When To Use Canonical Tags vs 301 & 302 Redirects

When creating and organizing content on your website, you should avoid search engine penalties. A variety of black hat SEO tactics (or tactics that are disapproved by Google) involve thin or duplicate content. For this reason, Google and Bing search for duplicate content on websites. If your website contains content from other sites, or multiple pages are identical, you will likely get a content penalty strike. But there cases where a website needs duplicate content. In these cases, special tags can prevent content penalties. These include no index & no-follow tags, redirections, and canonical tags.

What Is A Canonical Tag?

A canonical tag is a bit of code in the head section of a webpage. It tells search engines that if multiple pages have similar content, the search engine should prioritize only one of them. Consider an eCommerce website that has multiple pages for similar products. If the content on these pages is more or less the same save for a few details, you will want to place canonical tags on one page to make that page your main page. Canonical tags are ideal for pages that you want users to find on search engines, but that you don’t want to get penalized for having similar content. However, this plan is not full proof. If one of the copy pages is linked to frequently on your website, Google may disregard the canonical tag.

When To Use A No Index No Follow Tag?

When you tell Google not to index a page or follow the links on that page, you essentially tell Google to ignore the page entirely. This means this page will not show up on Google search engine results pages. This is ideal for thin or duplicate content that serves a purpose for users. For instance, if you have a thank you page that users are directed to after messaging you, you will want to use a no-index tag. Or if there is content you don’t want people on search engines like a specials page that users should only be able to get to via email newsletters or social media posts, you should no index it. Not only can no indexing prevent content strikes, but it is also valuable for content organizing. No content featured on a page that has been no indexed can hurt or help your overall ranking. So, it is important to no-index pages you would like to help your ranking.

301 & 302 Redirects

Another option for duplicate content is to simply redirect it. If multiple pages are exact copies due to a bad website migration, you should create redirects. A 301 redirect is a permanent pathway that makes all traffic heading to one link go to another. If you decide to delete old pages, or you made copies of pages for any reason, you should redirect them to the current version. Just because a page can’t be found by a user, does not mean Google can’t find it in a sitemap. In fact, content that is inaccessible to users but accessible to Google is even more dangerous. Not only is this content likely duplicate or thin, but it also violates Google’s policy on orphan content. Google wants all of the content it ranks on its search engine to be relevant, unique, and meaningful to users. If you ever intend to get rid of an old page set up a redirect. Alternatively, a 302 redirect acts as a temporary change. This can be effective while you are editing content, or if you have seasonal pages or specials that come and go. A 301 redirect is not ideal for a temporary solution, because Google may stop crawling the old URL. If the content is republished it might not be reflected in search results.

Follow SEO Best Practices With Help From New England’s Largest Independent Digital Agency

Boston Web Marketing helps hundreds of small businesses and large companies manage their digital presence. Many business owners are not aware of how the changes they make to their website potentially damage their online reputation. Our representatives can help ensure that duplicate and thin content is properly taken care of. For more information and for a free SEO audit, please contact our team.

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