Canonical tags inform search engines what the preferred URL is for a website page. If a website page has more than one URL and the search engines index all the URLs for the page, they penalise the website by lowering the page rank for the page and possibly for the entire website. A canonical tag tells the search engine the page only exists once and that it should only index the URL indicated by the tag. Implementing canonical tags in Joomla! requires downloading and installing a free extension from the Joomla! Extension Directory.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Download the "Canonical URL Module" from the Joomla! Extension Directory (http://extensions.joomla.org). The file is a .zip archive file.
Move the cursor to the "Extensions" menu and click on "Install / Uninstall" on the drop-down menu list to load the extension manager. Click on the "Browse" button and navigate to the downloaded module file on your local computer. Double click on the file to open it and then click on the "Upload File & Install" button to install the module.
Point the cursor at the "Extensions" menu and select "Module Manager" from the drop-down menu. Find the "Canonical URL Module" in the list of available modules. Click on the red circle to the right of the module to enable it. Click on the module name to open the module and change the settings.
Set the module rules in the "Module Parameter Section" on the right side of the page. Each rule has two parts -- "Find Part of URL" and "Set Part of URL" -- which you set to change a portion of the URL. For example, you may have an article page with two possible URLs, such as mysite.com/home-improvement/plumbing and mysite.com/fix-my-house/plumbing, a scenario entirely possible under Joomla!'s menu system. Search engines will index both URLs and reduce the page rank because they are duplicate content. Set the "Find Part of URL" field to "fix-my-house", and the "Set Part of URL" to "home-improvement"
Change the menu assignment settings if you only want the module rules to apply to specific areas of the website. Hold down "Shift" and click on menu items to select them.
Click "Save" to save the module settings and return to the module manager. Click "Preview" to view the site. You won't notice any change on the page or in the URL. Select "View Page Source" from the "View" menu and search the html source code for "rel=canonical." You'll find the canonical tag with the URL changed to mysite.com/home-improvement/plumbing.
Tips and warnings
- The Canonical URL Module allows up to ten rules and they are evaluated in order from 1 to 10.
- You can make copies of the module in the module manager to set more rules to apply across large websites.
- The module will not change the domain or sub-domain part of the URL. This should be done with a 301 redirect, which requires a different extension.
- Use care when setting the canonical tags. It is possible to make a page disappear entirely from the search engine indexes by indicated a page URL that does not exist. It is also possible to create additional URLs for indexing, which worsens the problem. Make sure you plan what you are doing and check to be sure you did it right.
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