How to Use Rel=Canonical for Content Syndication and SEO
Are you out of interesting post ideas but don’t want to skip a day of updating your blog? Read on for a detailed guide to content syndication and the resolution of duplicate content issues with the help of the rel=canonical tag.
Content syndication is the process of sharing your original work on other platforms to drive more traffic, and publishing other bloggers’ work on your blog while keeping your blog updated. Content syndication is a useful aspect of content marketing, and many popular websites like Lifehacker and Bufferblog are doing syndication as a part of their content curation and marketing strategies.
- Also see: Most effective guide to making money with content curation
This post is about content syndication from a different angle, and should help you to make the most of your content syndication without impacting SEO. In this case we will be focusing on an incredible SEO tag call rel=canonical, and we will explore how you can use it in your content marketing.
But before I introduce rel=canonical and how to use it, you should also check out this post and this one to get a deeper understanding of content curation, which will help you considerably with the process of content marketing.
What is the rel=canonical tag in SEO?
Before I share the interesting SEO trick for your content syndication process, let’s understand the basics and technical aspect of rel=canonical. Even if you don’t really pay attention to SEO, this explanation will ensure that you understand everything about rel=canonical.
The rel= canonical tag is an HTML tag that essentially tells search engine bots that one URL is equivalent to another URL where search results are concerned. The main use of this tag is to avoid issues related to duplicate content on your website which happens due to similar URL parameters or the existence of similar content.
The canonical tag was introduced to handle duplicate content for web masters who have similar or identical content within their blog. As an example: if you are running an e-commerce site and have sorting enabled (sort by price, sort by color), you can use a canonical tag to tell search engine bots to which page you want to rank for. I will tell you how to add the canonical tag in the easiest way possible, but first let’s be sure we understand the power of this tag.
Let’s start by looking at what Google has to say about canonical tags on their official page here:
Canonical tags are very commonly used by services which allow you to create mobile versions of your site. They add a canonical tag from the mobile version of a page to the original page in order to avoid a duplicate content issue.
It is important that you have a basic understanding of this useful tag, and that you understand how you can use it in your content syndication process. Beyond that, I will not go into great technical detail where the rel=canonical tag is concerned, but if you would like to learn more about it, here is a video tutorial to give you a more in-depth understanding.
Let’s look at an example of the use of a canonical tag in content syndication:
If you have published on your blog an awesome, useful post on “SEO on WordPress”, and you allow 3-4 niche blogs to syndicate that content on their blogs, you can take advantage of a canonical tag to tell search engine bots that the article published on your blog is the original and should rank as the original for that particular topic.
The canonical tag will also be added to the other blogs that are syndicating your original content.
Perhaps the best part of this is the fact that all major search engines (Bing, Yahoo, Google) support canonical meta tags.
We add rel=canonical tag to the head section of a page which is non-canonical or syndicating the content. For example, if I republish one of my posts from my WPFreeSetup blog here at ShoutMeLoud, all I need to do is add a rel=canonical tag on that particular post at ShoutMeLoud and point it to the original article at WPFreeSetup.
Using canonical tags in WordPress for content syndication:
So far you have learned that the attributes of canonical tags tell search engine bots which page hosts the original content, thus allowing you to avoid any duplicate content penalty.
Now let’s explore how you can add a canonical tag in your WordPress posts, and when you should use this important tag. We’ll look at an example from ShoutMeLoud:
Along with ShoutMeLoud, I have many other niche blogs like WPHostingDiscount.com and WPFreeSetup.com where topics are similar to those on ShoutMeLoud. I write at least 1-2 monthly epic posts on those blogs, and I often want to share the same content on ShoutMeLoud.
Usually I can simply copy and paste content from those blogs to the ShoutMeLoud blog, and add a no index tag to avoid any duplicate content issues. This is a safe practice, but I lose out on a lot of link juice. Considering the fact that it is blog and I know the content is awesome, I want those posts to get a link juice advantage.
Now that I know about rel=canonical tag, what I can do is simply copy and paste the epic content from other blogs in my network onto my ShoutMeLoud blog, and add the rel=canonical tag on the ShoutMeLoud post, thus pointing to the original article on other blog (and noting it as the original).
You should always link back to the original article within the body of syndicated content. Ex: This article is first published on (URL), and shared here because it’s awesome.
Check out this useful video from Matt Cutts on using canonical tags for content syndication:
Another simple scenario for using rel=canonical in your content marketing is by letting other people re-post content from your blog with a proper canonical tag. Similarly, you can post content from other blogs which are allowed for content syndication, and use a canonical tag. This way you will always be keeping your blog updated with awesome content. (Don’t forget to add a note like the one I have suggested above.)
Keep in mind that this practice should be used in moderation and only for high-quality content. Overuse of this practice could increase the danger of a duplicate content penalty which is precisely what you are trying to avoid.
Now let”s look at how you can add a canonical tag in a WordPress blog post. You can start with the stand-alone Canonical SEO WordPress plugin which adds a check box at the post editor section for adding canonical URL. Download from here.
For this purpose we will be using the awesome free WordPress plugin SEO by Yoast. If you are not using this plugin, you should check out this guide on using and configuring this plugin for SEO success. If you are already using the SEO by Yoast plugin, in your WordPress post editor click on the advanced section of the Yoast plugin, and scroll down to canonical URL, and add the link to the original content. (See screenshot below.)
Here is what the official webmaster blog has to say about using rel=canonical for cross-domains:
Note the line which says “Canonical link element is seen as a hint and not an absolute directive”, so allow me to repeat myself:
- Use canonical tags in moderation. I prefer only 1 in every 20 posts.
- Add the original post link within the body of the syndicated content.
- Ensure that the syndicated content matches the topic of your blog and adds value.
- Here is an important post from the official Google blog on mistakes to avoid when using canonical tags.
Bonus tip for affiliate marketers:
If you are into affiliate marketing and you post monthly discount coupons such as “Dreamhost discount coupons for every month“, in most cases you will be using almost identical content and creating lots of duplicate content. You can take advantage of the rel=canonical tag to point links to one particular page in order to avoid a duplicate content penalty.
The canonical tag, though infrequently discussed, can be a very important part of your website’s SEO.
If you are using the rel=canonical tag in any other ways, we would love to hear your experience and your results. Also, if you know of more creative uses of canonical tags in the SEO of WordPress blogs, let us know via the comments section below.