SEO practices for rel canonical tags for your legal firm
If you have started with optimizing your legal website, then you are sure to boost and enhance your website’s rankings in the search results. You will have to follow different on-page and off-page SEO elements in order to ensure that your website rank improves. At the same, optimizing your legal website will be a time-consuming process as you regularly need to provide new content and keep an update on the search engine algorithms. This is because, on an average, there is at least one update on search engine algorithms. Also, you have to provide new content so that search engine spiders come to your website often and your content gets indexed. The more the search engine spiders or robots visit your website, it indicates that you have fresh content often. This helps in boosting your website’s rankings in the search results. Moreover, if you have new content, it helps you to remain on top of the search results. However, creating unique content and publishing it on your legal website may not be enough. You need to distribute or market your content so that it reaches a maximum number of your target audience. For this purpose, you can consider sharing your content on social media platforms and content syndication websites.
Content syndication websites usually have a high web traffic and so, if you have content on these websites, then more people will read your content. As a result, your reach improves. Furthermore, it helps you with the SEO process as you get more backlinks to your legal website and your web traffic also increases. Therefore, the increasing number of visitors on your legal website, leveraging your content on multiple websites, and the increasing number of backlinks to your website all contribute towards enhancing your SEO efforts. However, there is a catch when you publish the same content on multiple websites. The same content on more than one website is considered as duplicate content by search engines. So, if you have the same content on multiple websites, then Google is certainly going to rank one website and penalize the other for copying the content. As a result, your rankings on the search results get affected significantly. Nevertheless, there is a way to avoid this problem. All you need to do is start using the rel canonical tag in your content. To help you understand this concept, here’s your guide to rel canonical tags.
What is Rel Canonical Tag
The rel canonical is an HTML element that allows webmasters to prevent issues relating to duplicate content. It is also known as a canonical link. When you add this canonical tag or link, it mentions the original version of your blog post or content. The main reason to use a canonical tag is to avoid search engines from identifying the duplicate content as the original content while indexing. The canonical tag is placed in the HTML header of a webpage and this helps the search engines in identifying which is the real or canonical version of a webpage.
How to Use the Rel Canonical Tag?
If you have legal blogs on “separation and divorce laws in Alberta”, “how to trademark your business name”, “how to apply for Intellectual Property Rights”, etc. and want to leverage your blog posts to a maximum number of people, then you would choose to promote them on other websites. While going ahead with these content syndication websites, you need to add the rel canonical tag before you submit the blogs or else the search engines will consider your blogs as duplicate content. It does not matter if the background color or the font style is different on other websites. If the content is 100% exactly the same, search engines will consider the content to be duplicated. It becomes difficult for the search engines to understand which version of your blog post should be displayed in the search results. Also, the URLs may be different but referring to the same website.
In such a situation, you will add the rel canonical tag by selecting one of the webpages as the canonical version. Ideally, this should be the version which is shown on your legal website. Add a rel canonical link from the non-canonical webpage to the canonical webpage. It will look like this:
This is a simple process as it merges multiple webpages into one from the search engine’s point of view. The links to multiple URLs will now count for the single canonical version of the URL that you have selected.
You can use the rel canonical tag in the following instances:
When 301 redirect is not possible
If you need to choose between 301 redirects and adding rel canonical links, then you should go ahead with 301 redirects. However, at times due to technical reasons, a 301 redirect may not be recommended. Some of the technical reasons may affect the user experience. This means that the visitors on your legal website will move out and your bounce rate will be high. Once search engines identify that visitors are moving out, they will reduce your rankings in the search results. Therefore, to avoid such a situation, you may consider using a rel canonical tag instead of a 301 redirect.
When you want a self-referencing canonical URL
Although adding a rel canonical tag to a webpage is debatable, there is no harm in doing so. In fact, Google has recommended using rel canonical for your webpage. This is beneficial even if you do not use content syndication websites. You may use social media to promote your blog posts and so most CMS will allow URL parameters without altering the content. For example:
It is better to play safe and add a rel canonical tag. If you do not wish to add rel canonical tags to your webpages, then some other website may do it to you and create a duplicate content problem. Therefore, before you face any such problem, you can ensure your content is protected by adding canonical tags to URLs throughout your legal website.
