✅ They consolidate link value
If you’ve done all the hard work required to get people linking to your pages, then you want to make sure that those links count. If you’re not using canonical URL tags, then links to different versions of your pages might mean that their value is diluted.
With a canonical URL tag in place, Google understands that the links to all of those different URLs should be counted against the original version. That means that instead of having lots of weak pages with few links, you have one strong, single page, which all of the links point to.
✅ They prevent internal competition
When search engines get confused, those different ‘versions’ of your pages might end up competing against each other – even from within your own site.
That makes it really important to tell Google which of these is the original version. Then they can combine the value of each of those versions into one single, strong page.
✅ They help you get better search engine listings
When Google displays your pages in their search results, you want to put your best foot forward. Canonical URL tags help to tell Google which URL they should show, and where they should send visitors when they click.
Remember, the search engine results page is your shop front, and, every detail matters when it comes to convincing users to click on your listing! Sending visitors to the wrong version of a page, or showing confusing text in your snippet might confuse or frustrate your visitors.
✅ They consolidate social shares
It’s not just Google that uses canonical URL tags – social networks like Facebook, Pinterest and more also rely on understanding which the original version of the page is.
When somebody shares your page, you want to make sure they’re sharing the right version. Canonical URL tags make sure that you’re tallying up those share counts against the original version of your page, instead of splitting up your scores against lots of different URLs.
Read our ultimate guide to rel=canonical if you need more information on canonical URLs.
✅ We let you manually change the canonical URL
In some cases, you might want to choose your own canonical URL on a page. Our plugin lets you do this on a page-by-page basis, and it’s as easy typing in the URL you want to use.
We also support cross-domain canonical URL tags, so you can reference pages on other websites. This might be useful if your content is published on multiple sites, and you want to prevent those pages from competing with each other. Setting a cross-site canonical URL can help to achieve this by consolidating links and social shares to a specific page.
✅ We provide security controls
Canonical URLs are a powerful tool, so they should be used with care. On sites with multiple editors and administrators, most of those users won’t need to worry about or set manual values. To keep things simple and secure, we let you hide the controls from specific users or groups.
✅ We manage when you shouldn’t output a canonical URL
There are some cases where setting a canonical URL tag isn’t necessary, and where it may even cause conflict. On error pages, or on pages which you don’t want to show up in Google (which you’ve set to noindex), then it’s best practice to remove the tag entirely. We take care of that automatically.
Canonical elements for paginated archives
On paginated pages like category or tag archives, date archives or author archives, Yoast SEO will add a canonical to the current paginated page. So, say you’re on
example.com/category/uncategorized/page/2/, the canonical will point at exactly that URL. Yoast SEO will also add
rel="prev" links, pointing to the previous and the next page in the paginated series. These three combined make sure that search engines understand that they’re on a paginated series and will crawl it accordingly.
A common misconception is that the canonical on a paginated page should always point to page 1 in the series. This is not the case. When you do that, you run the risk of search engines not indexing links that appear on page 2, 3 etc. of your archives. This would cause older articles to drop out of the search results entirely.
rel="prev" tags don’t work on your paginated content, read this article.
Changing the canonical in Yoast SEO
Adding canonicals in Yoast SEO (free and premium) works automatically and, generally, you do not need to change anything. If, however, you wish to make some changes, you can follow the steps in this article.
We have fully documented — including a function spec and API — this feature on our Canonical URL Developer pages.