Thursday, September 2, 2010

Comparing 301 redirects and the canonical url tag

The Canonical URL tag attribute
<link rel="canonical" href=http://www.yoursite.com/page>
is very similar to the use of a 301 redirect from an SEO perspective.

Effectively you are telling search engines that several pages should be considered as one ,which the 301 does, without actually redirecting visitors to the new URL.

Note however; a 301 redirect redirects all traffic (search bots and human visitors), the Canonical URL tag is just for the search engines to see, meaning you can still separately track visitors to the unique URL versions. As well, a 301 is a better indicator that multiple pages have a single, canonical source. The power of a 301 redirect is in its ability to carry cross-domain functionality, meaning you can redirect a page from one domain to another and carry over those search engine metrics. This is not something that you can do with the Canonical URL tag, which operates exclusively on a single root domain (it will carry over across subfolders and subdomains).