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Is Rel Canonical the Answer To Your International Search Woes?

We’ve talked a little recently about how the Rel Canonical tag can be used to avoid common place duplication problems.

How to avoid your sites fighting over the same content – Credit

Recently we’ve been trailing the attribute to deal with some of the common problems which occur when developing two different websites, each targeting variations of the English language.

In the following example we’ll talk about a site currently in the UK launching an American equivalent, which was the exact problem our client had.

For example, if it is a property site, it might be possible to look at overseas American property on the UK site and on the American site look at what is your local copy.

Content will be available in two places, and this causes a duplication problem which will impair the ability of both sites to rank well for long-tail keywords contained on the individual property page.

The best practice solution would be to vary the content so the two listings were suitably different, so as to avoid tripping any duplication filters. This is unlikely to be scalable, so I would suggest a different option based on Google’s newly introduced cross domain ‘rel canonical’ protocol.

The rel canonical protocol allows a webmaster to communicate to a search engine that they are aware of the duplication occurring and where the original definitive version of the page is located even if this is on a different domain.

This could work really well to avoid the duplication between the UK and American version of your site. In this example I’d recommend using the rel canonical tag to let Google know the location of the equivalent job listing on the American site.

How do you do it? You would need to create a <link> element as follows:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/property567″/>

Copy this link into the <head> section of all non-canonical versions of the page, such as www.example.co.uk /american/property123. SEOmoz have even pointed out recently it does no harm to use the canonical tag on the canon page.

Of course ideally this process will be managed dynamically by your database.

We’re trialing this as we speak, and have seen some great initial findings. Have any readers  been doing this longer term? What successes or failures have you seen?

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