What is a canonical tag


Hi guys, and welcome to another edition of Zupo's SEO Talk & Tea. 

Today's conversation. What is a canonical tag? You'll see a lot of conversation, especially in the SEO realm of canonical tags. It's a really big word that I'll be honest for a very early portion of my SEO career, I had no idea what it was either. I saw it everywhere and I really didn't know what it was. I do now today. And hopefully what I'm wanting to do with this video is help define what a canonical tag is to those who are watching this video in a very non-academic technical way. I'm not a big believer in having great definitions. I like casual definitions that people can just understand day-to-day. But before we begin, I want to introduce the tea we have today, because this is Zupo's SEO Talk & Tea. And today we have a Oolong tea that was gifted to my dad in China.

Again, this was a gift from one of our family members. It was like a distant, long lost relative in China. My family has been removed from China, has not lived there for six or seven generations. So, when we want to go back and visit our clan, the Khoo family, they gifted us some of this tea. And this tea, I don't really know exactly what it is, but I do know that it's an Oolong and it's roasted. When you brew it has a smoky flavor. So let's go ahead and get brewing and get chatting about what canonical tag is. So again, I will just warn that I do not give academic definitions on these. I'm just going to go just the casual way. What a canonical tag really is, is a canonical tag is a way that you can tell Google it's an SEO tag, or a web tag or something like a line of code you can put on your website, that tells Google, this is the original, or master copy of a page.

What does that mean? So, sometimes when you're doing your day-to-day, online marketing work, you have a lot of things to do. You have your normal SEO, you have your Google Ads. You have your Facebook advertising. You have Instagram ads. Every marketing channel will have its own needs, like for your Google Ads, you most likely will have you to have landing pages that are optimized for that ad. If you're doing Facebook ads, same thing there, you want to have a landing page that's specific to those people who click an ad on Facebook, right? And so in that case, the reason why this becomes important, because as your site grows bigger and as your site begins to need more pages, you need it to be able to organize things with Google.

And here's why. Let's say, I always like to use the pizza example. Let's say you own a pizza shop, right? And you have a product page called pepperoni pizza. Like, duh, that's what you have at a pizza store. You have a product page called pepperoni pizza, but you were running some Facebook ads. Let's say, "Hey if you click this ad, you'll get $10 off your next pepperoni pizza order." That's a pretty big deal. But anyways, so let's say you got a $10 off your next pepperoni pizza order. So, those who clicked the ad you want for them to be able to go to a specific landing page that has pepperoni pizza, but it has the deal where they can sign up, and then they can redeem the deal. That way, not only can they find where the deal is and redeem the deal, you on the other hand can know how many people clicked the ad, went to that page, and then how many people will actually redeem the deal. So, the problem is though, that page will now conflict with your main product page because you have a main product page for SEO purposes.

You don't have that deal on there because it's for the general public, but for the Google Ads or Facebook ads, you may have a specific deal. Now, you have two versions of a page. This is where a canonical tag comes in. Canonical tag will tell Google, okay, the original page is the product page. This page over here that has that $10 off is a duplicate, or it's another version of it, but it is not the original copy. And that way Google can tell, okay, you have these other pages here, and though they look mighty similar to this original one, we understand you are claiming that this original one is the original copy. And these other ones aren't meant to be ranked on SEO, or organic ranking purposes. You have them for non SEO or non-organic ranking purposes. And that's where canonicals tags really come into play. So, in that implementation for the example, I just gave, you will put a canonical tag on the $10 off-page and say, "This is the page, but this is canonical and it points to the original pepperoni pizza page."

That way when Google crawls that page it will read, "Hey, this page, does exist, but there's a tag in here that says, please be mindful, please know that the original page is not this one. It's a different one." And that way they can see what the original page is, that way you don't risk any duplicate content issues, or cannibalization. The number one thing that you want to avoid with Google, is you don't want to duplicate content. You will be penalized by Google if you have too much duplicate content. And then on a second note, you don't want your pages to compete with each other. If you have two pages with the same keyword focus, they may cannibalize, or go against each other and get in the way of your own rankings, right? So, that's what a canonical tag is in implementation. How to actually add the code is pretty simple, you can use a developer. You can honestly find the code and add it yourself if you really needed to, or if you're using a different CMS, like WordPress, they have pretty simple ways of adding it as well.

But that's what a canonical tag is guys. You really only need it if you're doing things beyond SEO, or you just have multiple pages of things, whether it be Google Ads, Facebook ads, A/B testing, that's when a canonical tag really comes into play. Right? So, hopefully, that will help you guys in understanding what a canonical tag is. I can tell you if you didn't know what it was before. I didn't know for a long time, but it sounds like such a big word, but once you figure out what it is, it's not so scary anymore. But if you guys found the video valuable, please like and subscribe, I'm going to go ahead and pour my tea out. I hope to see everybody again soon.

Thanks, everybody. Hmm, Smoky.

Jason Khoo

Jason is founder and CEO of Zupo, which is an Orange County based SEO consulting agency helping construct powerful long term SEO strategies for our clients. Jason also enjoys multiple cups of tea a day, hiding away on weekends catching up on reading and rewatching The Simpsons for the 20th time.