Canonical or Noindex Tags – Which One Should You Use?

On the Google SEO Talk Show, John Muller was asked if rel canonical  or noindex tags would be the best way to counter duplicate content on e-commerce sites.

John Muller discussed both options and then suggested a third way to address the issue.

Also read: bolded text can help your seo

What is Rel Canonical Tag?

rel = canonical tag is a signal, not a directive.

This gives Google an indication of which URL you want to appear in search results.

This is useful when there are many similar pages, especially when the CMS cart creates multiple pages for a single product, usually the only difference is that it is not necessarily the color of the product.

The official Google rel canonical documentation explains the problem:

“A canonical URL is the URL of the page that Google thinks is most representative from a set of duplicate pages on your site. For example, if you have URLs for the same page (example.com?dress=1234 and example.com/dresses/1234), Google chooses one as canonical.”

Canonical rel is a useful solution because it can restrict all links and linked characters back to the main page the publisher wants in the search results.

However, because Google considers the rel canonical tag as an indicator, there is no guarantee that Google will follow it and Google algorithm may choose to display other pages in search results.

Also read: crawled – currently not indexed how to fix

What is Noindex Tag?

The Noindex meta tag is a directive that requires Google to enforce the meta tag and exclude the site from search results.

All noindex tags will remove this page from Google search results.

Google’s official documentation explains:

“You can prevent a page or other resource from appearing in Google Search by including a noindex meta tag or header in the HTTP response. When Googlebot next crawls that page and sees the tag or header, Googlebot will drop that page entirely from Google Search results, regardless of whether other sites link to it.”

Rel Canonical Or Noindex Tag – John Muller Explains

Surveys want to clarify whether it is better to use noindex or canonization tags.

This confusion is not insignificant, as cases can be created with both solutions.

Here’s the question:

“We have a website… an ecommerce store with a lot of product variations that have thin content or duplicate content even sometimes.

So …I made a list of all the URLs we want to keep or we want to have indexed… and then I made a list of all the URLs that we don’t want to have indexed.

The more I worked on it the more I asked this question to myself, canonicalization or noindexing?

I don’t know what the better of those would be.”

John Mueller answered:

“…I think the general question of should I use noindex or rel canonical for another page is something where there probably isn’t an absolute answer.

So that’s kind of just offhand. It’s like if you’re struggling with that you’re not the only person who’s like, oh which one should I use?

That also usually means that both of these options can be okay.

So usually what I would look at there is what your really strong preference there is.

And if the strong preference is you really don’t want this content to be shown at all in search, then I would use noindex.

If your preference is, I really want everything combined in one page and if individual ones show up, like whatever, but most of them should be combined, then I would use a rel canonical.

And ultimately the effect is similar in that, well, it’s likely the page that you’re looking at won’t be shown in search.

But with a noindex it’s definitely not shown.

And with a rel canonical it’s more likely not shown.”

Also read: how to check google rankings for your website

How to Fix Duplicate Content or Thin Pages Issue?

Mueller then suggested that publishers could use noindex and canonical rel to take advantage of both.

Mueller explains:

“…you can also do both of them.

And it’s something… if external links, for example, are pointing at this page then having both of them there kind of helps us to figure out well, you don’t want this page indexed but you also specified another one.

So maybe some of the signals we can just forward along.”

The combination of Rel Canonical and Noindex is not a generally discussed solution. But, according to John Muller, this is the right way to handle duplicate and thin content.

But finally, based on the desired results, the publisher must decide if it is important to combine the relevant links and signals and if it is important to ensure that the pages do not appear in the search query.

Source: 

Block Search indexing with noindex

Consolidate duplicate URLs

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