Google SEO: Canonical Country Pages To Primary Page?

Sep 6, 2012 • 8:07 am | comments (11) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

GoogleBot Canonical TagThere is an interesting thread at Google Webmaster Help forums that is honestly just a bit over my head, in that I have not really tested this method.

In short, the webmaster has several country specific web pages, all with the same content, but the currency and shopping methods differ. For example, he has these three pages:

  • General:
  • de-AT:
  • de-DE:

The question is, since the product content is the same, should he use the rel=canonical to redirect the search engines from the de-AT and de-DE pages to the General page or not.

John Mueller from Google said he most likely should not. John explained:

If you are considering expanding the displayed content to include country-specific information (for example, if you were to include a Swiss version at some point :)), then I'd continue to point to the country-specific versions. That way, you're prepared for future enhancements and don't have to worry about changing the setup again. From a search point of view, the difference (using a single canonical vs two for two country versions) is likely not going to be noticeable, so I wouldn't spend too much time worrying about that decision and instead base it on what the bigger picture is for these sites.

Well, he said, he would not worry about that decision.

The part that is a bit over my head is why would you want to redirect search engines only on those pages if you want those pages to rank in geo-specific versions of Google? I am clearly missing something here but the conversation, I hope, can be helpful to SEOs who do a lot of international SEO.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

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09/06/2012 12:37 pm

Not canonical country pages!, put a canonical in this situation is a stupid idea

Nikolaj Landrock

09/06/2012 12:44 pm

It's funny, I've JUST posted about this issue on Twitter, but since no one answered, I decided to do some research of my own. To my understanding, Google does not want you to use rel=canonical for multilingual content, and it makes perfect sense. Since the rel=canonical is not a "redirection of crawlers" but much rather a webmasters way to declare to the crawlers, that he/she has pages with very similar content (for example on a webshop), that could be seen as duplicate - but should not be taken as such by Google. In my eyes it's more of an "awareness" statement, that webmasters can use, if they have duplicate content to avoid penalty. So, the fact that you show that you are aware of the issue, seems to be enough for Google. This does NOT go for multi language content though, because the content is in fact NOT the same, or at least, is not targeted for the same audience, which makes it unique to those segmented audiences. Therefore Google has made a markup function, where you use these markup rules:


09/06/2012 12:50 pm

I think the question that should be asked, is should I use the cannonical tag if I am targeting the same language with different currencies etc english uk, engligh us, english au? when the content in engligh will be near duplicate. Again imo, cannonical should not be used as a well structured website (tld, sub-folder/domain/geo-targeted in webmasters), should resolve this issue.

Alistair Lattimore

09/06/2012 02:19 pm

Barry, I think a lot of people get confused about this but once you wrap your head around it, I think it generally makes sense. You use rel="alternate" hrefland="x" to inform Google that a set of pages are related to once another, such as the same basic content but one in French and one in German. Using this tag helps Google return the appropriate URL to the appropriate users around the world. If the de-DE version URL in the example was stronger than the de-AT, without the rel="alternate" hrefland="x" annotations, it might rank in (lets forget about geotargeting in Google Webmaster Tools for a moment). However by applying the annotations, it'll help Google return the de-AT URL to the appropriate audience - which in this case is Adding the rel="canonical" tag into this mix makes things a little less clear for most at this point. Understand normal operating conditions, using a non-self referencing rel="canonical" tag causes Google to drop the URL - akin to a HTTP 301 permanent redirect. However, when it is present with the rel="alternate" hreflang="x" tag - it has a special behaviour. In the example of de-DE and de-AT, the webmaster could set the rel="canonical" tag to consolidate PageRank into a preferred URL to avoid duplicate content & because of the rel="alternate" hreflang="x" annotations, Google will continue to show the appropriate URL to the appropriate audience. I think of this behaviour as an extension of what Google do with rel="prev" rel="next" whereby they group and share the collection of paginated URLs PageRank among the set giving every page equal ability to rank, even though pages toward the start of the paginated set will likely have more PageRank. In the de-DE and de-AT example, I tend to think Google are grouping/sharing the PageRank when the rel="canonical" tag is in use and because of the rel="alternate" hreflang="x" annotation, they are still able to get the right URL to rank accordingly. Continuing the French and German example for the same product - then you could annotate those URLs with rel="alternate" hreflang="x" to tell Google that they are related and since they are different languages (ala, not dupliate content) - the rel="canonical" tag would be self referencing on each of those URLs. Of course if your site was targeting a country where Bing had a significant percentage share of search market share - I'd be inclined to cloak the de-DE and de-AT URLs so you don't end up dropping the non-self referencing rel="canonical" URLs as a result of Google not supporting the rel="alternate" hreflang="x" functionality. Cheers, Al.

Sanket Patel

09/07/2012 07:30 am

Hi, over here you have posted good thoughts and usage of canonical tag but my question is can i use canonical tag for cross domain and if yes then how can i use that ???

Alistair Lattimore

09/07/2012 10:14 am

Sanket, Yes you can do cross domain rel="canonical" tags. The usage for cross domain canonical is no different to using it in a single domain, other than the fact that you must use a fully qualified URL as the href attribute value in the rel="canonical" tag. Al.

Sanket Patel

09/07/2012 10:59 am

Hi Alistair, Thanks for rep. i have two domains with same content .com and so now i want to rel canonical domain on .com domian so how it can be possible and how my code is look like??

Rajesh Magar

09/07/2012 01:18 pm

This is bit over my head too, but I agree with the John Mueller comment. As webmaster don't need to think in deep on this, where Google is fully capable to manage this problem.

Alistair Lattimore

09/07/2012 01:27 pm

If you don't need a user to be able to actively browse both the .com and, your best option is to use a site wide HTTP 301 permanent redirect from your URLs to the corresponding .com URLs. If you need a user to be able to browse both domains and not just be redirected to your .com, then simply add the rel="canonical" tag to your URLs pointing to the corresponding URLs on your .com. You should read through the official documentation I think, If you need more help after you've read that, contact me through some other means as this isn't the place for the discussion.

09/07/2012 02:04 pm

Hello Sanket - you can refer to this link -

Sanket Patel

09/10/2012 02:51 am

Thanks Alistair this is really helpful for me.

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