What is a Canonical Tag?
Canonical Tags are HTML Elements used in the <head> section of HTML pages to specify the “preferred” or “Canonical” version of the page for search engine spiders/crawlers. The big three search engines (Google, Yahoo and Bing) announced in February, 2009 that they will support Canonical tags. Since then many webmasters started using it as a Search engine optimization element. Here is an example of a canonical tag:<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/” />
What is a 301 Redirect?
301 Redirects are normally used by webmasters to move a URL permanently to a new location. Basically, a 301 is an HTML Header response code, if search engine spiders get this response code from your HTML page header, Search engines will understand that the page has been moved to a new location permanently, it also lets human visitors redirect automatically to the new URL.
When to Use a Canonical Tag or 301 Redirects
Although 301 redirects are used to move a page permanently to a difference location, webmasters also use 301 redirects to remove duplicate content. So which method should one use to remove duplicate content – a301 redirect or Canonical tag?
Well, a canonical tag and 301 redirects behave similarly from an SEO standpoint, even though they serve different purposes. 301 redirects take a human visitor to one page from other on the same topic and inform search engine spiders that this page was moved permanently to the new page. The canonical tags are used to tell the search engine spiders which page to index for a search result,while human visits are not affected. Therefore a 301 redirect is better because it acts the same for human visitors and search engine spiders.
Again, 301 redirects are used to permanently consolidate two pages and remove the duplicate page.A canonical tag keeps both pages for visitors and informs search engines to only consider one page for indexing. Here canonical tags can provide a better user experience, and give webmasters options for order, filter etc. pages that show the same content with different URLs.
Therefore, if you do not need to keep different pages and can implement 301 redirects, use them instead of canonical tags because search engines will easily understand that the page has been permanently moved to new location and they will transfer all the authority of that particular URL to the new URL. However if the page can’t be move for any reason (including a better user experience) then we suggested that you use canonical tags. Or in other words, “use Canonical tag only if 301 redirect can’t be used to remove duplicate pages”.
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