Smush.it Is My New Favorite #WordPress Plugin

Smush.it WordPress PluginWP Smush.it is my new favorite WordPress plugin. Sure it may not be as awesome as Joost de Valk’s WordPress SEO plugin, but it solves a massive problem in a very simple manner. It executes lossless compression on any image uploaded to your WordPress Media Library.

What is lossless compression and why should I care?

Great question. Lossless compression significantly reduces the file size of images while retaining high image quality. Search engines care immensely about the overall file size of a webpage. The larger the size the more of a pain it is to crawl and the more energy the crawler must expend analyzing your website. When you stick it to the search engines the search engines can stick it right back at you. Several years ago Google mentioned page load speed can impact rankings and the search community began to quake. In the past twelve months Google has focused more on page load speed and even released a fantastic speed audit tool to help webmasters identify problems areas causing slow load times.

I have run hundreds of site speed audits utilizing this tool and one issue ALWAYS comes up: Optimize Images. Google then reveals you need to compress those mammoth files and directs you to their handy dandy Image Optimization guide. In a nutshell, Google suggests using lossless or lossy compression.

I have used a handful of these compression tools and every single one requires using the Command Prompt giving me crazy flashbacks to my early childhood when I programmed text-based games in DOS. Worse yet, none of these solutions compress images in bulk. Because we all have so much time on our hands we get to optimize each image individually. There does not seem to be an nice quick and dirty Windows based drag-and-drop option.

Unicorn MaskLast week I searched again for this magnificent digital unicorn and found the WP Smush.it plugin. I installed the plugin on my WordPress site and immediately felt warm and fuzzy inside. The plugin compresses all of your images uploaded to your WordPress Media Library in bulk!

Well how did you do that?

It is super easy. Click on Media within your WordPress UI and select “Bulk Smush.it.”

Smush.it

On the next screen just click “Run all my images through WP Smush.it right now.

Bulk Smush.it

That is all you need to do! So amazingly simple. Now the results varied from image to image. Some images only saw a 1% reduction in file size and some saw as much as a 58% reduction. A majority fell within the 15%-25% range. After all these images were smushed I analyzed my site again through the site speed tool and saw my score improved by a couple points. Not Earth shattering, but every bit counts. Check out the tool and have fun smushing your images.

Avoid This Huge #Brand Management Mistake With Social Media Profiles

Social Media ProfilesI constantly run into this massive brand management mistake involving Social Media profiles; they forget to claim the profile’s custom URL. When you forget to claim the Social Media profile custom URL, but spend millions of dollars promoting your new tagline or product name you can end up in trouble.

I have worked with many creative teams, agency and in-house groups, that launch a new tagline, product name or campaign name. They spend months developing the new concept creating a year long release calendar and tons of promotional events educating their target consumer. They pour millions of dollars into TV, Print and Radio. They blitz Paid Search and deploy SEO so they can dominate the search engine results page. Then someone notices their Social Media profiles all have different custom URLs. How can that be with a “new” concept or name? No one knew what this new word was until the campaign launched or until this new product was introduced at the latest conference.

Well the Social Media team did not create the laundry list of Social Media profiles until weeks or months after release. While you were spending valuable time, resources and money promoting your new tagline or product name there was a legion of “entrepreneurs” creating Twitter, Facebook and Google+ profiles using your new word for their custom URLs. Now their Twitter profile is sitting in the number three position in Google and there is nothing you can do about it. The social networks will not boot the first person that claimed your custom URL; you are out of luck.

Now half your Social Media profiles use the actual tagline or product name and the other half do not. Brand consistency is tossed out the window and you will endure consumer confusion or worse; lost revenue opportunities. When your customer cannot find your Facebook profile but they are landing on a “fake” yet active version you are losing out.

This also can lead to reputation management issues. What if the owner of that “fake” profile is not responding to your customers in your company’s voice? What if they are getting testy with your current or potential customers? All you can do is sit back and try to find ways to drive those people to the correct profile page.

