Canonicalization is the practice of arranging your content so that each page of your site sits on a unique URL and is not duplicated anywhere.
A website is often set up so that pages can be accessed for users typing in www.domain.co.uk and just domain.co.uk. If your site is not set up like this, I strongly recommend you fix this because people will try to access it both ways.
Canonical issues occur when the 2 versions act separately – the site loads on both versions with no redirects. While users appreciate that the 2 are the same website and should be treated as such, the search engines see them as 2 separate entities and so you get duplicate content issues.
How do you fix this?
There are a few ways around it but the best is to implement a Canonical tag.
<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.domain.com” />
The tag sits inside the <head> section on the duplicate content URL’s and it directs the search engines to the right one (the URL you put in there). PageRank etc is also transferred to the directed URL.
Alternatively, you can set up a 301 redirect from one version to the other and set your preferred domain in Google Webmaster Tools. You can see this on our site – try typing in addpeople.co.uk and you will see it redirect to www.addpeople.co.uk.
The search engines do not mind if you go for the w’s or not – they just want you to decide on one or the other.
Canonicalization issues are also not limited to www. vs non www. If any of your pages can be accessed under 2 different URL’s, you need to sort it out.
Fixing canonicalization is vital for anyone looking to get their site working well on the natural listings. If you are still unsure, give us a call or drop us an email and we will be happy to help you out.