If the same content is available on multiple domains, then adding rel canonical tags makes sense. When other websites regularly repost your blogs on their websites once you have permitted them to do so, then the same content is found on multiple websites. This way the other website is able to use your content and you benefit from it too. Usually, other websites will request to use your content only if it is unique and valuable to their target audience. Also, as mentioned above if you use content syndication websites, then you need to add rel canonical tag for the same.
Before you begin with using rel canonical tags, you should be aware of some common errors that can occur. Some of them are listed below.
When you use the canonical tag on webpage 2, make sure that it directs to webpage 2 itself. If you use the canonical tag for the first webpage, then the search engines will not be able to index the links on those deeper archive webpages (paginated archive to the first webpage). As a result, the rel canonical tag won’t be beneficial for you.
Avoid using several rel canonical tags on a webpage. Multiple canonical tags gets added to a webpage when a developer of a plugin or extensions adds a canonical to one of your legal webpages. The results of multiple canonical tags can certainly affect the SEO efforts of your legal website.
Your canonical URLs should be 100% accurate and specific. A silly mistake in adding a particular letter in your URL can render the use of canonical tags as useless. Also, if you miss out on http/https bit from the URL, then again your rel canonical tag can be ineffective. This happens when your legal website uses protocol relative links. Therefore, before you start using the rel canonical tag ensure that you ask your developer if there are any protocol relative links and how you can ensure it does not create any faulty canonical URLs.
For those using variables like the domain or request Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) to access the current webpage while generating your canonical, you need to stop it. Instead, you should base your canonical on the request URL and your content should be able to identify its own URL. If not, then the same content piece will canonicalize to themselves.
Make sure you prevent these above-mentioned errors so that there are no problems once you have added the rel canonical tags. Here’s a look at some more information on rel canonical tags.
It’s important that you know that there are other ways you can solve the problem of duplicate content. You can consider correcting the systems which create duplicate content. If this seems a difficult task, then you can always use 301 redirects and the meta no index tag to sort out content duplication issues.
Incorrect Implementation of Canonical Tags
As said before, if you use the rel canonical tag, double check if it is correct. You may not even be aware of incorrect implementation and go ahead with adding the rel canonical tag wrongly for the other webpages or blogs posts as well. Hence, it is best that you spot any errors before you implement it.
The rel canonical tags vary for search engines as Google supports these tags on both single domains as well as across multiple domains. In the case of Bing, the canonical tag is used as a hint and may not impact its indexing.
Canonical Tags for Social Media
When you share your legal blogs on Facebook that has a canonical tag directing to other destination, then the social media platform will share the details from the canonical URL of the blogs. Moreover, if there’s a like button on a webpage that has a canonical tag directing to other destination, then it will show the like count for the canonical URL instead of the current URL. The same situation is for other social media platforms like Twitter too.
With the help of this guide to rel canonical tags, you must have understood the basics of how these canonical tags work and how they are beneficial for you. For more information on how to implement the rel canonical tags, consult a professional digital marketing firm who will help you to get a wider reach for your target audience through content syndication process. The services of a professional firm will also allow you to create a content marketing strategy for your law firm, optimize the content following all the search engine algorithms and market the content by leveraging it on multiple platforms and websites without any problem of creating duplicate content.
Ali Salman is an online marketing strategist who have worked with Coca-Cola, Extreme Pita, Mucho Burrito, KIA, Honda and other Fortune 500 companies. Ali Salman now heads Rapid Boost Marketing - Canada's fastest growing search marketing agency. RBM clients include Fortune 500's and medium size businesses across North America. Ali as RBM CMO leads his team in building and managing quality, high-performing and cost-effective interactive campaigns and programs for our company's customers and partners. In his career, he has significantly improved campaign performance for large brands such as Government of Alberta, Liberal Party, Workopolis, Cathay Pacific, as well as medium to large retailers and high-tech B2B-enterprise niches.
Ali and his team develop online promotional concepts that spark viral growth through search and social media for RBM clients, devising strategies that use search engines and more to reach key demographic segments in the ways they're most likely to be receptive. Ali Salman also oversees corporate marketing initiatives for Rapid Boost Marketing, including strategic communications counsel, public and analyst relations and client education programming.