301 redirect vs. Canonical: When to use them?

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If you encounter a situation where you hesitate between using a 301 redirect or using a main tag in your search

engine optimization, this article is for you. The goal is to find out when implementing one or the other makes the

most sense.

Before we highlight the differences between a 301 redirect and a parent tag, let’s try to simply define them.


The redirect 301

The canonical tag

Canonical or redirect?

When to use a redirect?

When to use a canonical tag?

Sometimes there are exceptions!

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The 301 redirect

301 redirect is used to permanently redirect URLs to another. From the user’s perspective, 301 redirects end up on

top of each other when you type a URL. Content will not be uploaded to the original URL, we will only redirect to a

new URL displaying the content.

If you start to redirect to a very large number of URLs on your site, your server will become overloaded which can

affect page speed. However, with CDN, good cache installation and solid site technology, you don’t have to worry

about that.

There are several ways to set up a 301 redirect. But if you have Apache, we recommend that you configure redirects

directly to a .htaccess file. You can also configure the redirection to source code via a scripting language, but the

recommended method is still via a .htaccess file.

Note that if you use WordPress, you can easily find extensions that allow you to create redirects right in your

interface without any technical knowledge.

mangools seo tools

The canonical tag

The main tag introduced by Google in 2009 allows webmasters to instruct search engines to crawl one URL, which is

better than another, when it contains similar content.

You’ll get to that later in this article, but if you’re concerned about creating duplicate content due to pages with too

similar content, it might be appropriate to use a canonical tag.

For example, if you sell a black winter dress available in different sizes on your site and this creates a special URL for

sizes S, M, L and XL and then for pages with exactly the same product information (only size varies) , you can place

the main tag on these “format” pages, where the URL of the general product page is the URL. Therefore, Google does

not consider your “full page” for search engine crawling and optimization, only the main URL of the product page.

The canonical tag is placed in the <head> section of your site and integrated as follows:

<link href = “https://votresite.fr/robe-noire-tropcool” rel = “canonical”>

Serpstat seo tool

Canonical or redirection?

Before going into detail, it’s important to keep in mind that when talking about redirects, it is obviously 301, but it

could also relate to temporary redirects, such as an internal 302 or 307 redirect (which is not a server is).

While a redirect is a guideline (we redirect one page directly to another), the canonical tag is just a hint, an indication

we give to various search engines. This difference represents a big difference between the two.

This means that even if you set a primary tag, the search engine may decide to skip it and crawl another page.

Let’s take a concrete example. Imagine that you have two similar pages accessible with two different URLs than their

extension: https://www.votresite.in/vetements. htm and https://www.votresite.in/vetements .html

The URL to add to the Google index is an .html extension. Therefore, add a canonical tag to each of the two pages

pointing to https://www.votresite.in/vetements .html. However, if most of your internal and external links point to

https://www.yoursite.in/vetements .htm and this URL is also listed in your XML sitemap, search engines may

choose to ignore the canonical part. at https://www.votresite.in/vetements. html

https://www.votresite.in/vetements .htm, to which many signals are directed.

In summary, despite the primary tag, Google may prefer other cues to keep the page while crawling the organic

conversion pages.

When to use a redirect?

If you have two very similar (or overlapping) pages and you don’t need those two pages directly on your site, we

recommend setting up a redirect from one to the other.

Here are some examples where redirection can be used:

If the products in your online store are no longer online because they are definitely sold out, they will no longer be

published for the new collection, etc.

Pages with outdated content that you don’t want to update. However, we recommend that you update the content of

your pages as much as possible.

Pages removed from your site.

Pages whose URL has changed.

Don’t use a 301 redirect if you’re trying to fix a temporary problem. If the products in stock in your online store are

available soon, choose a 302 redirect instead of letting Google know that this page break is temporary. Additionally,

some CDNs and web browsers may cache the 301 redirect, which means it may take some time to clear them. So

make sure you’ve set up the right redirect for your situation.

Finally, setting up a redirect slows down how often the search engine crawler crawls / crawls the old URL (the

redirected URL). This is not a problem because the URL that the redirect refers to, but if you decide to cancel the

redirect, it will have a negative effect because you have reduced the frequency of the original URL.

When to use a canonical tag?

The canonical tag can also be used in many situations. However, its usage often refers to correcting poorly

constructed URLs that have created numerous unnecessary pages for your site. For us, creating a canonical

lighthouse should only be considered when you have no other choice.

If you can’t prevent URLs with similar content from being crawled by a robots.txt file or not crawled by a noindex

robots meta tag, the primary tag can save you.

Here are some concrete examples for which a canonical tag can be set:

The URL generated from the “printable” version of the page.

Page sides and filters. For example, a URL that displays the same range of products, but sorted by price. If the

parameter added to the URL does not change the displayed content, make sure to use the primary.

Unwanted parameters in URLs. Some ad campaigns or tracking on pages on your site create parameters in your

URLs that you don’t want to show in Google SERPs.

Products that live in different categories. This situation is less and less common, but it happens that the same

product, which appears in multiple categories on the site, has its own URL depending on the category it is in. In this

case, we have the same product, which can be accessed through different URLs. In this context, a primary identifier

is needed that instructs engines to crawl only one URL.

Sometimes there are exceptions!

In some situations you have several colors available. These color options create separate URLs that display very

similar content (only “color information” changes). So you need a primary tag so you don’t ask search engines to

browse pages that contain almost the same information.

However, it is common for searches related to the color of an SEO product to record a significant number of

searches! In this case, we recommend that you identify the most desired colors using keyword research tools such as

SEM Rush and optimize the content of your associated product pages to make them unique and visible in your

searches. Because these product pages have been redesigned based on these unique content keywords, no primary

tag is required.



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Umesh Choudhary