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I'm trying to figure what is the correct use of rel=canonical in case of archive pages (be it date, author, category etc).

Basically, I want them indexed but nofollowed noindexed but followed, as they serve mostly for sorting content and are not directly relevant in searches.

However, I'm not sure what to do about the rel=canonical tag. Should it...

  1. Strictly be set to point at the taxonomy url?

  2. Point to the homepage (on the grounds that the index page is just a custom sort of the frontpage)?

  3. Be left blank?

  • By "archive pages", you don't mean a page that has been archived, but an index/search type page that lists other pages? – MrWhite Aug 7 '15 at 21:35
  • yes, lists of titles + excerpts each linked to the full content. – Lucian Davidescu Aug 7 '15 at 21:50
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"archived pages" - a page that contains a list of titles/excerpts linking to other pages.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see how the rel=canonical tag is even relevant here? Isn't this the canonical page? Or can the page be changed/sorted/rearranged by a URL parameter or something? IMO the canonical tag should be simply omitted in this case.

I want them indexed but nofollowed, as they serve mostly for sorting content and are not directly relevant in searches.

This would seem to be a contradiction? You want them "indexed", yet they are not "relevant in searches"? If they are not relevant in searches then why do you want them indexed?

You don't normally want pages like this indexed, but you do want them followed (so the bots can find your content). You want the bots to index your content, not the intermediary index pages.

Should it...

If by "taxonomy" you are referring to a "parent category" then... you would never set the canonical tag to #1 or #2. Ever. (?)

  • Of course - noindex,follow - sorry, was just typing without thinking. – Lucian Davidescu Aug 8 '15 at 12:40
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My answer to your question is go with #3. Don't use rel=canonical.

I can't see a case where rel=canonical can help because you're not producing duplicate content.

Based on your comment to your question, it sounds like you want smaller (archive) pages that link to the larger detailed pages.

What you want to watch out for is the amount of content. If you have very few words (say less than 200) or the page otherwise qualifies as "thin content" then you are better off to tell google not to index the page via noindex or you might be penalized.

You may also want the smaller (archive) pages as secondary pages to the larger pages that people want so that if they want just a bit more information, they can visit the smaller page.

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