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A Guide to Detecting and Fixing Canonical Issues in SEO

Canonical tag issue in SEO is a widespread search engine optimisation (SEO) problem for websites. Having similar content on multiple URLs can yield indexing problems, which is worse because it could dilute your link equity and harm your website’s search rankings.

 By learning how to identify and fix these duplicate content issues before they get indexed (or worse yet), not only will we avoid any negative consequences but it will also increase positive results by having high-quality links from other sites pointing back towards yours. People who already know about what is happening within their industry might be inclined to give an outdated address therefore, there will always be some form of traffic coming through organic.

Canonical Issue in SEO Overview

A canonical issue in SEO is most commonly caused when a website has multiple URLs that display identical or the same content. They can also occur because of improper redirects in place. However, they often result from syndicating and publishing articles on multiple URLs without sufficient clean-up efforts to ensure uniqueness between those appearances (i.e., search engine optimisation).

For example, a website might come up with these URLs:

urls for a website

Each of these pages is unique but because they all use different URLs, search engines understand that there is only one page. This creates an issue with duplicate content which can hurt SEO rankings.

Why Canonical Issues Cause Problems in SEO?

There are a few reasons why canonical issues can cause problems in SEO.

When a web page is discovered to be a duplicate page, Google will select one version of the content and remove all other same content versions from its search engines results. This can lead you to have an unwanted link pointing at your site if it is not what users are looking for, like searching for something else. The second problem with duplicate content is that other sites may link to different URLs when citing the information on your site. This diversifies their link equity across multiple pages and dilutes it.

The way Google chooses which URL to use when ranking a web page can have significant implications for your rankings. If there are more than ten links pointing towards one URL, it will choose that over any other linked site—even if those others have better quality or authority in their own right!

Ensuring all relevant blog posts and social media updates contain Permanent Links is recommended, so they are always available on-demand at anyone’s request means adding hyperlinks within the article content themselves. Rather than using sneaky tactics such as including anchors ( operative word here ) throughout different text parts without proper titles.

Here are the Common Causes of Canonical Issues

Different situations can cause canonical issues, but here are the most common, according to Google:

  • HTTPS vs HTTP: Your website is loading twice for every single page! This can cause issues with both domains and search engine rankings, so make sure you secure it by using an SSL certificate.
  • WWW vs non-WWW: When you don’t specify a default version of your URL, users may see different versions depending on whether or not they prefaced their request with “www.” This can lead to duplicate pages for every single page on the website as well!
  • URLs that change based on user interactions: Some sites, such as e-commerce ones, generate different URLs based on search parameters or filters. For example:

different URLs based on search

  • URLs that change based on the device used to view the page: When you have a different website for desktop and mobile users (m.[site].com vs .[Site], or if your AMP-enabled version of the site also has “www” in its URL, this can lead to issues with canonical URLs.
  • Syndicated content: If you want to ensure that your content is syndicated across as many platforms, it’s important not just for the search engines but also for humans. Canonical page issues can create confusion when someone clicks on one preferred URL and gets a different experience than what they were expecting (or looking at).

Canonical tag issues are common when you’re building a site with lots of pages and multiple URLs. However, these can all be fixed!

Ways to Identify if Your Website Has Canonical Tag Issues

If you’re experiencing canonical tag issues caused by HTTP/HTTPS or WWW/non-WWW, then it’s likely that these are the simplest of all website problems. To find out if this is an issue on your site, simply type each possible version into the Google search console and see what comes up!

different URLs based on search

Canonical issues can happen when a site has multiple versions of the same content, which could be caused by redirecting from one URL to another. To fix this problem on your end, you will need only to add either/or both normalised link anchors as well as target keywords for Google to rewrite its algorithm. It will then recognise what should appear first during searches made within various websites across all niche categories, including but not limited to finance or sports literature.

You could try going to Google and typing in site:[yoursite. com], then review all of the pages that appear for your desired website, as well as those that might surprise you with information about it or related sites

site: search in google

You can also use a tool like Screaming Frog to crawl your entire site and produce a list of all its URLs. This might be the best option if you want an accurate count, but it takes some time-consuming work!

screaming frog

Or you can use a site audit feature in popular SEO tools like Ahrefs, Moz, or SEMrush to check your website for duplicate content and errors. These programs will generate an easy-to-follow report that indicates which pages need repairs, so they rank higher on Google search results page rankings!

ahrefs site audit duplicated content report

Ways to Repair Common Canonical Issues

Canonical issues can be resolved in two main ways – by implementing 301 redirects and/or by adding a “canonical” tag on your site’s pages. The right solution depends upon what you’re trying to resolve.

Apply Sitewide 301 Redirect for Very Similar Pages

Resolves issues with HTTP/HTTPS and WWW/non-WWW.

URLs with HTTP/HTTPS and WWW/non-WWW can be fixed by implementing a sitewide 301 redirect.

