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Interesting conundrum here with canonicals. Lets say I have a site with a "verified" system where other websites can become so and so "verified". Their url to send people to confirm verification is something like "blah.com/verify/company1" and "blah.com/verify/company2". But logically "blah.com/verify" itself is not verifying anyone in particular, so it redirects to the signup form to get verified, at "blah.com/verify/register".

As far as the actual companies registered, I figure it doesn't make sense to index every individual url with only the tiny difference of which company name it's saying yay or nay to being verified, so canonicals could come in handy on those pages to condense the indexing. Yet making "blah.com/verify" the canonical "hub" doesn't work well because it's a signup form, not a verification page, so technically has quite different content from the various verification pages themselves. But at the same time it's a bit unfair to choose 1 company to point all the canonical benefits to and use that as the "hub", yet a bit wasteful to have google index every individual verification page and spread out all that linkjuice.

Basically, I'm just looking for advice, what's best for this from a search engine standpoint?

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Registration pages and verification pages sound like they don't have much content to be indexed. Are there keywords on these pages that people might actually be searching for? It might be better to just put them in robots.txt so they aren't crawled at all. –  Stephen Ostermiller Feb 12 '13 at 1:38
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Unless being verified on one company's page is the same as being verified on another (as opposed to having to be verified for each company separately), then this probably isn't a good use of canonical, though it's good that you're thinking about not polluting the search index. If it doesn't matter which company's page the user gets verified with, perhaps you can just create an example.com/verify/generic which favors no company. Otherwise, let Google index the individual company pages or just an index page that lets users select which company they want to be verified for. –  Lèse majesté May 10 '13 at 4:34
    
@Lèsemajesté - your answer is perfect. You should post it as an answer and I'll accept it next time I'm on. –  Jimbo Jonny Jun 11 '13 at 19:57
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up vote 1 down vote accepted

Unless being verified on one company's page is the same as being verified on another (as opposed to having to be verified for each company separately), then this probably isn't a good use of canonical, though it's good that you're thinking about not polluting the search index.

If it doesn't matter which company's page the user gets verified with, perhaps you can just create an example.com/verify/generic which favors no company. Otherwise, let Google index the individual company pages or just an index page that lets users select which company they want to be verified for.

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You know a solution is good when you go "damn, that's so simple, why didn't I think of it!". This is a great solution to keep the SEO benefit without polluting the index with hundreds of nearly identical pages...but all without favoring any one of the companies for all the SEO benefit! It's the company/site itself that is verified (similar to how there's a "paypal verifed" badge you can put on your site, and a link to a page on paypal proving your site is, in fact, verified. So this seems like a really great solution. –  Jimbo Jonny Jun 13 '13 at 15:35
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Canonicals should only be used on pages with mostly the same content as the page you are referencing with the canonical tag. So if these pages you want to add the canonical too differ quite a lot from the page you want to canonical too, this is not the correct time to use a canonical tag.

Google has just posted an article on canoical that may be of some use to you

5 common mistakes with rel=canonical

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Not sure you fully understood the question. The entire idea was to NOT use the verify page as the canonical specifically because, as you mention, it has very different content. The pages in question are all the same content, verbatim, except that they each have one line different (the name of the verified site). So by all definitions fit the concept of "mostly the same content". The conundrum is that picking 1 of them as the canonical means giving the benefits of all pages to 1 verified customer, yet not applying canonicals at all means indexing hundreds of pages that are almost identical. –  Jimbo Jonny Jun 11 '13 at 19:45
    
by "NOT use the verify page" I mean the verify signup page, which is the one different from each individual "verified" page –  Jimbo Jonny Jun 11 '13 at 19:59
    
Sounds like the best idea here is blocking from being indexed then with meta robots: 'Noindex' robotstxt.org/meta.html –  Max Jun 12 '13 at 10:02
    
Not really, there's plenty of valid SEO benefit. Lèsemajesté's comment about a creating a generic verified page as the canonical so that no 1 verified user gets all the benefit, but the benefit is not lost to the website is a great solution. –  Jimbo Jonny Jun 12 '13 at 16:16
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