Canonical Vs 301 Redirects in SEO

SEO is the practice of boosting your organic search ranking. Whether you have a small personal blog or a large e-commerce store, you should take care of your SEO basics, such as migrating old URLs and redirecting pages that are no longer live. In this blog, I will discuss the differences between Canonical Vs 301 Redirects. Let’s start with the fundamentals by defining a 301 redirect and a canonical tag.

Why Canonical Vs 301 Redirects are Important in SEO?

If search engine crawlers find too much duplicate content, they will often penalize you by not allowing you to rank well, or worse, in some cases. When there is a lot of duplication, your ranking ability suffers greatly.

If your content does rank, the search engine may select the incorrect page as the original and display a page you don’t want people to see, such as old content. You never want to see duplicate content on your website, and search engines despise it.

What Exactly is a 301 Redirect?

When the URL you requested has been removed, a 301 redirection is the technical process of redirecting the website visitor to a live URL. A 301 redirect redirects all links and ranking power to the now live URL.

The primary goal is to provide the best possible user experience to website visitors. Furthermore, you will not lose any backlinks created for the removed page.

Let’s get into the technical details now. A 301 redirection is a hypertext transfer protocol response code that informs search engines about the status of a URL.

For example, if you did a website audit and discovered that one of your website URLs is https://www.url.com/a/1234.html, you might want to change it to an SEO-friendly URL like https://www.url.com/new.html. You can accomplish this by using 301 redirects to redirect visitors from that page to an SEO-friendly webpage.

There are various types of redirection. Here are a few examples:

  • Redirect an existing page to a new page
  • Redirect the entire domain from non-www to www, as well as from HTTP to HTTPS.
  • Change the entire domain name from non-www to www.
  • Redirect an existing domain to a new domain.
  • Change the entire domain’s URL from HTTP to HTTPS.

The 301 redirection keeps your website architecture in order by preventing visitors from landing on broken or irrelevant pages. It assists us in making our website SEO friendly and improving its overall health.

What Exactly is a Canonical Tag?

A ‘Canonical Tag,‘ also known as the rel=canonical attribute in HTML, is a way for search engines to determine which version of a page to display in search results. This helps with duplicate content issues and allows you to tell search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo which version of your page to use in their SERPs.

Canonical tags are an important part of code for on-page SEO. A canonical tag is a standard tag used by web developers when there is duplicate content in the form of different URLs.

The canonical tag informs search engines about which version of the content is the most important and should appear in search results. According to the image above, the page on which this tag appears should be treated as a duplicate of the specific URL.

Assume you have a product website, for example. You have two product pages, each with the same content because the product has the same specifications. The distinction is that they are located in different sections of the website. The canonical tag informs search engines about which version of the content is the most important and should appear in search results.

Your site may have multiple URLs pointing to the same page or duplicate or nearly identical pages at multiple URLs for a variety of reasons. Supporting multiple device types, enabling dynamic URLs for things like search parameters or session IDs, if your blog system saves multiple URLs as you place the same blog under multiple sections, and so on are all possibilities.

Where to Use Canonicalized URLs?

A canonical tag is found in the website’s head> section.

In the head> section of your HTML page, you can include a canonical tag. You should also keep in mind that canonical tags contained within a webpage’s body> tag are ignored.

Here’s an example of a simple canonical tag:

href=”https://example.com” link

HTML rel=”canonical”>

Some webmasters use the canonical attribute within meta tags or other tags, which is not a best practice. As a result, the above format is appropriate.

Canonical Vs 301 Redirects

The 301 Redirect informs the search engine that the specific page has been permanently relocated. When the search engine receives this signal, it removes the page from the Index. It also transfers the accumulated SEO credit to the newly shifted page.

When you want to rewrite a page’s canonical URL, you can use 301 redirects. If you decide to change the title of your article, for example, 301 redirects will allow you to specify not only which pages should be redirected but also where they should point. When you have canonical URLs that are dependent on the content of a page, you can use 301 redirects.

If you use the 301 redirects, there are a few issues to consider. To implement a 301 redirect, you must have server access, typically via FTP. It is also possible that search engines will take longer to assign link authority to the new webpage.

A redirect isn’t intended to direct all web pages to a single page on the new website, such as the Home Page. The most benefit will be gained by creating a new, relevant page.

The canonical attribute, on the other hand, informs the search engine that a specific document has multiple versions of the page. That URL alone will be considered the genuine one, as specified in the canonical attribute.

A canonical tag informs search engines that there are multiple versions of a web page but only one version is displayed.

Google knows which page to show in its search results when it sees the canonical tag. A 301 redirect is similar, but it redirects all traffic from the old page to the new one.

If you use the canonical tag, you should be aware of a few issues. Duplicate pages may still appear in search results if you use a canonical tag. The rel=:canonical” tag is a suggestion, not a requirement, and search engines may disregard it.

Misapplication of the tag on pages with a low percentage of similar or copied content. Incorrect tag implementation may be an issue when using the canonical tag.

When Should You Use a Redirect?

Simply put, if you have two pages with similar content and want to remove one of them for business reasons, you can use a redirect.

Here are some examples of when you might want to use redirects.

  • Items that you no longer sell.
  • You do not want to update outdated pages.
  • A page that has been redirected to a new URL.
  • Pages have been removed from your website.
  • When you purchased an expired domain transfer its domain authority to your website.

However, you should not use a 301 redirect for temporary purposes because CDNs and certain browsers can cache it, making reversing it difficult. Also, keep in mind that using a redirect may affect search engine crawling frequency. It is not a problem if you intend to move it to a new URL; however, reversing it will cause issues.

When Should You Use a Canonical?

Canonical tags have numerous applications.

Canonical tags are extremely important in SEO. However, keep in mind that they are only useful when there is a poor URL structure, and canonical tags are only band-aids, not permanent solutions.

When you can’t prevent search engines from crawling a specific URL and it’s very similar to another URL on your website, your only option is to use a canonical tag.

A Canonical Tag or 301 Redirects will be useful in the following situations:

A) The content is very similar or identical.
If the content on both pages is nearly identical or an exact copy, use the rel=canonical tag on both.

B) Searcher intent serves the same or nearly the same function.
Google prefers ranking one page with many ranking signals and keywords related to it over spreading yourself thin across many pages with few signals. On pages with very similar search intent, use the canonical tag.

C) When updating, refreshing, or republishing outdated content.
If we ever update this blog post, we’ll make a new post and add a canonical tag to this page so the search engine knows which page we want to appear on the search engine results page.

D) If a product, event, or other item is no longer available, but there is a similar match on another page.
Do not let a temporary page die! Use a 301 redirect if there is another page that would fulfill a search as well as the original expiring page.

What if You have products with Similar Descriptions and Content?

Many SEO experts advise using canonical tags for similar products. In reality, certain products may be recognized by their iconic color. In this case, you might want to create a separate page for the product with that color.

For the time being, canonical tags are mostly used as a temporary fix for URL structure. Simply put, if the content on one of your pages is similar to the content on another page and you do not want both pages to appear on SERP.

Final Thoughts

I hope this blog helped you understand the distinction between 301 redirects and canonical tags. You can now easily determine which one is best for you.

Web crawlers prefer redirects because they tell them where to go. Canonical tags are preferable for users who navigate the page using browsers. Canonical tags inform crawlers about which version of the page is preferred. That is how both of these tools work and what distinguishes them.

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