Hosting a redirected URL means that you can set up an additional link on your website to send traffic. It’s the most straightforward and least risky way, but it does mean giving away some of your site’s juice for free by hosting another page with links back into it instead.

To redirect from HTTP to HTTPS, you can use the Google search bar and look for either “HTTP Redirect [host name]” or type in “www.” If your host has a help page on this subject, then they will be able to explain how it’s done. Alternatively, there might also still need assistance from customer support if needed – contact them immediately.

To make sure your website is working properly and people are able to find it, we recommend that you ask developers for help. They might also know how best to set up redirects using .htaccess (Apache) or NGINX config files, so they’ll work out nicely without any hassle on our end.

Google says that after you make this change, your traffic and rankings should recover within a short period.

The best way to keep track of your rankings is with AuthorityLabs. You can use this tool before and after you redirect so that any shifts in the ranking will be seen more easily than ever!

ranking tracker of authority labs

You might need to make a few other changes in addition to redirecting your URLs, such as updating the robots.txt file and any hard-coded linkages; therefore, it’s best if you use an HTTP – HTTPS site migration guide for safety purposes!

Provide Canonical Tags to Every Page of Your Site

You can use this tool to track down any URL issues that change based on user interactions like eCommerce sites.

If you want to be in charge of which page on your website becomes the Canonical Page, add a rel=canonical tag.

example of rel=canonical code

Canonical URL helps you make your site more accessible by adding this code to every page. It’s inconvenient and not very practical, but most content management systems have ways that will make canonicalising easy for you.

On WordPress sites, for instance, make use of the Yoast SEO plugin premium version to automatically add self-referential tags like “canonical”. Users of HubSpot CMS have changed their settings to automatically give relevant URLs. Shopify also does this for its customers’ pages – meaning there’s no need to worry about it.

If you’re using a CMS other than the one provided, it’s worth doing some research to check if your site offers hassle-free solutions for putting canonical tags on pages.

Redirect Similar or Duplicate Pages to the Selected URL Using Canonical Tags

Addresses issues with URLs that vary depending on the device used to display the page.

If your site has both a mobile (m. [Site] .com) and a computer ([Site] .com) version, select the site that will serve as your canonical version. Most likely, it’s your desktop page, so we’ll use it as an example in our canonical version below.

Now make sure that each page on your desktop page has a canonical tag that links to itself. If you are finished, provide a canonical tag to each page that redirects your mobile site to a duplicate URL on your desktop page.

Despite this canonical placemark, Google Chrome will still display your mobile page in search results for mobile queries, but all links to each version of the page will be considered a ranked search results page.

Follow these instructions if you use AMP on your site and need to canonise your AMP sites on their computer counterparts.

Ensure Other Websites Use Canonical Tags When Producing Your Content

Fix issues with duplicating syndicated content/content on multiple pages

Make sure that any secondary sites that publish your content include the rel=canonical tag to ensure Google understands where it comes from. Otherwise, they may rank a different site higher than yours and give credit for what should be yours.

SEO Best Practices of Canonical Tags

When adding canonical tags to pages on your site, it’s essential to follow some best practices:

To ensure that your site’s pages are all adequately categorised and ranked for search engines, add a Canonical Tag on every page. This will help you avoid issues with duplicate content in future posts/pages created by accident or neglecting this step when building new ones out of habit!

Make sure that the pages that republish your content contain canonical tags that point to your URL. Otherwise, Google will not be able to determine which page the content originally came from and may rank the page that republished your content higher than your page in search results.

Canonicals are crucial for accurately displaying the webpage you’re looking at, so check in on them from time to time. You can use MozBar or run a site audit through SEO tools and see if there’s anything wrong with how they’ve been set up – maybe someone added more links than expected?

mozbar showing canonical url

Do not canonise if you have to divert. If it’s not worth copying the contents of two or more different URLs, don’t worry about adding a canonical tag to a page other than the main page. 301 refers only to the main URL.

Make sure you always use the same URL structure. Do not add HTTP or the WWW and use the canonical version if the canonical version of your Site is HTTPS or not the WWW. Continue to consistently format URLs on your site and in your canonical tags.

Use absolute URLs, not relative URLs. The entire URL structure looks like this: https://www.authoritylabs.com/pricing-updated/. The relative URL will leave the first part of your domain: / price updates /. Use complete URLs when adding canonical tags.

Canonise pages in different languages to the main page for that language. If you publish multiple versions of your site/content in other languages, do not canonise pages on German to English sites. Canonical German pages to the main page written in German, even if you consider the English version as your main page.


To sum up, you must learn how to look for canonical page issues on your website and take some time to fix them. At Move Ahead Media, we have experienced SEO specialists who can assist you go through the process by applying the SEO best practices for canonical URL tags and 301 redirects. By preventing issues in your site, you will not have to worry about canonical issues in SEO in the future. Call us now for a FREE audit!

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