canonical problem

SEO Tips: On-Page Optimisation | Part 2

So, in part 1 we looked at some highly important areas: The kind of  basics that need sorting from the beginning of the project. Things like avoiding Flash, having a good structure, naming title tags.

In this part, we are going to carry on looking at some important basics but also detail a more complex method (that is not applicable to all sites) but vital for others. This is canonicalization and will be covered later.

 

Making Content Keyword Rich

It sounds obvious doesn’t it? But a lot of people could just  shove the keyword into the copy quite a bit thinking this will help. No, it won’t! After all, you have to avoid keyword stuffing as:

  • It gives a bad user experience and does not read well.
  • The search engines do not like it.

Two very good reasons why a more measured and user friendly approach is required: getting the keywords in there without giving a terrible user experience.

Here are the Best Practice Guidelines

  • As mentioned in part 1, make sure that the keyword is used in the meta description tag. This tag does is not a ranking signal but it does help searchers to understand your page enough to prompt a click. See here for more about the meta description tag.
  • Have the keyword included 4-5 times throughout the body copy and this will help to avoid keyword stuffing.
  • The keyword should be in the URL. This means that the web page itself should be named accordingly. Have a page dedicated to “Bike Helmets” and provide some quality content on them. www.example.com/bike-helmet
  • In the H1 (Header tag) near the top of the page. Example: “Find the best Bike Helmets to fit your needs”.
  • Use the keyword in the Title tag at least once but don’t overdo it.

Canonicalization and Duplicate Content

Duplicate content occurs when there are identical versions of content being displayed on more than one page. Search engines have worked hard on penalising such content over the years and it can seriously effect rankings. This can be a troublesome area for a lot of websites, particularly Content Management Systems that create web pages “on the fly” such as an Ecommerce website with lots of produce pages.

The situation is known as canonicalization and can cause serious problems as search engines do not know which content should be shown to users. A little bit like this:

 

canonical problem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The search engines priority is to provide the best user experience as possible. If duplicate content exists, the search engines are forced to choose between them. This can mean that all of the pages will rank worse than usual.

Ok, thanks for that but what is the solution?

To make sure that the search engines see one version of a page rather than multiple, a 301 redirect should be implemented on the duplicates. A 301 redirect is a response code that would be implemented by your developer. It basically tells the search engines “this is now located on…” and the search engines appreciate such redirection. For information on all response codes, check out this post from SEOMoz.

There is also the Canonical Tag

The “Canonical URL Tag” is a specific tag that can achieve the same effect as the method above, and perhaps save your web developer some trouble. Research has also shown that it can work faster than the 301 redirect method.

It looks like this:-

<link rel=”canonical” href=”//www.example.com

This tells the search engine that the page (that the code is on) should be treated equally as example.com and that the benefits should flow to that URL: example.com

That’s it for part 2. We have recapped on the basics whilst giving a good introduction of the tricky duplicate content problem.

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