We recently had a big drop of traffic to our search pages (December 29) and have yet to recover. We are considering using the canonical tag to help solve what we believe is an internal duplication problem.
Here is the scenario:
1) We moved to a much bigger server in November, which resulted in Google indexing tens of thousands of "refine" style search pages.
So, for example, we have a primary search page which previously ranked well:
However, we also have links which basically refine the search by category, such as:
Although the 2 pages are not "identically" duplicate (they pull out refined results on the same keyword but have different on-page text and meta data), would it be wise to use the canonical tag to point Googlebot to the main search page (Google has indexed tens of thousands of these similar pages and we are wondering whether this has contributed to the drop in rankings)
2) Just to add more complications, we have a 2nd search link:
which links from /search1/ page and the structure of this page works in a similar way regarding refine URLs off it.
On our previous server, we think because of the relatively low crawl bandwidth available to Googlebot, they weren't indexing so many of these refine type pages, and therefore we avoided internal duplication?
Will the canonical help in these cases? And do you think this has been the major cause in dropped rankings?
Any help is appreciated.