Mastering Canonical Tags: How to Solve Duplicate Content Issues

Last Updated: 27 Jan, 2023

Are you struggling with duplicate content issues on your website? You’re not alone! Many website owners and marketers face this problem, but the good news is that there’s a super simple solution: the canonical tag

This article will walk you through everything you need to know about the canonical tag, including what it is, when to use it, and how it can benefit your SEO. Whether you are looking for a solution to duplicate content issues or are new to the world of SEO and looking to brush up on your skills, this guide is for you.

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What is a Canonical URL?

To explain the concept of the canonical tag, you have to understand what a canonical URL is. When there are duplicate versions of a page on multiple URLs, the search engine will consider the canonical URL as the “original” or “preferred” version.  

In the search engine result page, Google never displays all duplicate URLs, and in most cases, only the original version will appear. Therefore, ensuring Google indexes the correct canonical URL is critical to get your target audience to land on your preferred pages. And it is the purpose of using a canonical tag on websites. 

What is a Canonical Tag?

A canonical tag, also known as a rel=canonical link, is a piece of code you can add to a page’s HTML to indicate another page should be considered the “original” version, i.e., the canonical URL. 

A canonical tag looks like this: 

<link rel="canonical" href="" />

In this example, the canonical tag tells search engines that the preferred version of the page is instead of the page where the tag is placed. This is important because it helps search engines understand which version of a page to index and show in search results.

When Should You Use a Canonical Tag?

The primary use case for a canonical tag is when you have multiple pages on your website with similar or identical content, which is regarded by Google as duplicate content. 

Duplicate content can be a disastrous issue for SEO because it can confuse search engines and make it difficult for them to understand which version of a page they should index and show in search results. This can lead to lower rankings and less visibility for your website. 

Using canonical tag help website owner and marketer manage duplicate content effectively. Let’s say you have an eCommerce website selling fashion products. Your website has different URLs on the same product when the user selects different sizes, colors, and shipping options, but most content on the pages is identical. In this case, Google may regard your website as having duplicate content over the same product. Using rel=canonical links, you can specify the canonical URL for Google to index and show it in the search results. 

Also, many websites and blogs repost or syndicate content from other websites. This can lead to duplicate content issues if the original source and the reposted content are indexed by search engines. To avoid these issues, the reposted content should use a rel=canonical link that points to the original source. 

canonical link Mastering Canonical Tags: How to Solve Duplicate Content Issues
On, users can repost their content and set a customized canonical URL to indicate the original source.

How to Add a Canonical Tag Using HTML Code

Adding a canonical tag to a webpage using HTML code is a simple process. You’ll need to add a link element in the head section of your webpage that includes the rel=”canonical” attribute and the URL of the preferred version of the page. Here’s an example of what the code would look like:

<link rel="canonical" href="">

This code tells search engines that the preferred version of the page is located at "".

How to Add a Canonical Tag Using WordPress

If you’re using WordPress as your content management system, there are several ways to add a canonical tag to your pages and posts.

  1. Plugins: WordPress plugins such as Yoast SEO and Rank Math make adding canonical tags to your pages and posts easy without manually editing any codes.
  2. Theme: Some WordPress themes also come with built-in canonical tag functionality. Check your theme’s documentation to see if this is an option.
  3. Manually: You can also add a canonical tag manually by editing your theme’s header.php file and adding the link element with the rel="canonical" attribute and the URL in the <head> section. However, this method is not recommended for beginners as it can cause problems incorrectly.
canonical link wordpress 2 Mastering Canonical Tags: How to Solve Duplicate Content Issues
Yoast SEO allows WordPress users to set a canonical URL by just pasting the link.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Dealing with Duplicate Content Issues

Not Using a Canonical Tag at All

One of the most common mistakes people make is not using a canonical tag. Suppose you have multiple pages with similar or identical content. In that case, search engines may not know which version of a webpage is original. This can lead to duplicate content issues, where multiple versions of the same website are indexed and compete for search engine rankings, diluting your website’s authority and declining rankings for all duplicate pages. 

Additionally, not using canonical tags can also create confusion for users. If more than one version of your duplicate page appears on the search results page, the audience may not know which page is the most up-to-date. This can lead to a poor user experience and ultimately result in a loss of trust and traffic for your website.

Placing the Wrong Canonical URLs and Tags 

Another common mistake is placing the wrong canonical URLs. This can happen if you accidentally set the canonical tag in the original version of the page. Sometimes, beginners may be unclear about how to manually edit the codes and incorrectly place the canonical tags. 

Not Updating Canonicals when Moving a Website

If you decide to move your website to a new domain, updating the canonical URLs on all your pages is crucial. If you don’t, search engines will still see the old URLs as the preferred versions, which can cause confusion and negatively impact your SEO.

Additionally, it’s important to note that you should only use one canonical tag per page. If you use multiple canonical tags, search engines may not know which version of the page to consider as the preferred version. 

In any case, remember to test your website after adding the canonical tag to ensure that it’s working correctly. You can use a tool like the Google Search Console to check for any errors or issues with your canonical tags. 

search console canonical tags 1 Mastering Canonical Tags: How to Solve Duplicate Content Issues
You can check whether an URL is regarded as a canonical link by inspecting it on Google Search Console. 

Can you Use 301 Redirects Instead? 

Another solution to prevent duplicate content is to use 301 redirects. A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect telling search engines that a webpage has been moved to a new URL. This can be used to redirect users from the duplicate versions of a page to the preferred or original version.

While 301 redirects can effectively prevent duplicate content, it’s important to consider the user experience. Using 301 redirects to solve duplicate content means the user will never have a chance to visit the non-canonical pages. If you still want the duplicate content to be visible to users, it is better to use canonical tags instead.


By mastering the canonical tag, you’ll be able to improve your website’s SEO and avoid duplicate content issues. Remember, it’s crucial to use a canonical tag when you have multiple pages on your website with similar or identical content. With the right approach and some know-how, you’ll be able to take your SEO to the next level.

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