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How should one use rel="canonical" in sortable paginated lists?

An unsorted list of products is not the same as the same list sorted, nor are lists sorted in different ways equivalent. For example, compare:

  • http://www.example.com/desktops?sort=p.price&order=ASC&limit=5&page=2 with
  • http://www.example.com/desktops?sort=p.price&order=DESC&limit=5&page=2

These are two very different pages, but they have the same canonical URL. Surely this is incorrect?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Yes, using rel-canonical for these URLs would be (most of the time) incorrect. RFC 6596 defines:

The target (canonical) IRI MUST identify content that is either duplicative or a superset of the content at the context (referring) IRI.

This is not the case for your content.

If you have a page that lists all products (without pagination), you could use its URL as the canonical URL for the paginated URLs. If you don’t have such a page, don’t use rel-canonical.

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Thank you very much for the answer. I am going to use canonical on the first page only, because without it I have many similar pages in webmaster tools. Example: bit.ly/KrJd55 d.pr/i/wuXQ+ – user66638 Jan 5 '14 at 17:59
@user66638: You shouldn’t use the first page as canonical URL either. – unor Jan 6 '14 at 0:20

I think we should not use rel="canonical" on pages with duplicate content that seek to merely "play" the search engines.

I believe that rel="canonical" is to be used in situations where duplicate content is necessary to better explain a certain product on a site.

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