A friend and I are debating the use of the canonical tag. I say if I'm on


but my site has moved to


my canonical tag needs to be

<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.BetterExample.com/page.html" />

while my friend says it's OK if it's

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

I'd like not only a "who's right" but ideally a link to an article that discusses my friend's example.

  • 2
    Matt Cutts goes over the canonical attribute in this and other videos, there is no guessing at how it works or how Google handles it youtube.com/watch?v=U8eQgx-njk4
    – Anagio
    Mar 13, 2012 at 3:56

2 Answers 2


Canonical URLs are per page, not per website. So if you are using a canonical URL it must point to the page it is a duplicate of, not the website that page resides on.

And actually you both are wrong. You don't use canonical URLs for this. You are supposed to use a 301 redirect to indicate that a page has moved to a new URL. Canonical URLs are to indicate that a page is a duplicate, or alternative URL, for accessing certain content. 301 redirects tell the search engines, and users, that the page has moved and to refer to the new URL from on. It also tells the search engines to associate all links to the old URL to the new URL which is much better for SEO.

  • Thanks, this is actually a real example and there are other short term issues preventing the use of 301 redirects. But both wrong undercuts your message. In the case where canonical URLs are the only choice available to us, are you saying both are equally ineffective?
    – jamida
    Mar 13, 2012 at 3:53
  • 100% agree. Use 301 redirects to redirect old pages to new pages. If your only option are canonicals (hence www.example.com remains reachable by google and users) then you need to set the canonical on a page-by-page basis. Hence www.example.com/page1 sets the canonical for www.betterexample.com/page1, www.example.com/page2 sets the canonical for www.betterexample.com/page2, etc.
    – David K.
    Mar 13, 2012 at 9:55
  • @jamida, why are canonical urls your only option?
    – John Conde
    Mar 13, 2012 at 11:36

If you're making the move regardless you would remove the extra /page.html. I hate to say it but your friend is right, if only from a user experience perspective. You still have to 301.. unless there is no rank to transfer. If that's the case, you're just changing domains, so any content you specify is in essence the canonical version of the content you've always provided. This is a hypothetical real world example.

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