A canonical link is a meta tag (an HTML code) which is used to tell Google and other search engines which is the main or original page and thus Google will determine how to properly index the content.
When to use canonical links
For example in an online armchair store What Sillonesdemasaje.shopIf we choose a model with different colors, each color or model may have a different url. In each of them, the canonical tag must be added to indicate which is the main page.
How to use canonical links
This can easily be done by installing an SEO plugin like Yoast SEO (in my SEO course, you have a lesson in Yoast SEO) that next to Woocommerce it is automatically configured so that you do not have to do anything.
You can view the source code and search the code to verify it.
In fact, in the latest versions, a different URL is no longer generated for colors or patterns, so for example, images are changed dynamically when selecting patterns without affecting the URL.
An example code would be this which is added inside the lead:
Canonical links can also be used if a website is dedicated to copy content from other websites.
Canonical link curiosity
In October 2020, Google notified some errors when it came to detecting canonical links, which implied drops in Google results.
Latest update: The canonical issue was effectively resolved last Wednesday, with around 99% of URLs restored. We expect the remaining marginal cases to be restored in a week or two.
– Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) October 19, 2020
301 or canonical redirect?
The 301 redirect (final) can be applied when you detect duplicate content that Google has difficulty identifying.
What you usually detect with Google Search Console because at times one URL is indexed and at others the other is indexed, creating a dance in Google results.
Therefore, if you can apply a 301 redirect in these cases, that is what should be done to keep things clear to Google.
You can also better define titles and create more specific content.
On the other hand yes you cannot access part of the code or install plugins (which can happen in some companies), you can add the canonical code for Google to identify it, although this is not the most optimal solution.
In any case, for the previous example of different colors for the same sofa model a 301 redirect should never be applied because the user has never been able to access these options.
What types of links are there and which one should I apply?
To answer this question, see this article on types of links in SEO.
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