A canonical URL issue is a very common error that websites have which usually results in the underperformance of a website. If corrected, it can give you a huge competitive advantage over your competitors.

What exactly are canonical URL’s?

Canonical URL’s are basically different URL’s which point to the exact same page on a website. Normally, these URL’s occur due to an innocent mistake by the developers / designers who created your site. If a Marketing / SEO company created / optimized your site, they can fix this for you. If a designer built your site, its possible he does not know, and if you put us in contact with him, we can help him avoid this issue again. Matt Cutt’s, Google’s search quality expert writes about this issue here: http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/seo-advice-url-canonicalization/.

Common examples of Canonical URL’s and how it affects your rankings:

Your website is www.greenwidgets.com. When you click on the logo or on the home button (or home text) you are redirected to a page with URL www.greenwidgets.com/index.html or www.greenwidgets.com/index.php . This is the most common case of a canonical url.As you can see both URL’s, www.greenwidgets.com and www.greenwidgets.com/index.html contain exactly the same content but Google will consider them to be 2 different pages. This can result in the distribution of authority of your page into 2 pages which is in fact a single page.This can also lead to a duplicate content issue as Google will think that both of these different pages contain duplicate content.
When you are able to open your website by typing both www.yoursitename.com and sitename.com and both open exactly the way they are typed in your browser. Google may index all the url’s with and without the www. Its recommended to redirect one to the other (see code at the end of the article for a how to).
When you have a printer friendly version of each article / content on your website:

When the category structure of your site automatically generates different versions of the same page.

How to correct this issue:

Canonical URL issues can be corrected by doing a 301 permanent redirect from different variations of your page to the variation you like the most. For example, in the case where you have canonical url’s www.greenwidget.com and www.greenwidget.com/index.html, you can 301 redirect www.greenwidget.com/index.html to www.greenwidget.com.

How do I do a permanent 301 redirect?

I recommend professionals handle these issues but for those who like to DIY (do it yourself), here are the details:

I’ll explain the methods of doing 301 redirects for the case where your website has both www and non www versions.

We can do a 301 redirect by writing a piece of code in the .htaccess file on the server (its located in the root folder on the server). If the file does not exist, you can create one and upload it into the root folder of your server.

The code mentioned below will redirect the non www version to the www version of your site:

Options + FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
rewritecond %{http_host} ^sitename.com [nc]
rewriterule ^(.*)$ http://www.sitename.com/$1 [r=301,nc]

Feel free to contact us in case you have any questions and we will be happy to help you. You can also fill out our contact form and we will be happy to outline a detailed SEO proposal where we will point out all the technical issues your site has and propose a plan for you to reach the top of Google for your target keywords.