I have a question about how to use canonical urls on an ecommerce site with a complex category structure.

I have many products and they each sit in multiple categories. Each product can be accessed on multiple urls like:

/first-category-name/product-name & /second-category-name/product-name

They can all also be accessed via standard path like /products/product-name

The reason for the category versions is we vary the recommendations for alternative products and colours depending on which category the user is browsing. For example, a single unisex product may have many colour alternatives but we would show different subsets of these on the two following urls:

/a-manly-category-with-dark-colours/product-name & /a-girly-category-with-eight-shades-of-pink/product-name

On /products/product-name all the alternatives are shown.

The obvious solution (to me) to this was to add a canonical tag pointing all product pages to their /products/product-name version.

However, it worries me that most of the links around the site will point to the duplicate versions and not the canonical target which could be sending Google mixed messages. Is this an issue I need to worry about or will it all be fine as long as I have the canonicals set up right?


This sounds to me like the exact case for which Google created the canonical tag.

  • You have multiple URLs for the same content with only very minor differences.
  • But you do have some differences that are important to users, so you can't just use redirects.
  • You have a preferred URL where you would like users from search engines to land.

Google recommends using the canonical tag to remove session ids. In that case, Googlebot might never encounter URLs without a session-id in the wild. All the canonical tags would point to much less linked content (never linked).

  • 2
    Like Stephen says, I don't think you need to worry about the canonical URL being the lesser linked one. I have seen many eCommerce sites that have canonical pages that are never linked too (apart from via the canonical tag) and they indexing just fine. – Max Sep 27 '13 at 2:08
  • Thanks for you response. I completely agree but have received conflicting information and wanted to check I hadn't missed something. – dmnc Oct 2 '13 at 14:45

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