All the following pages have the same exact content:

  1. http://www.example.com/seo-url (rel canonical URL)
  2. http://www.example.com/ID1234
  3. http://www.example.com/content/ID1234
  4. http://www.example.com/ID001234

Currently we have set rel canonical to http://www.example.com/seo-url on all the links.

This means that if you open URLs 2-4, they will open with whichever URL you use. While the content is the same the URLs are different.

Is it better to apply 301 redirects to URLs 2-4 so that they all lead to the same location (URL 1) and open the same page content only on URL 1.

I have a feeling that 301s would be beneficial to our rankings.

  • It seems to me to be a choice. Canonical tags should be used by default. Generally, 301's are not used though they can be valid too. The reason for this is simple. Having content available under different URLs are generally avoided. Even when they are unavoidable, the links and sitemap would just use one format (#1 is preferred). So it really is a choice to 301 or use a canonical tag. But if you can avoid having so many URLs refer to the same content, that would be best.
    – closetnoc
    Feb 17, 2016 at 23:20

2 Answers 2


It depends on the search engines you are trying to index in.

If you are looking for the greatest compatibility with all search engines (so that they can index your site), then you're better off to use 301 redirects.

If you're looking for speed and you only want your site indexed in google (and whatever other search engine that fully supports <link rel="canonical" href="original-url">), then declare the duplicate pages as canonicals since there is no need to load at least twice the number of pages (the redirect page, possibly additional redirect pages and lastly, the content page).


A 301 redirect is preferable to a canonical declaration.

This has different reasons, e.g.:

  • Not all consumers support the canonical link type (which is relatively new), but most should support 301 HTTP redirects (which is a relatively old standard).
  • The canonical link type is intended for bots, so most human visitors won’t learn which URL you prefer. With HTTP redirects, all users automatically end up on the same URL, so all use the same URL to link to your document.
  • With HTTP redirects, URL-based caches are more effective.

This is also what RFC 6596: The Canonical Link Relation recommends:

Before adding the canonical link relation, verification of the following is RECOMMENDED:

  1. […]

  2. For HTTP, permanent HTTP redirects (Section 10.3.2 of [RFC2616]), the traditional strong indicator that a IRI's content has been permanently moved, could not be implemented in place of the canonical link relation.

  3. […]

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