Why is Canonicalization such a common problem?

In SEO, The Digital Marketing Blogby KelvinLeave a Comment

I can’t say the word Canonicalization in a client meeting without prefacing it with ‘one of the most over the top words in SEO’ but despite the somewhat clumsy name, the problem where your content can be found across multiple addresses despite only being one file on your server which confuses search engines, is surprisingly common.

As part of any kick off of an SEO project we go through our standard checklist of potential problems, much like any SEO, we have a whole section dedicated to the most common types of Canonicalization and duplication,  if a new project gets a clean sweep I’ll make the whole office a cup of tea, and if you work in our office you’ll know how rare an occurrence that is!

So what are the reasons why Canonicalization is such a common problem?


In most circumstances problems with Canonicalization is due to someone not paying attention when setting up a website. It’s easy to not redirect the non www in the htaccess or change whether you link to the root of a directory half through a site’s development. It’s just tidiness for a web developer but usually because it’s out of sight it’s out of mind.


Can you blame web developers for not knowing about Canonicalization? it’s not exactly a catchy term. Very few web developers dealing with search marketers for the first time realise the potential mine field of problems it creates. The onus falls on us search marketers to educate our peers on search engine best practice and include it in specification lists and all our recommendation documents.


I can’t think of many reasons not to deploy a CMS of some shape or form when building a website at the moment. Some like WordPress are just so flexible. You can use it as a standard blog, a fully featured CMS, a review platform, a forum, a CRM and you can really hack it to pieces and create something entirely new like the recently launched Conference Calendar. But the problem is almost every CMS makes basic SEO mistakes that are easy to miss without a trained eye. It’s no excuse though; most of the major platforms have SEO plugins. And if they don’t get a developer on the case plug-in is a great piece of link bait.


We’ve all done it; put a site live with broken links, an out of date robots.txt or a broken .htaccess file but normally it’s obvious and it quickly gets put right, the problem with Canonicalization is it doesn’t always get noticed, it just sites there slowly impairing your search ranking performance, splitting you link equity across several locations and generally being a thorn in your side.

Can you think of other reasons why it’s mistake that’s made so commonly?

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