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For a site that carries "lists" of products, what is the best approach to using canonicals?

example.com/green-watches.php - this is the MAIN page (by main, it means that this should be indexed in Search results, and this should be the landing page). It will carry list of FIRST 10 products (i.e. first 10 green-watches as listed in the catalog).

Now, there can be a total of 55 green-watches in the catalog, so the rest of the pages can have

example.com/green-watches.php?list=11 (page2 - having 11th to 20th watch)
example.com/green-watches.php?list=21 (page3 - having 21st to 30th watch)
and so on..
example.com/green-watches.php?list=51 (page6 - having 51st to 55th watch)

Obviously, the content on each of these pages (main page, as well as page2 to page6) will be different. But I do not want the landing page to be from page 2 to page6....landing should be on the main page only as that's where I wish the site visitor to start.

Further, the basic PHP page in all these URLs remains the same - which is example.com/green-watches.php. Its only the argument attached to it ( ?list=11 and ?list=21 and the likes) which are changing. I am catching these arguments in a FORM-GET method.

Question - from SEO perspective, do the rest of the pages (page 2 to page 6) need to have their own unique canonical URL, or is it recommended to have their canonicals point to that of the main page?

Any other implementation suggestions for above for better SEO?

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Check out how Google recommends using the canonical meta link:

Why should I choose a canonical URL?

There are a number of reasons why you would want to explicitly choose a canonical page in a set of duplicate/similar pages:

To specify which URL that you want people to see in search results. You might prefer people reach your green dresses product page via https://www.example.com/dresses/green/greendress.html rather than https://example.com/dresses/cocktail?gclid=ABCD.

To consolidate link signals for similar or duplicate pages. It helps search engines to be able to consolidate the information they have for the individual URLs (such as links to them) into a single, preferred URL. This means that links from other sites to http://example.com/dresses/cocktail?gclid=ABCD get consolidated with links to https://www.example.com/dresses/green/greendress.html.

To simplify tracking metrics for a single product/topic. With a variety of URLs, it's more challenging to get consolidated metrics for a specific piece of content. To manage syndicated content. If you syndicate your content for publication on other domains, you want to consolidate page ranking to your preferred URL.

To avoid spending crawling time on duplicate pages. You want Googlebot to get the most out of your site, so it's better for it to to spend time crawling new (or updated) pages on your site, rather than crawling the desktop and mobile versions of the same pages.

It follows from the above that if you specify only the landing web page as canonical, then all web pages associated with the landing web page and not having a canonical link can be ignored by Google. A similar mistake was made by IKEA, which indicated the category web page as canonical and on all subcategory web pages indicated as the canonical to the category page. As a result, all subcategories were unavailable in Google search results.

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  • Thanks. However, IKEA issue was not by IKEA webpages, it was due to Google (mis)-interpretation about permanent redirects on old pages (old version) of IKEA website – Aquaholic Jul 28 at 9:28
  • Actually, I helped them fix this error. But of course, I could be wrong. – nikant25 Jul 29 at 10:58
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You have to ask yourself which page should google index and display to the user/searcher? And you did.

The best would be target from every "sub" page to the main landing page. This is never a mistake!

Another strategy is to set the main page to index and the sub ones to noindex.

But it depends strongly on:

  1. size of page / count of product
  2. authority / crawl budget
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