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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.
Is rel="canonical" a hint or a directive?
It's a hint that we honor strongly.
So what kind of "slight difference" allows a deep internal page to be canonicalized to the home page - with totally different content? Or to a page on com.com? Google is supposed to IGNORE the tag - treating it as a "strong hint" but only if the content has only slight differences, right?
I've used the canonical link tag with no apparent problems, and in some cases it put an easy band-aid on a nasty infrastructure knot. But now I'm reading some SEO blogs that warn against serving the canonical link on the "original" URL. How could that be a problem? For smaller websites without many infrastructure assets to work with, surely it's an easy way to say "don't let any backlinks mess with this URL by adding query strings, playing around with case, double slashes, etc, etc.)
Are these articles "crying wolf" when canonical link problems rare and most everyone is having smooth sailing? Or are lots of people really getting into trouble with their canonical links?
[edited by: tedster at 1:19 am (utc) on Aug 20, 2010]
[edit reason] fix typo [/edit]
Is it worth putting a canonical tag on every page in case there are alternative paths to a page that you had not considered?
301 redirects are also webmaster input...
"But now I'm reading some SEO blogs that warn against serving the canonical link on the "original" URL. How could that be a problem?"
@tedster My mistake was using a relative canonical tag and missing the /
So google used the canonical to point at non existent pages (web master tools reported loads of 404 errors)
webmaster input that in the absence of cloaking equally affects the human visitor and SE crawler.
the canonical tag, however is meta information that for practical purposes is intended only for search engines.