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The New Canonical Link Tag: What to do…

First off, kudos to the search engines for working together to come up with a reasonable standard for solving what had previously been an intractable issue. I will restrain myself from saying “it’s about damn time”, or maybe I just didn’t, but regardless this is a fantastic new tool that far more webmasters can implement. Here are some initial thoughts.

  1. What it really changes…
    The burden has shifted from knowing all the false URLs (in order to create URL rewrites to address them) to simply knowing the correct URLs.
  2. Who it really helps….
    The New Canonical Link Tag is most useful to webmasters and site-authors who do not have access to redirecting languages. Since 301 redirects are initiated server-side, users of CMS or hosted-app solutions (like wordpress.com or blogger) may have more access to template headers than the necessary server-side code. Implementing mod-rewrites or server-scripted 301s is not always possible.
  3. I have 301s in place, should I get rid of them…
    No. 301s are accepted by nearly all search engines, not simply Google. Use the Canonical Link Tag as well, though, in case you missed any.
  4. Do I even need to care anymore once implemented…
    The best practice is and will remain to prevent multiple URI from pointing to the same body of content. Google has already stated that at least some link-juice will be lost in this process, although it will be similar to that lost in a 301 redirect. Don’t get sloppy.
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