In a hangout for Google SEO office hours, Google’s John Mueller was asked if the rel canonical or noindex tag was the best approach to dealing with duplicate and thin content on an e-commerce site. John Mueller discussed both options and then suggested a third way to deal with it.
The Noindex Directive
The noindex meta tag is a directive, which means that Google must obey the meta tag and drop the web page from appearing in the search results.
The only thing the noindex tag does is prevent that page from appearing in Google search results.
Google’s official documentation says:
“You can prevent a page or other resource from appearing in Google Search by including a noindex meta tag or header in the HTTP response. The next time Googlebot crawls the page and sees the tag or headline, Googlebot will delete the page completely from Google’s search results. , whether or not other sites link to it. “
A rel = canonical tag is a hint, not a directive. It gives Google a suggestion as to which URL you want to appear in the search results.
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This is useful when there are several pages that are similar to each other, especially when a shopping CMS generates several pages for the same product, where the only difference is usually something trivial like the color of the item.
Google’s official rel canonical documentation explains the problem as follows:
“A canonical URL is the URL of the page that Google believes is most representative of a set of duplicate pages on your site. For example, if you have URLs for the same page (example.com?dress=1234 and example.com / dresses / 1234), Google chooses one as canonical. “
Rel canonical is a useful solution because it can consolidate all the link and relevancy signals back to the main page that a publisher wants in the search results.
But because Google treats the rel canonical tag as a hint, there is no guarantee that Google will obey it, and the Google algorithm may decide to show another page in the search result.
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Rel Canonical Versus Noindex
The person asking the question wanted a clarification of whether it was best to use noindex or canonization.
It is not an unreasonable thing to get confused because a case could be made using both solutions.
Here is the question:
“We have a website … an e-commerce store with many product variants that have thin content or duplicate content, even sometimes.
So … I made a list of all the URLs we want to keep or we want indexed … and then I made a list of all the URLs we do not want indexed.
The more I worked on it, the more I asked this question to myself, canonization or non-indexing?
I do not know what the best of them would be. “
“… I think the general question of whether I should use noindex or rel canonical for another page is something to which there is probably no absolute answer.
So that’s kind of straightforward. It’s like if you’re struggling with it, that you’re not the only person who’s like, oh which one should I use?
It usually also means that both of these options can be okay.
So usually what I would look at there is what your really strong preference is.
And if the strong preference is that you really do not want this content to appear in search at all, then I would use noindex.
If you prefer, I really want everything combined on one page, and if individual pops up like anything but most of them need to be combined, then I would use a rel canonical.
And in the end, the effect is similar in that it’s likely that the page you are looking at will not appear in the search.
But with a noindex, it is certainly not shown.
And with a relatively canonical, it is more likely not shown. “
A third way to deal with duplicate and thin pages
Mueller then suggested that a publisher could use both noindex and rel canonical to take advantage of both.
“… you can do them both too.
And it is something … if external links, for example, point to this page, then it helps us in a way to find out, if you have them both there, you do not want this page indexed, but you have also specified another.
So maybe some of the signals we can just pass on. “
Combining Rel Canonical and Noindex is not a commonly discussed solution. But according to John Mueller, it’s a valid way to handle duplicate and thin content.
But in the end, it’s really up to the publisher to decide based on what their desired outcome is, whether it’s important to consolidate link and relevancy signals, and whether it’s crucial to ensure that the page does not appear in searches.
Google’s official documentation of Noindex
Block search indexing with noindex
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Google’s official documentation of Rel Canonical
Consolidate duplicate URLs
Which is better: NoIndex or Rel Canonical?
See at 16:49 Minute Mark