Posted by Lee Jackson on Google+ & filed under Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Often the hardest thing about getting SEO right is keeping an eye on the little things, because they can often cause much of your hard work to be little more than a waste of time.

You may spend a great deal of time focussing on key aspects of your SEO marketing campaign, such as identifying ideal keywords and keyphrases, maximising the efficiency of your PPC advertising campaigns, and generating high volumes of good quality back links. But if you’re not spending a fair bit of time checking the little things, you may well be wasting your time and money, and you might even find that your status in the search results pages falls, with a fall in traffic and revenue likely to follow fairly swiftly.

canonicalisationSo what are some of the little issues which can be so easy to overlook, and what should you spend at least a little bit of time checking every now and again to ensure your campaign is built on consistent, solid foundations? One of the first problems can be canonicalisation. Just what is this then? Basically canonicalisation is a term used to refer to the structure of your website’s address or URL. It’s very easy to think that the following URLs are all identical, since they all take you to the same page:

  • http://www.webpresence.tv
  • http://www.webpresence.tv/
  • http://webpresence.tv
  • http://webpresence.tv/

However, each of these four URLs is considered completely unique by the search engines, and will be treated differently. The problem is that it is very easy to overlook the fact that some of the links you’re promoting and distributing include a trailing forward slash, and others don’t, or that some of your links include the initial ‘www’ and others don’t. Google will consider each of these formats unique, and will effectively treat each one as a completely different webpage.

This creates two problems. Firstly your entire SEO campaign is significantly diluted – potentially by as much as 75%. While you may think you’re distributing plenty of links, in fact your campaign is divided between four different sites, at least as far as the search engines are concerned. But the second problem is that you’re in danger of being flagged for duplicate content.

Although your different URLs point to the same web page, Google will see each URL as pointing to a unique web page, but will identify the fact that there are also identical pages – in other words, duplicated content. The result of this is that Google will almost randomly select which of the two, three or even four ‘versions’ of your page to list in the search results, and that may not be the best one that you’d have chosen.

Compounding this problem is the fact that you may have chosen to use the version of your URL without the ‘www’, perhaps to help keep your web address short, but many people will automatically add in the ‘www’ when creating or revising back links, meaning that even if you’re careful about making sure your canonicalisation is consistent, issues may occur beyond your control. So what’s the answer?

There are three approaches here which will be important to follow. Firstly, make a decision early on as to which version of your URL you will use, and stick to this rigidly throughout all of your SEO marketing.

Secondly, set up server side 301 permanent redirection from all unwanted versions of your URL to the version you actually want. This will tell Google which version you’re wanting to use, and will help consolidate the view of your site as far as the search engines are concerned.

And thirdly, specifiy your prefered version by using the <link> tag inside the <head> section of the duplicate content URLs, e.g:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.webpresence.tv/” />

 

For more help on making sure your SEO campaign is working as hard and as effectively as it should be, why not drop us a line and see how we can help ?

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