Rel = canonical: Refuge for the weak-minded? You make the call

Ian Lurie

My SearchEngineLand.com column this month is titled “Why I still Hate rel=canonical“.
It’s because, see, I used to hate it. And I still do. Because it’s stupid.
Don’t flame me here, though. You can go ahead and do it right on Search Engine Land, and get lots more support:
Why I still Hate rel=canonical

Ian Lurie
Founder

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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Comments

  1. I haven’t read the article that you link to yet (though I will in a moment), but my initial reaction is “yep, it’s a crutch….but when you can bandage something with your dev team instead of dealing with a handful of groups that aren’t interesting in changing their long-standing approaches to using parameters for tracking and analytics and all that, rel=canonical gets the job done.”

  2. A canonical mistake from hell: a short story
    This tech is not to be taking lightly – I learned this recently the hard way.
    I have been battling duplicate URLs issues due to the case insensitivity of IIS and the sensitive SE robots. (Sidebar: why I can’t just indicate in Webmaster Central et al that I’m on IIS and be done with it I’m not sure.) All my pages are generated in CamelCaps including some pretty important hub pages. One in particular is the root folder for a dictionary.
    A few weeks back, after seeing the traffic and links still get split between /MyDictionary.aspx and /mydictionary.aspx, I manually added a canonical link for the former. I forgot how the CMS was going to treat this new head tag and it ended up getting placed throughout the entire dictionary (stupid stupid stupid!). Now, each and every term page was labelled as a duplicate of the dictionary home page in the SE’s eyes.
    I only found this out after I lost +40% of my traffic in the span of two days with some #1-#3 rankings being decimated. Formally strong pages appear to have been de-indexed.
    I have since replaced the link with correctly generated ones for each term (including the CamelCaps and overriding wherever case the URL has), cleaned up and resubmitted the sitemap but the traffic barely starting to heal. The traffic came off in 2-3 day but we’re going on a week and a half and I’m still at ~50% (only because of other sections).
    Lesson: be very, VERY careful with this a-bomb of a tool.

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