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Google SEO Myths Regarding Canonicalization

There are many common myths regarding canonicalization, however, Google dispels them all. Some myths include the question of whether canonicalization is a directive or a single, user preference versus site preference and if it can be used as a redirect.

These are all myths that were busted on an episode of SEO Mythbusting. These questions were answered by Google’s Martin Splitt and Builtvisible’s Rachel Costello.

In this article, I will be giving you a recap of what was asked and the answers that were given, just in case you missed it, and who knows, maybe there’s something beneficial for you in here.

Myths Regarding Canonicalization Busted

Canonicalization Is Not Considered As A Topical Grouping

When you’re Canonicalizating pages, it doesn’t mean that you’re grouping pages on a similar topic together. The content on your pages should be either near-identical or identical. 

The Most Common Myths

One of the top myths regarding Canonicalization is that it can be used as a redirect and that it’s a directive. Neither one of these myths are true in any way and it was explained in full in the video on SEO Mythbusting. 

Is Canonicalization Considered A Google Search Signal Or A Directive?

A directive is automatically followed by search engines as direct instruction, however, canonicalization is not a directive at all, but rather a signal. This is a hint that’s given to search engines that may be used, or not at all. 

It won’t work if you put a canonical tag on pages that are not the same nor will it work to put one on pages that are exactly the same. Canonicalization is a signal, helping us identify what exactly we want to canonicalize, but it’s not a ‘must’ to use this.

Can Canonicalization Be Used As A Redirect?

Canonicalization is sometimes used by site owners as redirects, however, that is not what canonical tags are designed for and shouldn’t be used as such. Canonicalization is not a redirect.

The use of canonical tags is only meant to be used when content that’s identical is used/ cross-posted on the web in multiple places. By this tag, a signal is being sent to Google to indicate which page is the preferred one to be shown in search results.

When It Comes To Duplication and Deduplication, What Are The Actual Factors?

Google uses fingerprinting and a scoring system, instead of canonical tags when it comes to duplicate content results in search. Much human interaction goes into duplication and deduplication. 

When it comes to this, there are many technical factors that go into consideration, like for instance, what the information is, how it relates to the structure of the site, and what it says in the sitemap.

Based on the technical factors that Google looks at for deduplication, it created a scoring system, and seeing that content constantly changes,  the score is reevaluated regularly.

User Preference vs Site Preference For The Canonical URL

When Google sees a site’s canonical page that it prefers, but the user would prefer another one, Google will override it with the better-preferred page for users. When you have identical content that is in different languages, this tends to happen frequently.

For instance, if you have a canonical tag that’s pointing towards an English version of a page, but the user doing the search is in Germany, Google will then instead show the German version of that page. 

For instance, if you have a canonical tag that’s pointing towards an English version of a page, but the user doing the search is in Germany, Google will then instead show the German version of that page.

A canonical page might still be accepted by Google if it has some content that’s unique which the other page doesn’t have, however, if it has too much content that’s unique and Google is unable to recognize it as a duplicate, then, of course, the canonical tag is rendered of no use.