Canonical links | Love at First Search

“I wrote a guest post! Can I republish it on my blog?”

“I wrote a blog post, should I copy-paste it onto Medium?”

“If I add this product to every category, will it show up 10 times in Google?”

The short, blunt answer to all these questions: Nope, nope and nope.

The longer answer: Be careful with publishing things in multiple places! If you want to benefit from multiple locations for the same content, you need canonical links.

Don’t worry: it has nothing to do with becoming a saint (that’s canonization) or eating other humans (that’s cannibalism) or revolutionary war equipment (those are canons). They’re easier than they sound, and very powerful.

What is a canonical link?

Canonical links are a way to have the same content with multiple URLs — or even multiple sites! — without harming your SEO rankings.

Basically, it’s your way of telling Google’s robots: “This is the URL that I want you to use for this page/post/product. Send the traffic there.”

Limiting multiple content URLs on your site

Ok cool, so how’s this work?

Let’s say you have a product on your site with two URLs:

It’s the same product in both places, but you don’t want Google to see it as two different URLs and split your traffic between them.

So pick one. it doesn’t really matter which you choose. If they’ve got search traffic coming in, I choose the one with more traffic/keywords, otherwise I go with the one that matches the same structure throughout the site.

So if we chose #1, we would add this link to the header of #2:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://yoursite.com/shop/product” />

This sort of functions like a 301 redirect, without actually moving the traffic. Links to both now count as one.

And if you’re singing the Spice Girls “2 Become 1” now … you’re welcome:

Re-publishing content across multiple websites

If you wrote a really fantastic guest post on someone else’s site, and you want your readers to be able to enjoy it without needing to link them away from your domain: a canonical link is your new best friend.

This was the case for Kait Scalisi, a sex coach who writes a column for Blood + Milk. She wanted to uphold her guest posting commitment AND re-share her posts on her site for easy browsing.

If you Zoom in on Kait’s site, below the feature image she includes this disclaimer:

And here’s what that looks like when I right-click and choose “Inspect”:

Where do I PUT the canonical link?

You have two options:

  1. You can include it in the header as a disclaimer like Kait’s, using starting the link with <a so that it’s clickable
  2. Include in the header starting with <link so Google bots notice it but it’s not clickable, or
  3. You can set it up using your website tools, to let them worry about the formatting.

On WordPress Yoast’s canonical link function:

On WordPress with Rank Math: https://rankmath.com/kb/how-to-change-canonical-url/

For canonicals on Squarespace, go into Advanced and enter a rel=canonical tag in the Page Header Code Injection area: <link rel=”canonical” href=”Canonical URL here” />

On Shopify … well, I’m not totally sure! Shopify’s advice isn’t clear to me …. so instead here’s a great tutorial to prevent duplicate URLs in the first place.