SEO is the art of increasing your organic search ranking. No matter what type of website you have-from a small personal blog to a large e-commerce store-you should make sure to take care of your SEO basics, including migrating old URLs and redirecting pages that are no longer live.
In this blog, I will share my knowledge on the differences between Canonical tags and 301 Redirects. Let’s start with the basics by understanding a 301 redirect and a canonical tag.
What is a 301 Redirect?
A 301 redirection is the technical process of transferring the website visitor to a live URL when the URL you have requested has been removed. A 301 redirect transfers all the link juice and ranking power to the new live URL.
The primary purpose of doing so is to provide the best user experience to website visitors. Moreover, you will not lose any backlink you have created for the removed page.
Now, let’s dive into the technical details. A 301 redirection is a hypertext transfer protocol response code that tells search engines what is happening with that URL.
For example, if you have done an audit of your website and found that one of your website URLs is https://www.example.com/a/1234.html, you might want to shift it to an SEO-friendly URL like https://www.example.com/new.html. For this, you can use 301 redirects to send visitors from that page to an SEO-friendly webpage.
Redirection can be of different types. Here are a few:
The 301 redirection stops visitors from landing on broken or irrelevant pages and keeps your website architecture in order. It helps us make our website SEO friendly and increase the website’s health.
What is a Canonical Tag?
A ‘Canonical Tag,’ also known as the rel=canonical attribute in HTML, is a way to tell search engines which version of a page to show in search results. This helps with duplicate content issues and lets you inform search engines like Google, Bing & Yahoo which version of your page they should be using in their SERPs.
Canonical tags are a crucial aspect of code when it comes to on page SEO. A canonical tag is a standard tag for web developers to use if they have duplicate content in the form of different URLs.
The canonical tag tells search engines which version of the content is the most important and should be used in search results. In the above image, it indicates that the page on which this tag appears should be treated as a duplicate of the specific URL.
For example, let us assume you have a product website. You have two different pages of products, of which each page has the same contents, as the product has the same specifications. The difference is that they are in different sections of the website.
Google considers these pages as duplicates, so you need to pick one page with better stats, like more daily website traffic, etc., than the other page.
For a variety of reasons, your site may have many URLs pointing to the same page or duplicate or extremely identical pages at multiple URLs. It might be to support multiple device types, enabling dynamic URLs for things like search parameters or session IDs, if your blog system saves multiple URLs as you put the same blog under multiple sections, and so on.
What is the Difference between Canonical Tags and 301 Redirects?
The 301 Redirect sends a signal to the search engine that the specific page has permanently moved. After receiving this signal, the search engine removes the page from the Index. Also, it passes the collected SEO credit to the newly shifted page.
The 301 redirects can be used when you want to rewrite a page’s canonical URL. For example, if you decide to update the title of your article, 301 redirects will allow you to determine not only what pages should be redirected but also where they should point. The 301 redirects can be used when you have canonical URLs that are dependent on a page’s content.
There are a few issues to consider if you use the 301 redirect. Server access, typically via FTP, is required to implement a 301 redirect. There may also be a delay in search engines assigning link authority to the new webpage.
A redirect is not designed to lead all web pages to a single page of the new website, such as the Home Page. The biggest benefit will come from creating a new, relevant page.
On the other hand, the canonical attribute sends signals to the search engine that a specific document has various versions of the page. That URL alone will only be considered the real one, pointedly listed in the canonical attribute.
A canonical tag is a webmaster’s instruction to the search engines that there are multiple versions of a web page but show only one version.
When Google sees the canonical tag, it knows which page to show in its search results. The 301 redirect is similar, but it sends all the traffic from the old page to the new one.
There are a few issues to consider if you use the canonical tag. If you apply a canonical tag, duplicated pages may still display in search results. The rel=:canonical” tag is a guideline, not a directive, and search engines may ignore it.
Misuse of the tag on pages that do not have a high percentage of similar or copied material. While employing the canonical tag, incorrect tag implementation might also be an issue.
I hope this blog helped you gain a clear understanding of the difference between 301 redirects and canonical tags. Now you can easily choose which one is good for you.
Redirects are better for web crawlers because they tell them where to go. Canonical tags are better for people using browsers to navigate the page. Canonical tags work by letting the crawlers know which version of the page is preferred. That’s how both these tools work and what makes them different from each other.
Are you still thinking of what’s good for your website? Feel free to contact us! Let our experts help you from here. Editor: Amrutha