However, all of this can be avoided if you create these profiles before the launch of the campaign or new product. You do not need to actively post yet blowing the cover on the new concept, but at least claim them. Do not overlook this problem when you are planning your new campaign or product launch. Protect your brand.

Google’s Stance on Guest #Blogging Flies in the Face of the Purpose of the Internet

Evil GoogleGood old Google and Matt Cutts have finally gone after guest blogging. They claim it is SPAMMY and  is dead. Another narrow minded reaction to something that is really good for the Internet. Guest blogging enables community and fosters the sharing of knowledge. In the beginning, Google espoused their passion for the Internet and that is was the PRIMARY solution for sharing knowledge and empowering the world.

Cutts was coy on the outcome of a guest blogging link back to your site; will your site be penalized or will the link have zero value. However, he was pretty clear about Google’s position:

So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.

If Google does penalize a site for guest blogging it nukes the idea of sharing information and will force a publisher to either produce content solely for their site or for the big and “legitimate” sites like CNN, Huffington Post, Search Engine Land and Mashable. It is doubtful a link back from one of those sites will harm your site because they are at the top of the pecking order.

This reaction also clearly damages Google’s audacious goal of assigning authority to an individual publisher in the form of Authorship. Or it just proves that Google wants to limit the vast world of the Internet. They are essentially forcing you to stay on your own site or publishing on a big site. Potentially be harmed by publishing on a smaller lesser known site or only publish on a “safe” site.

Well I am going to continue being a good Internet citizen and share my knowledge here and on other sites. If I am penalized because I reference myself with a link to my site rather than to my Google+ profile oh well.

Andrew Martineau: An Interview With an #SEO

Andrew Martineau SEOAndrew Martineau is an excellent SEO, and I have worked with Andrew for the past couple of years and he is situated at our headquarters in Boston. Andrew recently published a Click-Through Rate study on Moz that revealed some interesting search behavior. What I like about Andrew is his constant tinkering with data and drive to answer interesting questions utilizing data. Without further adieu, below is a list of questions that Andrew has answered for your viewing pleasure.

How and why did you choose to become an SEO professional?

Honestly, I don’t know how I first came across SEO. I do know that I first began researching the practice about a year after college and was hooked ever since. I majored in Marketing at school, which certainly helps with SEO. But, if I could go back, I would have pursued more computer science courses, which would have saved me hours of time on the coding side of things.

To stay current in SEO, you must constantly be active in the community, whether that be simply reading blogs from other industry experts, or testing things on your own side projects. I feel that both are necessary in order to gain the knowledge and experience to produce favorable organic results for my clients.

Prior to presenting a recommendation to one of my clients, I’ll often test and learn what exactly which tactics work best on one of my side projects. For instance, Wicked Wine Candles, I make and sell candles from upcycling old wine bottles. Using this site, I have tested everything from simple image attribute changes for improving visibility in image search results, to long 301 redirect chains for examining diminishing link equity.

Of all the SEO tasks (I.E. audits, competitive analysis, technical SEO, on-page SEO) which one do you most enjoy performing? Why?

I think I enjoy competitive analysis the most. It involves both the creative and numbers driven parts of my mind. Competitive analysis isn’t always as predefined and structured as other tasks (e.g. technical SEO, on-page), so you are able to tailor the work specifically towards the client and their business. Not to mention, competitive analysis typically allows for me to create different types of reports and visualizations, which I enjoy.

Is SEO more important today than it was for websites five or ten years ago? Why?

Today I think it is more difficult, but also more important than it was in the past. More people are increasingly seeking information via search. In 2013, there were over 5.9 billion Google searches per day, up from 1.7 billion in 2008. That’s a 239% increase over a 5 year time period. Additionally, consumers are constantly connected to the internet either at the jobs, via mobile, or at home.

Should a professional SEO expand their knowledge base to other online marketing verticals (i.e. Social Media, Community, SEM)? Why?

Absolutely. In my mind SEO is not just on-page optimization anymore. If it was, you could literally teach a client what they need to know on one sheet of paper. Today SEO includes social, building an online community, and establishing your brand as an informative authority in your industry.

What is a typical hurdle to overcome for a successful SEO engagement?

Often times clients seem to be reluctant to make changes to their site for one reason or another. Getting the client on-board and to understand the benefits/potential returns through investing in SEO. Once you have that, its much smoother sailing. Crafting the strategy and recommendations are easy, its implementation that is often times the bottleneck.

Throughout your career what is the most common technical SEO problem you always find when reviewing a website?

The most common technical problem I come across is probably a client making changes to their sites URLs and not redirecting the old to ones to the new URLs. If done correctly, this is such a simple task that is essential to maintaining organic search performance.

Can you look at any website while surfing the web without thinking about SEO?

Ha ha. Not really. For the really big sites, I always wish I had access to their site analytics.

3 Client Management Tips When Starting Your SEO Engagement

SEO Client ManagementA client has retained you for an SEO engagement. You are excited and dive right into the work analyzing their site and web analytics. You see opportunity through code improvements and you identify valuable content subject matter the client needs to publish. However, you worry this client might be like the previous ones. They may question every single recommendation and you might detect their confidence in your acumen slipping over time. Could it be a few simple tweaks to your client management methods could resolve these issues? Could a few changes make your next SEO engagement proceed much smoother than before? Let me walk you through three MUST DOs during a client kick-off meeting.

1. SEO Training (or an SEO Tour) – Everyone I meet during a kick-off meeting knows “SEO.” They understand what it is and how it can help them. They also know they have hired me to do their SEO. This usually means they understand SEO will help them get more visitors from Google. However, they do not actually know much about SEO beyond the term “keywords.” Most also are very unaware that a majority of my recommendations will require code changes and perhaps a redesign of their site if they are utilizing a code-base ignored by the search engines.

I walk a client through a very high-level deck of about eight slides. These slides explain how the search engines work, and how we can make the client’s site more discoverable and crawler friendly. We talk about keywords and how the engines have evolved over the years so any past SEO trickery they have swirling in their head is quickly dispelled.

I also discuss the convergence of Social Media and SEO and how authority is no longer solely dependent upon inbound links but also how their content is consumed and discussed on the social platforms. This part usually causes a raised eyebrow because a majority of company marketing departments are fractured into silos. The Paid guy is over there. The Social Media manager tweets and Facebooks all day long on a different floor. The SEO ninja/guru/maven sits somewhere else. The Digital Marketing staff creates campaigns and writes copy without even glancing in the direction of the Paid, SEO or Social Media managers. So when a client hears how each channel should work together and must work together in order to maximize success a potential wall has been obliterated. They may not agree yet, but at least they now know you are going to make some suggestions that creeps into the other realms of Digital Marketing.

Now that I have the client thinking about SEO, Social Media and Digital Marketing through my perception we move onto the next MUST DO.

2. Process and SEO Deliverables – You have a process, and documents. You know how to get a site from Point A to Point B bringing in more eyeballs and generating more conversions. Explain this process to the client. Take them through day one and through the end of the year stating when a deliverable will land in their inbox.

My next few slides takes the client on this journey. They see in the beginning I am conducting keyword research, analyzing competitors and learning more about their industry. Tell them why you need to know their business inside out in order to be their very best online-salesperson. Because that is what you are. You find organic leads and drive those leads to the client’s site so they will convert. Once a client sees you in that vein they quickly understand why you require so much research and study. That knowledge is what they expect out of their sales staff.

3. Set Expectations – This depends upon how the client ended up in your lap. As a side consultant this part might occur during the initial client meeting. Through the agency, clients come to me through an Account Director or another agency. If the client wants to rank in position one on Google for “Costco” and they are not Costco, but a competitor then you need to quickly explain that is not going to happen.

seo-engagementIf they want to see a 1000% Y/Y increase in organic traffic then you need to explain how that can happen. You would need an army of content writers, the full attention of their engineering team and their Social Media team. Explain to them how much time, money and other resources are required to hit such a lofty goal. If they just want to see improvement then you still must inform the client that you will need to work with their engineering and content teams. Their editors must produce recommended subject matter content. Their engineers must implement your technical SEO recommendations. The client must understand that SEO is not you sitting in a corner wishing Google will give the client better rankings. The client must understand you simply cannot dial up Matt Cutts and ask a little love be thrown your client’s way.

If you cover these three bases then you will find yourself stream rolling your way to home plate without a barricading catcher.

Surprising Companies That Don’t Rank for Their Logo in Google Image Search

logosA majority of time I am shocked and confounded that a large company does not rank for their own logo in Google Image Search. If anyone in the world should rank for a company logo it should be the company that owns that logo. However, almost everyone ignores their logo and the best practices for image search optimization.

Before we reveal the culprits and the companies that do understand there is value in ranking for their own logo let’s see if there is a reason to rank for these familiar images. The following list of keywords was pulled from the Google Keyword Planner tool. The data shows the average monthly search volume for each keyword within the United States using Exact match data:

Keyword Average Monthly Search Volume
Apple Logo 40,500
Amazon Logo 12,100
Walmart Logo 12,100
Target Logo 12,100
Microsoft Logo 9,900
Xbox Logo 5,400
Home Depot Logo 3,600
PlayStation Logo 2,900
Costco Logo 1,900
Lowe’s Logo 1,900
IKEA Logo 1,600

 

Some logos are more popular than others, but nevertheless there is strong search demand for a company and their logo. Now let’s see how these industry titans rank in Google Image Search:

Google Rank
Amazon 1
Lowe’s 1
Microsoft 2
Xbox Not in top 50
PlayStation Not in top 50
Apple Not in top 50
IKEA Not in top 50
Home Depot Not in top 50
Target Not in top 50
Walmart Not in top 50
Costco Not in top 50

 

Apple, Amazon, Walmart and Target have the greatest average monthly search volume, but only Amazon ranks for their logo. The other three are not even in the Top 50. The next question is how can a company rank for their own logo? The answer is simple; image search optimization. Some people may refer to this as Digital Asset Optimization or simply image optimization. You might call it something else, but at the end of the day the rules are the same.

If a company wants to rank for “company name logo” then do the following:

Image File Name – Name the image “company-name-logo.jpg,” so home-depot-logo.jpg. All that matters is you use your company name and logo. Use lowercase and separate each word with a hyphen. Do not add anything else.

Image ALT Text – This one is easier than the file name. Use “Company Name Logo,” so it would look like this “Home Depot Logo” for Home Depot. Do not add anything else.

There are a few other factors that influence ranking in Google Image Search. Such as the text content around the image will help educate the engines what the image is about. For example, the hero image for a page about an Xbox One controller, most likely is a picture of an Xbox One controller and not a pepperoni pizza. So if the image file name and Image ALT Text use “Xbox One controller” and the page content is about an Xbox One controller, then there is a strong chance the hero image is a picture of an Xbox One controller.

It is also wise to deploy an image sitemap.xml and register the location of that sitemap within your Google Webmaster Tools account. With those tactics in mind let’s see how the companies above fare for optimizing their logos.

Do theses companies optimize their image file name and Image ALT Text for the logo:

File Name ALT Text
Amazon Yes’ish No
Lowe’s Yes’ish No
Microsoft Almost No
Xbox No No
PlayStation No No
Apple No No
IKEA No No
Home Depot No No
Target No No
Walmart No No
Costco No No

 

Not one company is properly optimizing for their logo. Most either use gibberish for the file name and a few use just “logo.png.” However, the three that rank do incorporate “company name logo” into a larger image file name.

