How to solve “Alternate page with proper canonical tag fix”

We had a client recently who emailed us saying that Google Search Console had given her the warning:

Search Console has identified that some pages on your site are not being indexed due to the following new reason:
Alternate page with proper canonical tag

And we helped her to solve this problem. It isn’t a difficult solve or fix, it just needs a bit of time and patience put into the process.

In the realm of SEO, handling multiple pages with similar content is a common challenge. The key to addressing this lies in effectively using canonical tags to direct search engines towards your preferred page. This guide will walk you through the process step by step.

Step 1: Identifying Duplicate Content

When identifying duplicate content, consider not just the obvious copies but also variations in content that are substantially similar. Use advanced features in tools like Screaming Frog or Google Search Console to detect nuances in content duplication. Look for patterns in URL structures, meta tags, and even slight variations in product descriptions or articles. Remember, it’s not just about finding identical content, but also about understanding the intent and context of each page. Consider user experience and how each page serves a unique purpose in your site’s ecosystem.

Step 2: Selecting the Preferred Page

Choosing the right page as the preferred version is crucial. Analyse metrics like page traffic, conversion rates, and user engagement to make an informed decision. Think about the page’s relevance to search queries, its alignment with your SEO goals, and how it represents your brand. The selected page should be the most comprehensive, authoritative, and user-friendly version of the content. Also, consider the long-term SEO strategy for your site, ensuring that the chosen page can sustain and grow its relevance over time.

Step 3: Implementing the Canonical Tag

When implementing the canonical tag, it’s not just about adding a line of code. It’s about understanding the implications of this tag on your site’s SEO. Ensure that the canonical tag is correctly formatted and placed on each alternate page. Double-check the URLs used in the tags for accuracy. Educate your content team about the importance of these tags, ensuring they’re used consistently in future content. Also, consider how canonical tags interact with other SEO elements like redirects, sitemaps, and internal linking structures.

Step 4: Testing and Verification

Testing and verifying the impact of canonical tags involves more than just checking for errors. Monitor your site’s performance in search engine rankings and watch for changes in traffic patterns. Use analytical tools to track how search engines are indexing your pages post-implementation. Regularly review the performance and adjust if necessary, as SEO is an ongoing process. Engage in a/b testing with and without canonical tags on certain pages to understand their true impact. Keep an eye on industry updates, as search engine algorithms evolve frequently.

In conclusion, while the steps to implement canonical tags are straightforward, the strategy behind each step requires careful consideration and ongoing management. This approach ensures that your website is not only technically sound but also aligned with your broader SEO and content strategies.