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Does the canonical tag truly resolve the "www" issue?

     
5:47 pm on Jun 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

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we've got the canonical tag in place per the Google guidelines on all pages.

of course, www and non-www still look like they need a basic or fancy htaccess redirect.

basic would be the simple 301, fancy would include lots of regex to resolve caps / non-caps / mixed case / index to / etc.

does the canonical tag actually deprecate the need for the www / non-www redirection efforts?
11:42 pm on June 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

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No. The rel="canonical" tag is a band-aid solution for broken sites. The 301 redirect coupled with correct internal linking still remains the best option.

There are also a lot of sites that designate the wrong URL, from the available selection, as the canonical URL. In general link to the 'shortest' of the URLs.
12:14 am on June 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I guess I'll have to brush up on it again.

Thanks!
2:12 am on June 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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You may find this concurrent thread in the Apache Server forum to be useful: Which canonical fix is correct? [webmasterworld.com]

Jim
3:59 am on June 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I also agree that the canonical link is a band-aid solution.

However, from what I've seen, it does seem to work. On sites that don't do a proper server-side fix but do install a correctly implemented canonical tag, I have yet to see a split PR, where one URL is different than the other.

Of course, that is toolbar PR which is not a totally trustworthy thing ;) So the server-side fix is the recommended approach, not only by people in this thread but even by Matt Cutts.
2:35 pm on June 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Always great to recognize not-a-few names that I know and trust.

as always, Thanks!
3:03 pm on June 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I am wondering why hasn't solutions to this become a standard feature by webhosts ?
4:45 pm on June 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Web hosts have become a kind of mass commodity and many of them lag well behind in understanding technical SEO issues. Some still don't allow 301 redirects of any kind on their shared hosting!
5:54 pm on June 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I am wondering why hasn't solutions to this become a standard feature by webhosts ?


It is becoming more and more of a standard solution in new out-of-the-box CMS type software from what I see, and rightly so.

I use the tag on every page in paginated series where the series represent duplication of the same topic, product or service in both ecommerce and info websites. Works like a charm - especially at preventing issues at the onset.
6:11 pm on June 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I am concerned by one aspect of the rel="canonical" tag.

Take a site with these alternative URLs which all return the same content (apart from small differences in the "breadcrumb" and "next page" links).

www.example.com/index.php?type=page&[b]cat=15[/b]&product=345
www.example.com/index.php?type=page&[b]cat=18[/b]&product=345
www.example.com/index.php?type=page&[b]cat=15_40[/b]&product=345
www.example.com/index.php?type=page&[b]cat=18_48[/b]&product=345
www.example.com/index.php?type=page&product=345


For a site where the rel="canonical" tag points to
www.example.com/index.php?type=page&[b]cat=18[/b]&product=345
there seems to be major spidering and indexing issues.

I am absolutely convinced that the canonical URL should be
www.example.com/index.php?type=page&product=345
with the
&cat=
parameter omitted.

I have seen over and over again that Google usually prefers to list the shorter URL where one is available (though internal linking can also influence the longer URL being listed):

www.example.com/
vs.
www.example.com/[b]index.php[/b]


www.example.com/
vs.
www.example.com/[b]?page=1[/b]


www.example.com/?page=105
vs.
www.example.com/?page=105[b]&sess=AC3F3CB31068C4A2[/b]


and believe this to also be just such one of those cases.
12:13 am on June 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the answers. If i remember right the reason htaccess isnt an option for sites on shared hosting is a security issue with allowing mod rewrite or rewriteengine. Would've thought by now someone would have coded a way to secure them. I suppose eventually more webhosts will be forced to provide solutions just to stay competitve.
1:11 am on June 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

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This "security issue" is a red herring. It is the server config itself that is insecure, not .htaccess per se.

A webmaster *can* make a few mistakes with .htaccess that open security holes, but the same can be said for PHP or any other scripting language -- and even more so with unsanitized database queries...

The truth is that hosting companies "don't like" allowing .htaccess (and especially mod_rewrite) because allowing it raises their support costs -- They actually have to hire a few people with real server training to support it.

Jim
2:09 am on June 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I have seen over and over again that Google usually prefers to list the shorter URL where one is available


I think you're right - as a general rule of thumb. I would probably set the shortest URL as the canonical, too.
3:34 pm on June 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

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The truth is that hosting companies "don't like" allowing .htaccess (and especially mod_rewrite) because allowing it raises their support costs -- They actually have to hire a few people with real server training to support it.


Thanks for the clarification JD !
5:33 pm on June 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Has anyone written or read a definitive article about how this works, how to diagnose it, what to do, what not to do, etc?

I know this is part secret handshake code of the fraternity of smarter webmasters - but hey, maybe it is time to push the envelope a bit?

I've pieced it together here over the years to get a working knowledge but it is piecemeal, and it would be nice to have some sort of reference document to go back to in order to make sure I've got it all.

Fortunately, although I know not what, something happened in the last couple of years so that when I mention "canonical", coworkers don't treat me as if I have 2 heads.

so my specific question is this - has this topic 'crossed over' beyond the google tag?

Hopefully if so, it will include a few recognizable names.