How to Use Canonical URLs in WordPress for Optimal SEO

Introduction

In the world of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), managing duplicate content is crucial for maintaining your website’s ranking and ensuring that search engines understand which pages to prioritize. One of the most effective tools for this is the canonical URL or canonical tag.

This blog will guide you through the importance of canonical tags, how to use canonical URLs in WordPress using popular SEO plugins like Rank Math and Yoast SEO. By the end of this guide, you’ll be equipped to optimize your WordPress website’s SEO with canonical tags.

What Are Canonical Tags and Why Are They Important?

Definition of Canonical Tags and Their Significance in SEO

A canonical tag is an HTML element that helps you tell search engines which version of a URL you want to be considered the main one. By setting a canonical URL, you can tell search engines which version of the page should be treated as the primary or “canonical” version. In our example mentioned above, you can set any one of the mentioned URLs as the canonical URL for your website’s homepage. Google will then only index that specific URL as the main URL of your website and show that original copy to users in search results.

A Simple Example to Explain Canonical URLs

A canonical URL or canonical tag helps search engines identify the main version of a webpage when there are multiple URLs that lead to the same content. For example, your website’s homepage can have multiple URL variations such as:

http://www.example.com
https://www.example.com
http://example.com 
https://example.com


These different URLs all point to the same homepage content, but search engines may see them as separate pages.

Importance of Canonical Tags in Guiding Search Engines

Canonical tags are crucial for telling search engines which URL to index, thus preventing issues like duplicate content penalties, diluted link equity (the distribution of ranking power from inbound links), and conflicting signals that can confuse search engines. It consolidates all the ranking signals (backlinks, user engagement metrics, etc.) to a single URL, helping your preferred version rank better in search results.

Implementing Canonical Tags Using Rank Math SEO

Configure Rank Math SEO

To start using canonical tags with Rank Math SEO, follow these steps:

  1. Install Rank Math SEO:
    • Go to your WordPress dashboard.
    • Navigate to Plugins > Add New.
    • Search for “Rank Math SEO”.
    • Click “Install Now” and activate the plugin.

  2. Set Up Rank Math SEO:
    • Follow the setup wizard to configure the basic settings.
    • Link your Rank Math account.
    • Set up your site’s SEO settings.
    • Integrate with Google Search Console.

Adding Canonical Tags

Adding canonical tags with Rank Math SEO is straightforward:

  1. Edit the Page/Post:
    • Go to the page or post where you want to set a canonical URL.

  2. Rank Math Meta Box:
    • Scroll down to the Rank Math SEO meta box.
    • Click on the “Advanced” tab.
    • Find the “Canonical URL” field.

  3. Enter Canonical URL:
    • Enter the preferred URL that you want search engines to index.

Implementing Canonical Tags Using Yoast SEO

Configure Yoast SEO

To implement canonical tags using Yoast SEO, follow these steps:

  1. Install Yoast SEO:
    • In your WordPress dashboard, navigate to Plugins > Add New.
    • Search for “Yoast SEO”.
    • Install and activate the plugin.

  2. Initial Setup:
    • Complete the setup wizard to configure the plugin for optimal SEO performance.
    • Configure site settings and integrate with Google Search Console.

Adding Canonical Tags

To add canonical tags using Yoast SEO:

  1. Edit the Page/Post:
    • Open and edit the page or post where you want to set a canonical URL.

  2. Yoast SEO Meta Box:
    • Scroll to the Yoast SEO meta box.
    • Click on the “Advanced” tab.
    • Find the “Canonical URL” field.

  3. Enter Canonical URL:
    • Enter the preferred canonical URL.

Steps to Verify the Canonical URLs

Verifying the implementation of canonical URLs is crucial to ensure they are functioning as intended and recognized by search engines. Although the verification steps are similar, it’s important to follow a detailed, step-by-step process for accuracy and consistency. Here’s how you can verify canonical tags effectively:

  1. Use SEO Tools:

    • Google Search Console:
      • Sign in to your Google Search Console account.
      • Select your property (website).
      • Navigate to the “Coverage” or “URL Inspection” tool.
      • Enter the URL of the page you want to check.
      • Look for the “User-declared canonical” section to verify if the correct canonical URL is indexed by Google.

    • SEO Auditing Tools:
      • Tools like Screaming Frog, Ahrefs, and SEMrush can crawl your website and report on canonical tags.
      • Run a site audit and check the canonical tag report to ensure all pages have the correct canonical URLs.

  2. Check HTML Source Code:
    • Open the webpage in your browser.
    • Right-click on the page and select “View Page Source” or press Ctrl+U (Windows) / Cmd+U (Mac).
    • In the HTML source code, search for <link rel="canonical" href="YOUR_CANONICAL_URL">.
    • Ensure that the canonical tag is present in the <head> section and points to the correct URL.

  3. Browser Developer Tools:
    • Open the webpage in your browser.
    • Right-click on the page and select “Inspect” or press Ctrl+Shift+I (Windows) / Cmd+Opt+I (Mac) to open Developer Tools.
    • Navigate to the “Elements” tab.
    • Search for the canonical tag within the <head> section.
    • Verify that the <link rel="canonical" href="YOUR_CANONICAL_URL"> tag is correctly implemented.

  4. Consistency Across Pages:
    • Ensure that all variations of your URLs (e.g., with/without www, HTTP/HTTPS) have the canonical tag pointing to the preferred version.
    • Check multiple pages on your site to ensure consistency and avoid conflicts.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your canonical tags are correctly implemented and recognized by search engines, which helps in optimizing your site’s SEO and avoiding duplicate content issues.

Conclusion

Canonical URLs are essential for optimizing SEO on WordPress websites. They help resolve duplicate content issues, guide search engines to the correct pages, and maintain your website’s authority. Whether using plugins like Rank Math SEO or Yoast SEO, or manually adding them, canonical tags are a vital part of your SEO strategy. Implement them correctly to enhance your search results and avoid penalization for duplicate content.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *