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Canonical link tags that point to redirects

4:47 am on Mar 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Now that SEs are going to look at the canonical tag, it seems like a great way to overcome the problems you face when you don't have a way to control my server's redirects. I'm scared to do it, though, and here's why...

I've inherited a CMS site that has a love affair with redirects. It loves to 302 a perfectly acceptable URL like:
example.com/TargetPage into www.example.com/site/PageServer?pagename=TargetPage.
Even 404 pages get 302'd over to a page_not_found (200) page. Aggravating.

Canonicalize my site to aim for the shorter URLs, and inherit the earth, right? Let's put on the tin-foil hat for a second.

If I'm a visitor, it's confusing when I wind up at the ugly URL after clicking on the pretty one. And, if I'm Google, I probably don't care for it much, either.

With the change happening so recently, I haven't really come across a good answer to this yet. A commenter hinted at this question [mattcutts.com], and Matt Cutt's response was,

Well try to do something reasonable in this case, but its better if you can point to your preferred canonical url in just one hop and without redirects in the chain.

That doesn't really ease my concerns that Google will think I'm acting on bad faith. I'm worried about them thinking, "Hey, if you like your short URL so much, then why do you keep sending me somewhere else? What are you trying to pull, mister?"

What do you folks think?

4:57 am on Mar 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

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Welcome to the forums, jd_fp.

What can I say - fix the CMS, right? A true canoncial url is not going to redirect. If you go forward with this you're likely to have complications.

So yes, I'd say canonicalize your site to the short urls, fix the soft 404 handling, and then move forward.

5:12 am on Mar 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the welcome. Yeah, your right, I should fix the CMS and the site should have been done right in the first place.

Problem is, it's looking like that isn't possible, short of me either getting the client to upgrade to the "premium" offering (for a measly $35k/yr), or showing up at someone's house with a pipe wrench.

My hands are tied, but I feel like I'm trying to fix a leaky dam with a piece of packing tape. So the million dollar question becomes, am I tempting fate with Google here?

Oh, and bonus points if you can point me towards a way to fix the soft 404s without having any access to the server settings :)