How To Use 301 Redirects & Canonical Attributes

Posted By: Poketors - August 16, 2013
When should you use 301 redirects on your website? When is the rel=canonical attribute the better solution? Sometimes it becomes necessary to redirect pages in a website or blog. This article will help you understand the two main techniques for setting redirection of a page on your website.
How To Use 301 Redirects & Canonical Attributes

There are basically two approaches which can be used to practice this :

i) 301 redirect and 
ii) rel="canonical" attribute

These redirection methods are used to manage duplicate contents issue without losing page ranking and viewers will be same.

Difference between 301 And Canonical

These two options have been around since years and sometimes it creates really confusion regarding when and how to use it in search engines. Google has provided clear guidelines on using redirection options. Lets know how do they interact with other search engines and Google :

301: Page is no longer available and move to a new page permanently. Unavailable page can be removed from search engine index and new page can be indexed.

Canonical : Page has  similar versions of content but only one preferred page should be indexed while other versions will be available for viewers.

Now lets discuss in details.

301 Redirects :  

Matt Cutts from Google said, you'll lose "just a tiny little bit, not very much at all" which "doesn't change over time". 301 redirects explain viewers and search engines that original page is no longer available 

and new page is having all the relevant and latest information. 301 is complete and permanent redirection of page.

Issues with 301 :

At the time of implementing 301 redirects, we face some issues like following.

1.  Without the access from server side, you can not use 301 redirects either it is HTTP status code or FTP access.
2. It takes time to attribute your new page as it depends on hoe many times your original page is crawled by search engines.
3.  Most of the bloggers and website owner use 301 to point all the pages of original website to pages of new website. It could result in high bounce rate and accordingly losing viewers. But again this 301 

redirection is the only permanent solution for page redirection.

Usage of 301 :
  • When you moving or replacing a page permanently.
  • Domain name changed or moved to other one.
  • While relevant content is there but getting message of expired contents and 404 pages.
Canonical Attribute :

Canonical attribute, the rel="canonical" attribute doesn't send the users directly to the new and relevant page. Instead of that it tells search engines that the preferred relevant page is there and can be visited.

You may have web pages with similar content and obviously search engines treat these contents as duplicate which is a danger zone for any website and can be banned in near future.  In this kind of situation we use rel="canonical".

If you have more than one web page for same product, the content would same. Say, you have two web pages and  one is listed when you search by product name and other is listed when you search by price. 

In this case, you have two different URLs and Google or other search engines will list both of the pages. But by using rel="canonical" on the product name page you can declare that price page is the preferred page which can be viewed by the users. 

There is chances to lose PageRank while using canonical redirects. Matt Cutts has also said "there's really not a whole lot of difference" between the 301 and the rel="canonical". The 301 and the canonical will lose "just a tiny little bit, not very much at all" of credit from the referring page.

Issues with Canonical :

Compared to 301 redirects, re="canonical" has some limitations like :

1. In some SEPRs, you may still get the duplicate pages occasionally.
2. It is sometimes misused when implemented on pages which is not having large percentage of same content as canonical page. The rel="canonical" should not be used unless the number of duplicate contents is more.
3. In case of pages with multiple related content like having a single topic continued in different pages which use different unique URLs. Here the problem is it shows the very first page in SERPs ignoring the other relevant and informative pages.

Usage of rel="canonical" :
  • If 301 redirects method is taking time
  • There are two or more duplicate contents in SERPs but you want all of them visible
  • When single page is having dynamic multiple URLs
  • When you want two similar website live considering cross-domain.

Google treat both the method similarly but in best practice obviously 301 redirects method will be preferred.

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