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How to Use Rel=Canonical For Content Syndication and SEO

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How to Use Rel=Canonical For Content Syndication and SEO

Are you out of interesting post ideas but don’t want to skip a day without updating your blog? Read on this detailed guide to content syndication which also takes care of duplicate content issue with the help of canonical tag. Content syndication is a process of sharing your original work on other platform to drive more traffic. Similarly, you publish other bloggers work on your blog and keep your blog updated. Content syndication is one useful aspect of content marketing, and many popular websites like Lifehacker, Bufferblog are doing syndication as a part of their content creation and marketing strategy.

Today, I will be talking about content syndication with a different angle which will help you to make most out of it without impacting SEO. I will be talking about one incredible SEO tag call Rel=canonical and how you can use it in your content marketing.

I will share few case-scenario where you can use this strategy, and you are free to suggest your incredible idea to make it more powerful and meaningful. Before I talk about what is Rel=canonical and how to use it, you should also check out this post and this one to get a deeper understanding of content curation, which will help you in content marketing process.

What is rel=canonical tag in SEO:

Before I share the interesting SEO trick for your content syndication process, lets understand the basics and technical aspect of rel=canonical. Even if you don’t really pay attention to SEO, below explanation will ensure that you understand everything about rel=canonical.

Canonical tag is an indication for search engine bots to identify which is the master page. When it was launched, it only support the same domain and later it also supports cross-domain canonical too. The main usage of this tag is to avoid duplicate content issue on your website which happens due to URL parameters or due to similar content.

Canonical tag was introduced to handle duplicate content for web masters who have similar or identical content within their blog. As an example: if you are running an E-commerce site and have sorting enabled (Sort by price, sort by colour), you can use canonical tag to tell search engine bots to which page you want to rank for.  I will share how to add the canonical tag in easiest way possible, but first lets be clear about this less used but very important tag.

Lets look at what Google have to say about canonical tag on their official page here:

When to use canonical tag

One of the most common usage of canonical tag is by services which let you create mobile version of your site. They add canonical tag from mobile version of page to original page to to avoid duplicate content issue. I will not get more into technical details of rel=canonical tag, as with this post I just want you to understand the basics of this useful tag and how you can use it in content syndication process. If you want to learn more about it, here are few videos tutorial to give you in-depth understanding.

Now, lets look at using canonical tag in content indication with this quick example.

If you have published an awesome useful post on “SEO on WordPress” on your blog and you allows 3-4 niche blogs to syndicate content on their blog, you can take advantage of canonical tag to tell search engine bots that article published on your blog is the original and should rank for that particular topic. Canonical tag will be added on the other blogs who are syndicating your original content. The best thing is, all major search engines (Bing, Yahoo, Google) supports canonical meta tag.

We add rel=”canonical” tag to the head section of page which is non-canonical or syndicating the content. For example, if I republish one of my post from WPfreeSetup blog here at ShoutMeLoud, all I need to do is add a rel=”canonical” tag on that particular post at ShoutMeLoud and point it to original article at WPFreesetup.

Using Canonical Tag in WordPress for content syndication:

So far, you have understood that Canonical tag attributes tell search engine bots that which page is original and let you avoid any duplicate content penalty. Now, lets understand how you can add canonical tag in your WordPress post and when you should use it.

Lets take example of my case, which will give you a good case-study on how you can take advantage of it. Along with ShoutMeLoud, I have many other niche blog like WPHostingDiscount.com, WpFreesetup.com where topics are similar to ShoutMeLoud. I write at least 1-2 monthly epic posts on those blogs, and I often want to share the same content on ShoutMeLoud.

Usually I can simply copy-paste content from those blogs here at ShoutMeLoud, and add no index tag to avoid any duplicate content issue. Indeed this is a safe-practice but I lose out a lot on link-juice. Specially when it’s my blog and I know content is awesome, I would want those posts to get link juice advantage. After knowing about rel=canonical tag, what I can do is, simply copy paste the epic content from other blogs in my network at ShoutMeLoud, and add rel=canonical tag  on ShoutMeLoud post; pointing to original article on other blog.

Note: You should always link back to original article within the body of syndicate content. Ex: This article is first published on (URL), and shared here because it’s awesome. 

Check out this useful video from Matt Cutts on using Canonical tag for content syndication:

Another simple scenario for using rel=canonical in your content marketing is by letting other people re-post content from your blog with proper canonical tag. Similarly, you can post content from other blogs which are allowed for content syndication, and use canonical tag. This way, you will always be keeping your blog updated with awesome content. Don’t forget to add the note which I have suggested above.

Do keep in mind, this practice should be done only for high-quality content and with moderate limit. Over doing it might still put the danger of duplicate content penalty. Now, lets look at how you can add canonical tag in WordPress blog post. You can start with stand alone Canonical SEO WordPress plugin which adds a check box at the post editor section to add canonical URL. Download from here.

