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Rel=canonical, the canonical link: what is it and how do I use it?

By Josian Phillips, 

In recent weeks we’ve talked about how you can make sure that your translated websites are optimised for search engines, including the importance of using the hreflang tag.

In fact, hreflang tags can actually be used in conjunction with something called a rel=“canonical” tag. If you want to know about this read on. If you dont want to know about this, but do want your website translated click here!

What is rel=“canonical”?

When you localise your website for different countries, search engines could see these translated versions of your website as duplicate content. Although Google doesn’t seem to have a duplicate content penalty for sites that appear to have duplicate content, your website may not rank as highly in search results if Google thinks that your content is duplicate. This is obviously the opposite of what you want when it comes to SEO.

The rel=“canonical” tag, also known as the “canonical link”, is a way to deal with duplicate content. While hreflang tags are used to show which of your translated pages should show up on searches, rel=“canonical” tags are used to show search engines the dominant version of a URL, when each version of a URL has the same content.

If you have a number of different versions of the same content across multiple URLs (many e-commerce business, for example, do), you can use rel=“canonical” to show search engines which version you want them to direct people to. You are essentially telling the search engine that each of those URLs with the same content are actually equivalent to another URL, when people are searching for you.

Used well, rel=“canonical” will improve your website’s SEO.

How to use rel=“canonical” with hreflang.

Each of your languages should have a rel=“canonical” link that points back to itself.

You shouldn’t try to use rel=“canonical” across different language or country versions of your website – in fact, Google advises against this. For example, it’s important not to use canonical links to point your translated web pages to your ‘original’ web pages.

Together, hreflang and rel=“canonical” can be used to boost your SEO. However, it’s very important that you implement them correctly, as the incorrect implementation of these two kinds of tags can damage all of your hard SEO work. By using them together incorrectly, you could end up messing up your hreflang tags.

Successfully localising your website for international customers is about much more than just translation. In order for your customers, new and old, to be able to find you, you must do all that you can to boost your ranking in worldwide search engines.

Want to know more about the importance of rel=“canonical” when localising your website? Or do you just want your website translated without having to worry about a thing?

Brightlines Translation are experts in all things translation and provide global translation services for international businesses. We’d love you to get in touch so please call 01225 580770 or contact us here for more information or a quote. We are happy to help, and advice is always free.

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