For Amazon’s ranked image the file name is: navAmazonLogoFooter._V169459313_.gif. Lowe’s uses: NSI_Lowes_logo_280_2617.png, and Microsoft uses: MSFT_logo_rgb_C-Gray_D102x23.png.

Most have not even deployed the Image ALT Text code, and the companies that have just use their company name and do not include the term “logo.” Just a few simple tweaks and these companies could be in the pole position for their own logo, and these changes would require a nominal amount of development resources. Do not let a random website out-rank you for your own company logo. Leverage the best practices above and capture that valuable number one ranking.

How to Get Privacy for Your Home in Google Earth Street Search

Google Street View CarUsually SEO is all about increasing your search engine visibility and getting visitors to convert. Simple tactics can increase your sales, membership numbers, decrease your costs or accomplish some other goal. There are some things you wish never were on the Internet and that the search engines do not surface for others to see. For example, are you keen that a snapshot of your home is visible in Google Earth Street search?

By now, everyone should be aware that Google sent out an army of vehicles to drive and photograph every street and every home across the Earth. Many countries in Europe fought this and Google faced many protests across the water. Some cities blocked Google from entering their townships, but there was not a ton of fuss in the United States about this ambitious project. The Internet, search and the collection of information continues to expand at an alarming rate and more and more about you becomes available to anyone on a daily basis. Want to increase your privacy? Here is a simple process for having your home blurred out on Google Earth Street search.

Step 1 – Visit Google.

Step 2 – In the search box enter your full home address including city, state and zip code (or postal code).

Step 3 – As of today, the first result should be an image of Google Maps with a thumbnail for Street View in the bottom left corner. Click on the Street View thumbnail.

Google Earth Street Search

Step 4 – At the bottom right of the Street View map click on Report a problem.

Google Earth Street Search Privacy

Step 5 – On that screen Google permits you to request image blurring of a face, home, car, license plate and other objects. Select home.

Google Street View Privacy

Step 6 – Sit back and wait for about one week. Search for your home address again and you should see a blurry mess of your home, but only of your home. Your yard and driveway will remain visible.

It is not a complete solution, but it certainly is better than nothing.

The Hunger Games, Skin Color and Twitter

The Hunger Games TwitterThe Hunger Games buzz on Twitter is in full swing,  but did you expect to see complaining tweets about skin color? “Fans” of the popular novel series are making some bold statements with their 140 characters.

“Why does Rue have to be black not gonna lie kinda ruined the movie.”
“Awkward moment when Rue is some black girl and not the little innocent blonde girl you picture.”
“I was pumped about the Hunger Games. Until I learned a black girl was playing Rue.”

As I am writing, I am only 100 pages deep into The Hunger Games, and know that Rue is a dark skinned girl. Not sure how that is a shock to the “proclaimed” fans. It is also alarming that someone would generate more empathy watching an “innocent” white blonde girl die over a dark skinned 12 year old girl. Rue is not innocent because she is black?

Wonder if that person wished they has more than 140 characters to better develop their thought? Or do they truly feel that way?

I have noticed over the last few years that prejudice is more open with the advent of social media. It is easy to tweet or post on Facebook your opinions; popular or unpopular. Much easier than stating them aloud in a crowd of familiar or unfamiliar faces. The threat of immediate disapproval is not present online. You can tweet something very offensive and choose not to view your mentions or user comments. Heck you can even create a fictitious identity for spewing your beliefs.

Maybe I am naive about race growing up in the Pacific Northwest. Sure there are racial issues, but for the most part the greater Seattle region is quite diverse. Some of my best friends growing up came from very different parts of the world. I never viewed them in a different light compared to my white friends.

Learning that Rue is black does not “ruin” the story and nor did I find her less “innocent.” She is 12 years old and about to fight to the death with 23 other 12 – 18 year old kids! You know she is going to die. That is not enough to create an emotion of empathy? That is not enough to feel for her? Her skin color completely neutralizes the fact she is going to die at 12 at the hands of another kid because her government has forced her to participate? She is not volunteering to be skewered or burned or hacked to pieces.

