Canonicalization Link Element

The canonical link element is something that Google, Yahoo and Bing search engines said they would support at SMX West way back in 2009. The element addresses two problems that webmasters find in getting ranked – duplicate content and splitting back-link equity between different urls that are basically the same. Examples include different homepage urls as follows:

www.yoursite.com
yoursite.com/
www.yoursite.com./index.html
yoursite.com./index.html
…. And so on.

Other good examples of internal pages for an ecommerce site are where the product comes in some variation that may not be of immediate interest to surfers such as a different color or size. In this case you can point all variations such as yoursite.com/widget-blue/ to yoursite.com/widget/ as the preferred url to get indexed by the search engines. Once a searcher lands on the relevant page then they can make a choice of various colors, sizes etc.

Canonacalization

In a most cases the issue would be fixed upstream by:

  • Getting the CMS to always produce standard urls.
  • Be consistent with your internal linking though you cannot always control how someone links to you externally.
  • Redirect pages such to the preferred URL with a 301 redirect such that the other pages automatically serve up a standard page.
  • For the homepage, you can also specify www or http: preference in Google Webmaster tools.  You can also submit one preferred URL to your sitemap which Google will take as your preferred URL.

However if you cannot fix the issue before publish with one of these options then one of the best options is to use a canonical tag element

<head>

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.yoursite.com/preferred-url”>

</head>

You simply place the preferred url in a canonical link element within the head tags of the page. That is all for now, we shall explore more canonical issues in future posts.

Below is the video announcement by Matt Cutts announcing support of the canonical link element after SMX 2009.

 

 

 

Google’s Algorithm Farmer Panda Update

In February Google undertook a major change to its algorithm that was dubbed farmers update due to the fact that it is thought to target content farms that publish articles without adding value and it.

Farm pictureThe algorithm change, internally referred to as Panda, reportedly impacted about 12% of search results in the US alone was reported by Google’s chef engineer Matt Cutts. The news was picked up by several seo blogs such as searchengineland and state of search.

So what are content farms? Wikipedia defines a content farm as “a company that employs large numbers of often freelance writers to generate large amounts of textual content ….” which makes it all seem very harmless and useful to the internet in general. However, a new practice began to emerge whereby some sites would publish articles on expert topics with little substance or research with a sole aim to get to the top of search engines for genuine help queries.

The issue was picked up by the Blekko search engine banning a number of self help type of sites which they felt were of little to no use to searchers as follows:

ehow.com
experts-exchange.com
naymz.com
activehotels.com
robtex.com
encyclopedia.com
fixya.com
chacha.com
123people.com
download3k.com
petitionspot.com
thefreedictionary.com
networkedblogs.com
buzzillions.com
shopwiki.com
wowxos.com
answerbag.com
allexperts.com
freewebs.com
copygator.com

In the words of Blekko and spam clock founder, Rich Skrenta, spam is a major problem that could end up impacting search in a similar way as 90% of emails.