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Currently I am considering adding a canonical tag onto the homepage of my website as there appear to be a few other URLs that Google and other search engines are picking up on. Realistically the preferred one is the https://www.example.com however, examples of others include:

  • http://www.example.com
  • http://www.example.com/index
  • https://example.com/index
  • http://example.com
  • https://example.com

Is there any real 'benefit' to adding this tag onto the homepage? I would like to think that in this day and age, most search engines are able to establish that these are the same destinations anyway.

From what I can see though, they do sometimes feed through differently into our analytics software, so there could be a benefit of doing this there?

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Having different versions of you homepage as https, http or www and non-www could result in your homepage ranking on all different versions and splitting page rank, you wont get any duplication issues tho since Google can understand that is the homepage.

This is an easy issue which can be solved with 301 redirect, the answer can be canonical as well but i prefer the 301 in this case.

What you want to do is:

301 Redirect:

Pick your preferred version and points all versions of your homepage on that URL.

http://www.example.com > 301> https://example.com
http://www.example.com/index> 301> https://example.com
https://example.com/index> 301> https://example.com
http://example.com> 301> https://example.com

Make sure your homepage and every important page (and non) on your site has a self referring canonical.

The canonical way:

Here every user would be able to land on all versions but google will display only the original one and will pass the rank from all versions to the prefered.

http://www.example.com
<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.example.com/" />

http://www.example.com/index
<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.example.com/" />

https://example.com/index
<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.example.com/" />

http://example.com
<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.example.com/" />

https://example.com/
<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.example.com/" />
  • Thank you for your response! So would you recommend doing one or the other, or would you recommend using a 301 redirect, but also implementing the canonical tag aswell? – Jvital Nov 7 '18 at 10:43
  • I'd recommend 301, t is the best practice to solve URL canonicalization issues. There is no reason for users to land on alternative versions of your homepage. I dont think canonical is necessary just make sure you have submitted the preferred version on Google Console. – John Could Nov 7 '18 at 11:27
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You are correct that search engines are usually able to figure out the variants on their own these days. Google is especially good at detecting duplicate content on various URLs and choosing exactly one of them to rank. See What is duplicate content and how can I avoid being penalized for it on my site?

The advantage of using canonical tags is that you can control which version search engines prefer. If you don't specify, Google may choose to prefer a version that wouldn't be your first choice.

As far as analytics go, 301 redirects are a better choice compared to canonical tags. The canonical URL tag doesn't affect the URL in the browser address bar, nor does it affect which URL gets recorded in your site stats. The canonical tag would reduce the number of users that see alternate versions because search engines would send all visitors to the preferred version. However, users that type in the URL or visit through links still might see alternate versions. 301 redirects would solve the problem for all users, not just users that come through search engines.

  • Thank you @stephen but would you recommend simply using one or the other, or would you use a mixture of both? Im swaying towards 301 redirects as they are quicker and make more sense, but would you suggest still doing the canonical after redirecting? – Jvital Nov 7 '18 at 10:44
  • Yes, you can use a canonical after redirecting. That would help with any variants you didn't find. Alternate domains, trailing slashes, and capitalization are all possible canonicalization problems for which you haven't already implemented redirects. – Stephen Ostermiller Nov 7 '18 at 10:57

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