I need to add canonical URL meta tags to our website. The general way to do this should include any URL parameters, but is this true for tracking parameters too, such as utm_ parameters?

I ask partly because I know this is guesswork, as evidenced by the vague answers given on forums and blogs about this question. And while we can guess that Google may disregard utm_ parameters, it might be trickier to assume the same about Bing et al. In addition, Urchin parameters are not the only tracking parameters out there.

  • What do you mean by "add canonical URLs"? Are you planning to add meta link rel canonical tags? Are you planning to redirect to the canonical URL? – Stephen Ostermiller Jul 8 '16 at 16:06
  • @StephenOstermiller Adding tags. No, redirection is not planned at this time. Thanks! – Iucounu Jul 8 '16 at 17:03

No, you wouldn't include tracking parameters in the canonical link element.

It's certainly not true to say that the "general way to do this [set canonical URLs] should include any URL parameters". Most often, the canonical link element is being used, at least in part, to exclude parameters.

What is the correct approach to canonicalisation will differ by site, of course: parameters may very well be part of a valid canonical URL, but not necessarily.

Also, no need to speculate on whether Google disregard utm parameters. They don't. See screenshot below, showing a duplication due to utm parameters.

Google Analytics UTM parameter duplication


This is an example of what a canonical tag tries to fix: If the parameters do not modify the content of the webpage, then you shouldn't include it as a canonical url.

Some common examples include: sorting parameters or mailing campaign parameters such as utm_parameters. They will display the same content, so marking them as canonical would probably lead to the problem canonical tags try to avoid: content duplication.

You should determine the URL you want people to see, that one would be your canonical URL, so even though there would be many URLs variations that can access the above URL content, you specify which one is your preferred URL with a canonical tag. Add a element with the attribute rel="canonical" to the section of these pages so search results will be more likely to show that URL structure and not the one with utm_parameters in this case.

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