http://www.zcommunications.org/ready-or-not-can-bangladesh-cope-with-climate-change-by-hazel-healy is a copy of a page on our site created by the author, and links back to that page. Google's guidelines suggested to me that this would be enough for Google to recognise our page as the canonical one and that one as the duplicate, and thus to show our page in SERPs. However, the opposite has happened - if you search for the page's title you'll see the duplicate page shows up but ours doesn't.

How can we prevent this? Since the author 'owns' the duplicate page on zcommunications.org she can edit the HTML body, but not the <head>.

  • Are they scraping the content? – John Conde Jun 21 '12 at 11:51
  • I think the author manually submitted the page to them to promote our article, but don't know. – tog22 Jun 21 '12 at 11:58

To see if they're scraping the content then block their site via .htaccess. You'll know immediately if they're scraping your content in real time. If they are, add the canonical <link> to the body of the article. It's not valid HTML but it should still work.

If they submitted it to the site, just ask them to add the canonical <link>to the head of the page. They should be willing to do so if it is an amicable republishing of the content.

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Curiously, if you search for the article title without the quotes, your page comes up first (or at least it does for me) and the other one doesn't show up on the first page at all. It's only the quotes that make the other page rise to the top.

I can't prove this definitively, but my guess would be that it's caused by the URLs. Specifically, the other page includes the entire article title as a slug in the URL, and Google highlights that URL in the search results when you search for the title with quotes, meaning it considers it a match (although that's not always all that reliable; it does seem that the highlight code and the actual matching code are not all that closely coupled). Meanwhile, your own URL only contains a few keywords ("climate adaptation bangladesh") in the slug, so Google doesn't consider it a literal match for the quoted search.

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  • Thanks, interesting. It's still strange Google doesn't recognise one article as canonical, as it claims it will do. – tog22 Jun 22 '12 at 13:07

The rel=canonical tag will not work in the BODY of the page. Google has made it very clear that this will not be respected unless it is placed within the HEAD elements due to the potential for abuse. If placing it in the BODY is allowed, many websites that allow users to edit the content using HTML will be subject to abuse and traffic redirect by spammers.

Read more: Rel=canonical corner cases: By Matt Cutts

Is using rel=canonical in the BODY of html allowed

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  • This is a comment on Conde's answer - nonetheless I'll upvote it as it's useful info and you're a new user, but I really shouldn't! – tog22 Jun 27 '12 at 11:27

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