Canonicalization is the action of converting multiple pieces of content into one. This action helps search engines to identify and index the most relevant website page/URL.

If there are two pages/URL’s on a website with the same content, adding canonicalization will identify for the search engines which page is correct for indexing into the search engine results pages. Canonicalization removes duplicate content issues within the website. Duplicate content is a search engine optimization ranking factor and websites with duplicate content can be penalized or have negative results.

The most common issue of duplicate content is when a website is created. The content can be found on both URL’s of the website with the www prefix and without the www prefix.

For example will have the same content as when a website is created. The action of canonicalization must be put in place here to specify which URL is the correct URL to index for the search engines. There are many ways to add canonicalization to your website to improve search engine optimization and indexing.

Step 1: Identify

Identify if your website has duplicate content issues.

Go to your website and in the address bar copy the URL. Open any word processing document such as Microsoft Word, notepad, text edit and paste the URL into the document. After you pasted the URL, does the pasted URL show your URL with or without the www prefix?

If the pasted URL shows the www prefix, then open a new tab and paste the URL into the address bar without the www prefix. Copy the URL from the new tab into the word processing document. Do the URL’s match, both having the www prefix?

If no, then there is a problem. Both of your URL’s with the www prefix and without the www prefix have the same content and this needs to be fixed with canonicalization.

To fix this with canonicalization, you will need to insert a 301 redirect into your website.

Step 2: Solutions

Fixing duplicate content issues with canonicalization is fairly easy with all the technology we have these days. You can have a web developer do this for you or do it yourself. All websites have a .htaccess file and this can be used to add a 301 redirect to your website to have www or non-www.

Step 3: Editing the .htaccess file to add a 301 Redirect

You can access the .htaccess file by going to your cpanel or with FTP.

Put the following lines of code below into your .htaccess file. In the example, you will change to your website domain.

Redirect to www:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [L,R=301]

Redirect to non-www:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [L,R=301]

Step 4: Test

After editing the .htaccess file, go back to Step 1 and make sure that all is working properly.

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