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Canonical And Base Tags

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9 replies to this topic

#1 jehochman


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Posted 13 February 2009 - 09:22 AM

The search engines just announced a new method for specifying canonical URLs. This could be helpful whenever it is difficult to set 301 redirects, such as on shared Windows hosting.

Do you think it is valuable to canonicalize the home page of a site by using these two commands?
<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.test.com/"/>
<base href="http://www.test.com/"/>

The first will take care of any alternate domains parked on the site, or differences in the home page URL, such as www.test.com, test.com, or www.test.com/index.html. The second command "fixes" outbound root relative links from the home page to make sure they use the canonical domain.

#2 mcanerin


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Posted 13 February 2009 - 11:40 PM

Beware - I've had all sorts of weird things happen in my site using the base href tag. I recommend using it only for the home page and your custom error pages. After that, caveat emptor. You might be fine, you might cause a sitewide disaster - I've had both happen.

As a practical matter, I don't even use it on the home page - custom error page only.


#3 Randy


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Posted 14 February 2009 - 12:18 AM

I guess the three questions I'm always going to have are:

Will it always work? Do they guarantee it'll always work?

Will the search engines implement the general idea in the same way or in entirely different ways?


Why take the chance? When it's so darned easy to set up a nice little .htaccess instruction if you're on a *nix box and be absolutely sure everyone, bots and people included, are ending up at the correct address. Or if you're on an IIS box you could include a little asp scripted redirect to make sure the job gets done.

Yeah, yeah, I know what they say about looking a gift horse in the mouth. I guess just don't like leaving anything to chance when there's already an easy solution. giggle.gif

Yes, I really am a control freak.

PS Good to see you again Jonathan! hi.gif

#4 jehochman


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Posted 15 February 2009 - 10:09 AM

Occasionally I get an IIS server where we can't install ISAPI_rewrite, and the home page doesn't have scripting capabilities. It's always nice to have another tool, but I hear your cautions.

BASE is dangerous on a page template that might get copied into different directories. It can easily break any page- or root- relative links.

#5 torka


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Posted 16 February 2009 - 10:20 AM

Here's what the Big Three themselves have to say about it:




They say it's a fix for potential duplicate content issues. I admit I just skimmed the posts, but at least on the surface it does seem it might be useful, particularly for people who don't know how or don't have access to mess about with .htaccess. dntknw.gif

--Torka mf_prop.gif

#6 Nueromancer


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Posted 18 February 2009 - 08:37 AM

it also makes it easy to programaticlay using a regex to strip all the cruft from a url where teh site has tons of parameters and dynamicaly create a shortend good url - saves a tone of work redirecting

#7 Sean Ansari

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 10:57 AM

Shouldn't we just add link rel=canonical to every single page on our sites?

#8 Randy


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Posted 15 March 2009 - 12:10 AM

A question on this one, but first I'll answer Sean's question with link to a video from Matt Cutts. Or if you want he also has shorter one that's more on point to your question. Matt says you can add rel="canonical" to each page, but he doesn't recommend it. I concur with his idea that it's better to fix the actual cause of the problem than try to patch it up with what is effectively a bandaid. Matt makes a good case in the videos about some situations could go very badly wrong. And how someone could easily harm their site's ranking with a canonical tag that caused confusion.

Now, on to my question.

Since Matt and others have referred to this as a mini 301, and since they're basically replacing one page uri with another, is it safe to assume PageRank/Link Pop will flow through to the destination page? I think it probably does given the hints I've read and heard from those who should be in the know.

The reason I ask is simply that rel="canonical" could be a very easy way to deal with affiliate links/traffic where the url contains the affiliates code. You could even let it carry on through each page of the site visit if you wanted. Or only have the rel="canonical" get slapped in the page when the affiliate code was in the query string.

Has anybody gotten a solid answer on the PageRank/Link Pop pass through with rel="canonical" yet?

FWIW, the best I've gotten so far is: It should. But it's not guaranteed to pass through. Which isn't quite good enough to for me to start recommending it as a valid option.

#9 Jill


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Posted 15 March 2009 - 10:19 AM

Yeah, Matt never came out directly and said it would pass PR from the non-canonical URLs to the canonical one, but he definitely did hint at it by saying that they would treat it exactly the same as a 301.

I did think it was interesting, however, that he never came out and said it would pass PR.

#10 Randy


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Posted 15 March 2009 - 12:24 PM

They've never said it'll pass PR using the Webmaster Tools canonical either that I've ever seen or heard. But most seem to accept it as fact.

Frankly I'd be satisfied with an answer like the official one they give about whether all 301's pass anchor text. Where the official answer is usually, but we reserve the right kind of thing.

Oh well, the affiliate question just came up in my email yesterday and got me thinking. I guess I'll have to answer that it's still best to use a 301 and track by cookie or other means for the time being. Much more difficult to pull off, but at least I know that one works.

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