I live social media and consult others how to utilize social media to increase brand awareness and sales. Sometimes, however, social media can produce some ugly results.

Sound SEO Resume Advice

SEO ResumeManaging an SEO team requires being very active throughout the hiring process. As the business grows or when a team member moves onto another opportunity headcount opens and the fun kicks into overdrive. Shockingly, most of the “fun” for potential candidates comes to a screeching halt the second they provide their resume. After reviewing dozens recently I thought providing some advice on crafting a successful SEO resume would be helpful for the community.

Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation Oh My!

It is critical you proofread your resume multiple times for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. Then have a friend review it. I review my resume at least five times, and then seek my wife’s scrutiny before I send it to the hiring manager. This is hyper-critical for agency SEO positions. In an agency you will create deliverables for well-paying clients. Put some effort into your resume because it is incredibly irritating reading sumthing woth speling airs.

Here are just a few common mistakes:

FaceBook
facebook
Google anlytics
Youtube
HTML , PHP , and XML

Yes, Facebook is “Facebook.” YouTube is “YouTube.” If you are not 100% certain about a brand’s official name go to their website and look at the copyright notice. A proper notice will include their correct name. Also, LinkedIn is “LinkedIn” and not Linkedin. I know their nifty logo displays a capitalized L and a lowercase i, but trust me they are officially known as LinkedIn.

Brand Names

One of the last resumes I reviewed had twelve of these such errors. One error might be overlooked, but you better be a serious rock star otherwise there is no chance of landing an interview. An SEO resume with multiple errors has no shot.

Results, Results, Results

A resume should characterize your skills and competencies. A hiring manager wants to know that a candidate has on-page optimization, technical SEO, mobile SEO and/or keyword research experience. However, listing every element and task of an SEO campaign is not enough. A successful resume will also highlight results.

Stating you optimized 1,000 pages for a Fortune 500 website is dandy. Failing to mention the fruits of your labor creates a mystery about your work. Are you not mentioning the results because those 1,000 pages lost all keyword rankings and organic referral traffic plummeted? A resume detailing results will always standout over a resume without results.

Honesty is the Best Policy

Remember what type of job you are seeking my dear SEO colleagues. Your resume and interview will most likely be managed by an SEO. It is our nature and job to search. Expect whatever you put in your resume will be audited with an online inquiry. Further, the SEO community is quite close and everyone is connected to someone. If you state you worked at Company A and I have a close friend there I will ping that friend (unless it is your current position).

If there is definite overlap with my friend’s tenure and your claimed tenure and my connection has no clue who you are that will not bode well. Now my lawyer skills will come into play and I will cross-examine my friend. I want to make sure there are no remote offices or that the marketing team was not comprised of several hundreds. If that connection is part of a five person marketing team and there is no chance the candidate worked at that company then there is little chance that candidate is getting an interview.

Do not state you are adept at technical SEO in your resume unless you know technical SEO. If you are hired and then are given a site audit task you will be expected to deliver a site audit. It would be a shame if you did not know how to identify the <head> and <body> sections of a site. It would be terrible if you gave a thumbs up to a Flash built site with no down-level experience for the engines.

If you send your resume and notice an error later then send an updated resume immediately. That shows you at least care and can identify mistakes. Please take this advice to heart so you are not passed up for the dream opportunity. Great SEO positions are rare and you want to capitalize on your experience. Do not defeat your chances right out of the gate.

The Rel Canonical Tag is Not The Solution to Every Known URL Problem

Rel Canonical TagWhen Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft joined forces and endorsed the rel=canonical tag back in 2009 SEOs across the land jumped for joy. Rel canonical does fulfill a very useful purpose buying a site owner time to correct their content duplication issues. Unfortunately, many site owners and developers are beginning to use the rel canonical tag as a band-aid for just about every URL problem. This is a dangerous practice that could produce a devastating result.

