Choosing a Canonical or Preferred Domain

Published on February 9, 2011, by

Choosing a Canonical or Preferred Domain

When talking with clients about their search engine marketing one of the biggest questions that I hear is, “What more can I do to my website that will help with SEO?” While keyword usage in the title tag, content, site map, and more has already been addressed one thing that seems to be very simple yet never implemented is having a canonical or preferred domain structure.

So what is a canonical domain and how do I get one?

There are several ways to arrive to your web site’s home page:

www.example.com

example.com

www.example.com/index.html

example.com/index.html

Here we have four different URL structures for the same page. Because of this, the search engines will look at them as different pages. This poses a few problems when you are trying to get your site indexed and ranked. One of which is the fact that you might have links going to different versions of your URL. The best solution for this problem would be to choose a canonical or preferred version of your URL and do a 301 redirect of the different versions to that one URL.

Canonical URL Structure

Why does this matter for Search Engine Optimization?

When doing search engine optimization link building is very important. If the links to your website are using these four different URL options, Google ranks them as four different sites and each one has only a portion of those many links. Now when the search engines are looking to rank your site, they will rank the version that has the most links/authority. There are two solutions to this problem, short term and long term.

The short term solution is called a 301 redirect which we discussed in a previous post this will funnel all the links toward one preferred version of your URL, putting all the link authority or power to one specific domain making it more powerful in the search engines eyes.

The long term solution is to decide on what your URL is going to be and systematically remove any links or traces of other URLs. The best thing to do is to decide on your URL structure early on and make sure that every link you build, every reference and page name on your site all have the same URL structure.

So for all of you website owners looking for simple ways to improve your SEO go and do a quick check to see if you have a canonical domain. A simple test to see if you have a canonical domain is to just go to your site and type in your URL with a www. and also type it in without a www. If you see that your URL is not redirecting to one or the other but it stays in the address bar as www and non-www then you know that you need to choose a domain and do a 301 redirect from all non preferred versions of your URL to the preferred version.

The best source to help you with your 301 would be your Hosting Company.

Sterling Kump

Sterling has been in the SEO, world since 2005. He traveled around the world teaching and training 1,000's of business owners about SEO. Also he has taught 100's of classes to employers & staff on how SEO works in the search engines. He is currently Director of Accounts at Boostability. He has been married for 10+ years to his lovely wife and has 4 fantastic children.

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