Canonicalization is often misunderstood by website owners who are frustrated with different versions, or unintended duplicated pages, appearing in search engine results pages (SERPs). The concept behind canonicalization is that, when duplicate pages are created, there is one preferred version indicated, called the canonical version. If no canonical version is indicated, the search engines may choose one or more versions to show in their SERPs. Canonicalization problems are common and every website owner should make sure to check on the status of their website. We featured canonicalization as one of our Top 5 Most Common SEO Mistakes in our August 2011 Newsletter.
The most common concern with canonicalization is www versus non-www of a domain in a URL. In this situation http://www.companyname.com and http://companyname.com are seen as separate pages. If each page serves a 200 OK, search engine spiders can come across each version and see them as stand alone pages, not the same page, and possibly consider one of them duplicate content. To keep this from happening, we suggest that you select which version of your domain you would like to be the canonical version and set the other version to redirect. Let’s assume that we want http://www.companyname.com to be the canonical version. Placing redirects from every non www page to the www page would be needed to indicate to the search engines that www pages are considered the canonical version. We also advise against any duplication of your website whether on the same domain or on other domains that you may own.
In the next blog in this series, we will cover the canonical tag.
What goes on behind Google’s gates? Many a person in the search engine optimization field has dreamed of getting an inside look, much like Charlie did of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, and that is what the inner workings of Google are like to an SEO — fascinating and often awe-inspiring. There are a few videos available that give a visual behind the scenes look at how the great minds at Google convene together and the process through which they tweak the algorithm.
The following are three videos that will make you feel like you have a front row “golden ticket.”
1. Search Quality Meeting: Spelling for Long Queries
This is an eight minute look at the Google team discussing whether to launch an algorithm change that relates to spelling for long queries. The annotations are insightful and sometimes humorous, but seeing the sparkle in the eyes of those there paired with the quick-witted dialogue is well worth your time.
2. How Google makes improvements to its search algorithm
This four minute long video is a must for every SEO. It gives a high level explanation of how Google implements hundreds of adjustments to the search algorithm every year. It is also a quick look at some of the Google greats who are behind changes in search.
3. 8.3.11 Inside Google’s Search Office: Matt Cutts, Ben Gomes, and Amit Singhal
Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineLand.com, interviewing Matt Cutts, head of the webspam team at Google, Ben Gomes, Engineer at Google, and Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow and software engineer at Google, in the first of its kind Google interview at the Churchill Club.
In addition to these videos, make sure you are keeping up-to-date with Google’s Inside Search blog which posts a number of different kinds of updates including a monthly blog post highlighting search changes.
The last three search update blog posts were:
February 2012: Search quality highlights: 40 changes for February
January 2012: 17 search quality highlights: January
December 2012: 30 search quality highlights (with codenames!): December
Making sure to understand the basics of how Google evolves the search algorithm over time, how potential changes are tested before launch, and where to find which changes have made the cut is important for webmasters, marketers, agencies, and business owners. A seemingly small tweak at Google can increase or decrease your site’s organic traffic. Feel free to contact MoreVisibility if you have any questions about organic search.