Canonical SEO WordPress plugin

For this we will be using the awesome free WordPress plugin call SEO by yoast. If you are not using this plugin, you should check out this guide on usage and configuring this plugin for SEO success. If you are already using SEO by Yoast plugin. In your WordPress post editor, click on advanced section of Yoast plugin and scroll down to canonical URL, and add the link to original content. (See below screenshot).

WordPress Canonical Tag

Here is what official webmaster blog has to say about using rel=canonical for cross-domain:

canonical cross domain syndication

Do note the line which says “Canonical link element is seen as a hint and not an absolute directive”, so I gain repeat myself:

  • Use canonical tag in a moderate limit. I prefer keeping it as low as 1 syndicate content with canonical tag for every 20 posts.
  • Also add original post link within the body of syndicated content.
  • Ensure syndicated content matches the topic of your blog and adds value.
  • Here is an important post by official Google blog on mistakes to avoid while using canonical tag.

Bonus Tip for affiliate marketers:

If you are into affiliate marketing and post monthly discount coupons like “Dreamhost discount coupon for every month“, in most of the cases you will be using almost identical content and creating lots of duplicate content. You can take advantage of rel=canonical tag to point links to one particular page and avoid duplicate content penalty with almost identical content issue.

Canonical tag is indeed less-talked but one important part of your website SEO. This guide is more directed to using Canonical tag for content syndication, but I’m sure by understanding the basics of canonical tag, you can put it for lot more use. If you are using Rel=”canonical” tag in any other way, I would love to hear your experience and results after using it. Also if you like to add more creative usage of canonical tag in SEO of WordPress blog, do let me know via comments. If you enjoyed reading this article, do share it on Google plus and Facebook with #Shout.

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Article by Harsh Agrawal

Harsh has written 1097 articles.

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{ 12 comments… add one }

  • Ravi kumar

    “If you can’t explain it simply you don’t understand it well enough”

    You Made It Harsh Sir, It is so simple to understand.

    Canonical Tag is the most important advancement in SEO, where you can say that who is the original writer and works for link Juice too.

    Reply
  • Manish Agrawal

    Hey Harsh,

    First i want to say thanks because you share every time unique and useful information about SEO, online marketing, blogging and other related to digital marketing. I have also bookmark your website.

    Thanks

    Reply
  • Pritam Nagrale

    This is really useful article for me & it answered most of the things I was looking for sometime now. Although I knew about Canonical tags but I was unaware of using this way. Thanks Harsh for sharing this. I will research more in this direction & will try to implement this.

    Reply
  • shiwangi shrivastava

    Hey Harsh,

    You always make us familiar with unfamiliar subject and terms. Before your post I was unaware of the definition of Rel- canonical. Thanks for updating me and the nation as well with the rare and unusual thing.

    Reply
  • Tomas Kulikauskas

    Hello,

    Very good article. I have read couple posts before elsewhere, but still couldn’t understand what for is this ‘rel=canonical’ tag. Now everything is clear.

    Can I rank for a post in good position on google, if I will add duplicate text with minimal corrections in content and of course with ‘rel=canonical’ tag? Or this post will not be indexed or will not appear in search results at all?

    Thanks,
    Tomas

    Reply
  • Sayyed Parvez

    Hi Harsh,
    You have explained ‘Rel=canonical’ very well. The points you have highlighted are quiet helpful. Thanks for interesting post.

    Reply
  • Pramod

    Previously I used to no index the post with duplicate content to avoid any planety, but now This post gives an advanced guide to do it with perfect and smarter way.
    Thank Harsh.

    Reply
  • Akhil K A

    Thanks Harsh.

    Another well explained article from you! I always wondered about this canonical option in the yoast. Now I got everything about this topic.

    Keep Posting. Keep Sharing Knowledge.

    Reply
  • Abhishek Tavasalkar

    I think this is the article I was looking for. On my blog I post tech articles along with tech news articles for which I refer popular tech news sites. I do not copy paste exact article but refer them and write the news in my own way. I always felt guilty because I thought I was copying from them. Now after reading this article I know I can add canonical link to refer to the original article which I’ve referred to.

    Thank you for the help Harsh.

    Reply
    • Harsh Agrawal

      @Abhishek
      The case which you just mentioned, in such scenario don’t use canonical tag. Use it only when an article is identical copy of article from other domain or just a minor change (1%)… In your case you should simply addand link it to the tech news sites from where you have taken the reference.

      Reply
  • Vikas Yadav

    A very useful article to prevent blog post from content syndication. I was not aware about that, but after reading this article from Shoutmeloud, I know how prevent it by using rel-canonical, Thanks a lot@Harsh, this article add value to optimize a blog post perfectly Search engine friendly.

    Reply

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