Avoiding Canonicalisation of your URL




Many hundreds and thousands of websites are potentially damaging their ranking abilities by failing to avoid canonicalisation of their websites url.

Canonicalisation occurs when a website is able to be accessed via both www.website.com and website.com, in severe cases this can cause the search engines to effectively index 2 identical copies of your site, and then whilst its unlikely your website will attract any duplicate content penalties, its simply not good practice, effectively you are forcing the search engines to choose which page is most relevant, and often they may choose the wrong URL.

Here are a couple of examples of websites:

http://bbc.co.uk – Note the BBC url, correctly redirects you to www.bbc.co.uk

http://dailyecho.co.uk / www.dailyecho.co.uk – The Daily Echo on the other hand have both urls accessible and indexed by the search engine.

The best way to avoid any Canoicalisation issues is to setup a .htaccess file in the root folder of your domain that uses a 301 redirect to redirect to only one URL for your website.

You can choose to either direct the URL to www. or just plain http://, my preferred option is always www., but thats a personal choice and will not affect your SEO in anyway.

To setup an .htaccess file to avoid any such duplication issues, simply open your preferred text browser and insert the following code into the doucment and then save the file, calling it ‘.htaccess’, then upload the file to your sites root folder.

Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine On

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^website\.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*) http://www.website.com/$1 [R=301,L]

Once you have done this, you can test that it is working correctly by visiting your url without using www., you should then be automatically redirected to the www. version of your website.

Another, softer way of fixing this issue, is using a function within Google’s Webmaster Tools section, within this handy utility is a section for you to tell Google which URL you would prefer them to index.

Of course, using this method does not fix the problem with Yahoo, MSN, Ask and all the other (non-Google powered) search engines.

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