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Suppose I have two pages with the same content:

  1. example.com/a
  2. example.com/b

so I put a canonical tag <link rel="canonical" href="example.com/a"/> at page example.com/b. I just added a canonical tag, didn't add robots="nonindex, follow" meta tag.

When the crawler sees this page, it will see the original version and pass the link equity. Does the crawler index example.com/b where I added the canonical link?

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Search engines don't index the same content on two different URLs regardless of whether or not you use canonical tags. Crawlers use the shingle algorithm to compare pages and can see when any two pages on the internet have substantially the same content. When search engines encounter duplicate pages they usually choose to index one of them and ignore the other. See What is duplicate content and how can I avoid being penalized for it on my site?

The canonical tag gives you some control over which of your duplicate pages search engines choose to index. When you point the canonical tag from one duplicate page to the other, search engines with usually index the one that you indicate that you prefer.

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  • Okay, I understand your answers that crawler will index and give link juice to the original one, here the original content URL is abc.com/a which I used at abc.com/b as canonical URL. But what about when I want to maintain both pages. One is old content and another is new updated content page. New updated content page has similarly the same data with newly updated data. I added the canonical tag at the old web page of the new one but I want that old content data should be visibal for searchers. – Gaurav Jain Jul 30 at 19:18
  • How different is the old content and the new content? If The new content doesn't have too much updated you probably won't be able to have both indexed in search engines. you can have a link to show the history from the new one and users could find it from that. However having both indexed and search engines if they are very similar is not going to happen. – Stephen Ostermiller Jul 30 at 19:55
  • Thank you Stephen Ostermiller and Marius. Got your points. – Gaurav Jain Aug 9 at 18:58
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The meaning of a canonical is to tell google which one is the original. Google will prefer to index the original one, and not the duplicate.

Keep in mind:

  • insert <link rel="canonical" href="example.com/a"/> also on the original page example.com/a (self reference)
  • do not mix robots="noindex/follow" with the rel="canonical" within one page
  • the canonical tag is a suggestion from you and not a command
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