Soup. ;)
Do we all agree that fixing canonical issues "for real" is better than using this tag? I think this is bad news for anyone who has fixed all canonical issues on their site. More SE exposure for the lazy competition.
Fix the issues yourself. That helps you first and foremost without leaving any footprints.
I refuse to do anything specifically for the SE's benefit. I don't dance to their tune, they dance to mine. And specialty tags or attributes that are search engine defined falls into the camp of dancing to their tune.
Make it part of something like the W3 standard and maybe I'd think about it. But why would standards' bodies do something specifically for three commercial companies? They won't of course.