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I am recently reading some articles about canonical links. It seems there's a limitation that when you add a link, it must be the same domain as the page. So is there any cross-domain solutions for this case?

Let me dive into more details about my question:

I have a site a: sitea.com

And a mirror site in China:sitea.cn

The reason that I have to make it "sitea.cn", rather than "cn.sitea.com" is because China requires websites to register the domain inside its country. And I don't want to move the registration of sitea.com to China.

The tricky part is that I host the same content on both sites. And I want Google to just index sitea.com (because it's totally blocked in China).

So what should I do in this case?

I am thinking of adding a robots.txt and disallowing all traffic from Google. I don't know whether that is the base practice.

Thanks

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    * It seems there's a limitation that when you add a link, it must be the same domain as the page.* No. You can create a canonical link to any page that is the original regardless of what domain it is on. Cheers!! – closetnoc Dec 22 '16 at 2:38
  • Any reference on this!? Really? Here is my source: moz.com/blog/… It's – AGamePlayer Dec 22 '16 at 2:45
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Working from this: It seems there's a limitation that when you add a link, it must be the same domain as the page.

No. This is not true. You can create a canonical link to any page that is the original regardless of what domain it is on.

So why are you seeing so many blog posts stating something else?

The answers are rather simple.

1] SEOs tend to parrot the same thing they read somewhere else. Most SEOs are not technical people and only slicing out a piece of the pie for themselves for fame or revenue. Most fail. Do not believe all that you read even from MOZ which is not on my short list of SEO sites to reference. Sorry MOZ. There are enough factual errors on MOZ.

2] Old information which may have been true or thought to be true at one point remains online forever and results in a huge misinformation campaign retained purely for traffic and revenue. MOZ has been called out for providing false information on this site before and to their credit, they have responded positively.

3] The original intent of the canonical tag was to suggest that pages on a single site were in effect duplicates or near duplicates. While that is not how the RFC was written, many SEO bloggers parroted the original motion that the canonical tag would primarily refer to the same page with parameters that offer different results. While this is good advice, bloggers rarely stepped out of the rapid blog post development mindset to add value to their posts. It is a me too(!) proposition.

It would help to read the original RFC6596 which makes it clear that a canonical link can indeed point to another domain.

  1. The Canonical Link Relation

..The target (canonical) IRI MAY:

...Exist on a different hostname or domain.

This is supported here:

https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2009/02/specify-your-canonical.html

Can this link tag be used to suggest a canonical URL on a completely different domain?

Update on 12/17/2009: The answer is yes! We now support a cross-domain rel="canonical" link element.

The original adoption of the canonical tag may not have originally considered the fact that duplicate content could exist in different domain names.

As good as Rand Fishkin is, he is completely wrong on this point. At least in today's terms. Here is what he says.

https://moz.com/blog/canonical-url-tag-the-most-important-advancement-in-seo-practices-since-sitemaps

This is NOT THE CASE with the Canonical URL tag, which operates exclusively on a single root domain (it will carry over across subfolders and subdomains).

However, to properly defend Rand, he was probably following what Google has said and not what the RFC said. I will not dig up a link for this. Rand is good so I will make this an assumption.

Now here is the most important advice I can give you.

Be extremely careful when seeking SEO advice. Even with Rand, who is one of the best of the best, what is common, still exists on MOZ. Old posts can often be completely wrong based upon current times or even at the time the post was written. You will notice that the dates of the links I provided are all from 2009. This is important! This is far too old for current information. I would suggest reading nothing older than 2013 short of RFCs, research papers, and patents.

  • Very good information! Thanks very much! Would you mind sharing the "short list of SEO sites to reference" :) – AGamePlayer Dec 22 '16 at 4:26
  • I actually read the research papers, patents, books, and whatever written by Google engineers. I am also fairly familiar with the technologies used to create search engines including Google. But if I must list some, search engine land is good and SEO by the sea is too. Sometimes I will read kiss metrics. MOZ is okay. It is just that there are so many older posts that people quote that drive me nuts. Not a bad source, just one you have to be careful with. I can easily see why you got confused. I started poking around and saw much of what you saw. Perfectly understandable. Cheers!! – closetnoc Dec 22 '16 at 4:51
  • Thanks very much for your information. I will take a look. I was not that into these (I used to focus more on the site side, like optimize via Page Insight to get a 100/100 score). Recently I've encountered two-time downgrade by Google. It's so annoying. First time I thought it was the issue of my wrong hreflang tags. webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/101932/… Today I found it was downgraded again and I am guess it's because I didn't include canconical tags. – AGamePlayer Dec 22 '16 at 5:12
  • A 100 score is outstanding, but do not kill yourself over it. 85+, 90 or 95 is great. Do not put too much stock into these various scoring sites. Most are junk, some are okay, a small number may be good. Take all of it with salt. Unless you have high blood pressure of course! Use your best judgement. Cheers!! – closetnoc Dec 22 '16 at 5:17
  • Thanks, I finally got around 90~97. No way to get 100/100 because of some components like Ads, Analytics code. – AGamePlayer Dec 22 '16 at 5:37

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