Technical SEO Track: Impact of Meta Canonical Tags

Technical SEO is one of the key areas of impact for SEO. Along with other focus areas — like producing quality content and localization, establishing theme-relevant linking, measuring and reporting, communication with stakeholders — it plays a crucial role. Concentrating on technical SEO initiatives helps ensure that a website is positioned well for crawlers and site visitors alike.

When working on technical SEO, we attend to areas, such as site architecture/structure, page/folder (URL) naming convention, navigation elements, CMS setup, page template layout and coding, indexing and geo targeting, and so on.

Following the SEO Project LifeCycle we identify technical enhancement opportunity, perform analysis to project impact and present POV, implement changes, measure results and propose next steps based on data.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at a proper implementation of meta canonical tags and analysis that helped validate the impact the changes had on the site SEO.

Closer look at the meta canonical tag

Meta canonical is a recommended tag for sites as an SEO best practice introduced a few years ago that helps Google and other search engines better understand which pages contain original content. This simple code element helps improve content authority and inbound-link relevancy for the canonical page and provides stronger ranking signals for your content.

Implementation of the meta canonical tag is very simple: <link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/page-name.html” /> code snippet should placed in the <head> section of the canonical page and also on the pages with duplicate content on a site (if you have duplicates – as a best practice you should avoid duplicate content in the first place).

SEO-friendly enterprise content management systems, like Adobe Experience Manager allow for easy implementation of meta canonical tags on all pages rolled out with the CMS. However, there are instances when smaller web properties are not hosted within a CMS. In such cases, we need to validate and ensure proper implementation of the meta canonical tags.

Case study: measuring impact of properly configured meta canonical tags

Let’s take a look at a case where a smaller website initially launched with improperly implemented meta canonical tags. After identifying the enhancement opportunity and implementing correct tags, we measured the impact of the adjustment by looking at impressions and click data, SEO visits, and rankings of canonical URLs in Google.

Measuring canonical URL visibility and clicks

We can easily measure the impact on the number of impressions (referring to the number of times where canonical URLs were present in search results) and clicks (where searchers clicked on these URLs) — by looking at the “Search Query” report in Google Webmaster Tools.

Technical SEO, Tactics that work - Meta CanonicalsChart: Webmaster Tools report

Impact on SEO Rankings

The BrightEdge SEO Platform provides reporting that allows us to easily identify the impact of meta canonical tag implementation on the rankings of correct canonical URLs in SERPs.

The granular reporting provided by BrightEdge the allows us to track increase in rankings for Non-branded and also Branded keywords.

Technical SEO, Tactics that work - Meta CanonicalsBrightEdge chart: Non-branded Keywords rankings

Technical SEO, Tactics that work - Meta CanonicalsBrightEdge chart: All Branded Keywords rankings

While the out-of-the-box Google Query Report chart clearly shows improvement in impressions, we need to export the data to a worksheet and plot impressions and click data series on primary and secondary axes to better see impact on clicks. Quick note on the dip during weeks 4 and 5 following implementation – was due to seasonality.

Technical SEO, Tactics that work - Meta CanonicalsChart: data-export report from Google Query Report

Measure SEO Visits

Data from the Adobe Analytics platform also confirms an improvement in SEO visits (again, note on the dip – it’s due to seasonality).

Technical SEO, Tactics that work - Meta Canonicals

Closing thoughts

In sum, this experiment testing the impact of meta canonicals showed a significant positive impact on: 1) Impressions, 2) Number of ranked keywords, 3) Rank of keywords, and 4) Visitors.

SEO managers should focus on the meta canonical tags discussed here to improve SEO.

 

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