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I'm setting up a new website with a few domain aliases with variations (singular and plural) of the primary domain. The point is to take the user to the right website even if he types the address incorrectly. There's no need to rank the secondary domains in the search results.

I've been searching and have seen people saying to use a 301 redirect in most cases, but in this specific one, wouldn't it be enough just to add a canonical tag with the primary domain and choose a primary one in Google Search Tools as we already should do with the www and no-www version of the domain?

Or, is there a really good reason to use 301 redirects?

PS: I'm setting up the domain aliases in the Domain Aliases page of the cPanel.

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    There are good branding reasons to redirect. Especially if you somebody points the domain <your-brand>-sucks.com at your website and you are then serving your content there. – Stephen Ostermiller Jun 21 '17 at 15:16
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    There could also be some analytics reasons to prefer redirects. I track typo domains by redirecting them with UTM parameters so that I can see stats about which typos are most popular in Google Analytics. – Stephen Ostermiller Jun 21 '17 at 15:24
  • Additional domains do not help in search. The 301 redirect is useful when a person types a domain name incorrectly in the address bar. Having the content on more than one site with a canonical does nothing in search or when a user type the wrong domain name. If you are trying to capture typos, I argue there will be few people who fall into this category per year since most people follow links. This is not a problem worth solving or spending time and money on. My 2 cents worth anyway. There are no tricks for capturing additional users. – closetnoc Jun 21 '17 at 15:56
  • Even if they don't help, they could hurt SEO. Duplicate content and all that. – Stephen Ostermiller Jun 21 '17 at 16:45
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In most cases the canonical link type could be used in place of 301 redirects,
but 301 redirects are almost always preferable.

From the canonical RFC (bold emphasis mine):

Before adding the canonical link relation, verification of the following is RECOMMENDED:

  1. […]
  2. For HTTP, permanent HTTP redirects ([…]), the traditional strong indicator that a IRI's content has been permanently moved, could not be implemented in place of the canonical link relation.

Some reasons why you should use 301 redirects instead of canonical in your case:

  • With canonical, users would stay on the "wrong" domain, which they might link, share, bookmark, etc.

    There are countless services/tools/technologies that work better if you have a canonical (as in: exactly one) URL per document, where all visitors (humans and bots) end up.

  • Likely not all bots support canonical.
  • canonical can easily be ignored by search engine bots (for whatever reason), but it wouldn’t make sense for them to ignore 301 redirects (as users will be redirected anyway).

Cases where canonical would be preferable:

  • If your main domain name is blocked in some country, but this country didn’t (yet) block the typo variants.
  • Also, to complement: I did a little more research and Google doesn't explain why, but states that I should always use 301 redirects: support.google.com/webmasters/answer/… – Yuri Jul 5 '17 at 20:33
  • I'm marking this as the correct answer, but would like to thank everybody that answered. I'm using 301 redirects AND the canonical tag now. – Yuri Jul 5 '17 at 20:36
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Using 301 Permanent Redirect is the best thing to do for users and search engines.

While a canonical is a suggestion to search engines, it allows page variations to exist. Users do not see canonical tags and search engines are not oblidged to de-duplicate pages with the even if they have the same canonical URL.

A 301 tells both browsers and search engines that the page is at a different address. They will not see the page twice and only be able to index the page you redirect to. PageRank will be given to the target page of the redirect from links pointing to the typo domains.

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Canonicals are signals to search engines that, despite there being several versions of a page in existence, only one should ever be appearing in SERPs. Redirects happen on the server, regardless of what's in SERPs.

So if you have three versions of a page and you only want one to show up in search results, you use canonicals to communicate that. Note that these are all legitimate pages we're talking about; if you redirect any of them, they will be impossible for users to access. And in your www vs non-www example, you're just trying to keep your preferred version of the URL in the SERPs, and not send traffic to the wrong one (which is still legitimately your URL, just not your preferred version).

In your case, you have your legitimate URL, and a bunch of misspelled versions. They are not legitimate; they are not another version of your existing pages; and they should not be accessed by anyone. Thus, canonical is the wrong way to go, and a 301 is the ultimate solution.

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