I'm curious if anyone has had any experience with this.
Here is the situation: I have user profile pages that are linked to from many different category pages across the site. Originally I only linked to these profile pages from a single user sitemap, and nofollowed links from the category pages (because of parameters). I decided that I could now use the handy rel=canon tag to consolidate link juice, insure no dup urls were indexed and hopefully improve ranking to these pages and all would be right with the world.
Not quite. So far I'm seeing a significant decline in organic referrals. Seems like the situation is the exact opposite of what was intended (and if I may, outlined by Matt Cutts in his explanation of rel=canon).
A couple factors that might be at play:
The content potentially changes with the parameters. This might have shaken up the relevancy of the pages, but again, this is what rel=canon is intended to address.
Over-optimization - The profiles went from have 1 link to potentially hundreds. Could they have gotten hammered with some form of over-optimization penalty? This seems ridiculous, I mean, its my site and I'll link if I want to. If you aren't going to give me better ranking for increased internal links, then fine, but why would you decrease the ranking?
All in all I'm very disspointed that all the talk of using rel=canon to consolidate link equity didn't turn out to be true, and utilizing the canonical link element ended up hurting ranking. If it doesn't pick up I'll have to return to the decidedly sub-optimal implementation.
It begs the question, do internal links even matter anymore?