First, let’s discuss what the rel canonical tag is and why it is needed. Search engines want a unique piece of content to reside on one URL on your website. That means the search engines do not want to find your wildly popular article about Kony2012 republished on your site at multiple URLs:

www.bestsocialmediaever.com/kony2012/
www.bestsocialmediaever.com/kony2012-article/
www.bestsocialmediaever.com/kony2012-social-media-impact/
www.bestsocialmediaever.com/kony-2012-video-project/

Having the exact or very similar content on multiple URLs will trigger a duplicate content penalty. The above example of URLs highlight the SPAMMY way of duplicating content. Often times duplicate content issues are caused by a CMS that is running amok. Below is an example of a CMS creating a new version of your URL each day by appending a paramater:

www.bestsocialmediaever.com/kony2012/
www.bestsocialmediaever.com/kony2012?=wednes2/
www.bestsocialmediaever.com/kony2012?=thurs3/
www.bestsocialmediaever.com/kony2012?=fri4/
www.bestsocialmediaever.com/kony2012?=sat5/
www.bestsocialmediaever.com/kony2012?=sun6/

Notice the nasty parameter code being added everyday? This is not an intentional act of the site owner trying to create multiple URLs for the Kony2012 article. Nevertheless, a duplicate content penalty will soon loom over this site. The best course of action is to slap a rel canonical tag in the <head> section of this page essentially informing the engines, “Yes, we do have duplicate content for this page. However, please treat the specified URL in our rel canonical tag as the sole location for this content.”

For our example the rel canonical tag would appear like this in the <head> section of the source code:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”www.bestsocialmediaever.com/kony2012/”/>

Every duplicate page would have this rel canonical tag in the source code so the engines would know the intent of the site owner is to assign that content to one URL. After you have added that tag your job is not complete. Now you must FIX YOUR CMS URL WRITTING PROBLEM. Think of rel canonical as a real band-aid.

You cut your arm and blood comes pouring out. You clean the wound and slap a band-aid on the gash. In a few days your body repairs the cut and you no longer need the band-aid. That is rel canonical. Site owner discovers CMS URL writing problem and uses the rel canonical tag. Then the site owner resolves the URL writing problem, gets rid of all the dupe URLs so only the original URL is present and then the site owner can remove the rel canonical tag.

Unfortunately, I am seeing the rel canonical tag “resolving” many more issues on a permanent level. The frequent and most common use is to resolve the problem above, but the site owner never fixes the CMS parameter URL issue.

A deceptive and diabolical use of the tag can be found with sites that use content provider partners. Site A publishes celebrity gossip and becomes insanely popular. Site A cannot keep up with the demand for creating content. They reach out to Site B and strike a content syndication deal where Site B will allow Site A to reuse content from Site B. The same articles on Site B will also reside on Site A at the same time. I have seen contracts where Site B requires Site A add a rel canonical tag on the Site A content pointing to the original URL on Site B. This ruins any and all search value of having Site B’s content on Site A. The content on Site A will not surface on the search engine results pages. Ensure your content syndication agreements do not require the use of a rel canonical tag.

That last example is a sneaky way to manipulate the rel canonical, but the worst use is substituting 301 redirects for rel canonical. When you change your URL structure or move your entire site to a new domain you will ALWAYS NEED TO UTILIZE 301 REDIRECTS.

I recently saw a high revenue website change their URL structure and then use rel canonical to point to the new URLs. So the legacy URLs are still live and the new URLs are live. The site owner did not use 301 redirects, but slapped a rel canonical on the legacy URLs pointing to the content on the new URLs. Do not do this. Rel canonical was never intended to supplant the redirect process. What would happen if the rel canonical tags were put on the new site pointing back to the legacy site? The new site would simply not exist in the eyes of the engines.

Do not mess around with rel canonical because if used improperly it can become a shriveled up, and foul smelling band-aid. You do not let your band-aids for cuts become that way, so do not let that happen to your website.