If web pages could just understand what you would want them to do and search engines would just understand what you mean. Paradise huh! Well, if wishes were horses – let me be the optimist that i am and give you the good news. There is a way you can help search engines index your content among duplicate content in the web. Using the rel=canonical tag in your header indicates to search engines your preferred web page version to index among duplicate pages on the web. Use of this tag incorrectly can often present errors or may not achieve the desired effect. Here are 5 common mistakes you can easily make when using canonical tag.
1. rel=canonical to the first page of a paginated series
Imagine a motor shop that is about to release a new model of a car which comes in three colors. This has to be put up on the site, it is common to find the use of the rel=canonical tag in the pages that are showing the model of the car in the three different colors. This is the wrong use of the canonical tag, because these are not duplicate pages and cause pages 2 and beyond not being indexed.
In a case like this it is advised to use rel=”prev” and rel=”next”.
2. Absolute URLs mistakenly written as relative URLs
Check and see that your URL paths are written as absolute paths which means it includes the http:// or as relative URLs “images/redmodel.png”. Now it is common to find the “http://” missing from the URL making it relative which may not be what you are going for. Algorithm may not read well into that and may skip reading the rel=canonical tag.
3. Unintended or multiple declarations of rel=canonical
We understand that sometimes the need to use a template can be ideal but when in use make sure you change the authors’ rel=canonical tag. It is common to miss it and add a rel=canonical tag of your own. When you have multiple rel=canonical tags Google will likely ignore all hints.
4. Category or landing page specifies rel=canonical to a featured article
You should avoid using the rel=canonical from a category or landing page to a featured article. In any case you would want both category page and featured article to be found by users, it is advisable to have a self referential rel=canonical tag on the category page.
5. rel=canonical in the <body>
The rel=canonical tag should appear in the <head> of a HTML document, having it in the <body> and it will not be regarded. Try and have the rel=canonical tag early in the <head>.