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I have around 2000 pages on my site that are lists of items (15-80 items per list). Each item has a name an image and a description which get displayed in full, on the list page.

Each item on the list can be clicked and it will bring the user to a separate page for that individual item where users can leave comments. Other than comments, there is nothing on this page that isn't on the main list page. 95% of the time there are no comments meaning there is nothing unique at all on these pages.

Should I use a canonical tag on each of these item pages that points back to the full list or should it be noindex?

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    Nope. The first page is called “offer listing page” and the second page is called “offer details page”. You should rather add specific content for each product on the offer details page. That gonna help you in making pages unique. You can then index them, use structure data on them to show price, rating and stock availability. Use that image for the image search and use open graph tags for making that page socially shareable. Good luck ! – Bhargav Joshi Jan 17 '19 at 15:20
  • the issue is that the products arent that special. consider them like components of an item. like the list page is an index that tells you all the important parts a car is made up of. e.g. name:steering wheel, description: used to move the front wheels. The item itself is of little interst to have a page to index – user1889580 Jan 17 '19 at 15:23
  • But in this case, how you are going to target specific keywords on the offer listing page? Each page has 15-80 products so it’s not advisable to target these many keywords for a single page. I understand that content is going to be an issue, but somehow you should find solutions for this content. If I were you, then would write on different types of steering wheel, ideal size of steering wheel, type of power steering - hydraulic power steering and electronic power steering :) something like this. – Bhargav Joshi Jan 17 '19 at 15:33
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95% of the time there are no comments meaning there is nothing unique at all on these pages.

I would definitely noindex all of them. There is no reason for canonical. After you get them (most of them) outta index, use robots.txt to prevent crawling.

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If you want to prevent search engines from spending your crawl quota on these numerous unimportant pages, you can put them under disallow in your robots.txt file.

A canonical tag is not the way to go, because a canonical tag says "these pages are equivalent" which is not really the case here.

Using noindex also doesn't seem like the way to go, because you are mostly trying to make sure you don't spread your crawling quota too thin, but noindex doesn't prevent crawling, just indexing.

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