Consolidate the Different Versions of Your Site

As a rule, there are two major versions of your site domain indexed in search engines: the www and the non-www version of it. We can add to this the complexity of having a secure (HTTPS) and non-secure (HTTP) version, too, with Google giving preference to the former. However, this has certain drawbacks: This takes care of Google only. Most SEOs use the 301 redirect to point one version of their site to the other (or vice versa). This tells search engines that a particular URL has moved permanently to another destination. Alternatively (for instance, when you can’t redirect), you can specify your preferred version in Google Search Console in Configuration > Settings > Preferred Domain. This option is restricted to root domains only. If you have an example.wordpress.com site, this method is not for you.

But why worry about the www vs. non-www issue in the first place? The thing is, some of your backlinks may be pointing to your www version, while some could be going to the non-www version. To ensure all versions’ SEO value is consolidated, it’s better to establish this link between them explicitly.

Canonical tags

You can do this via the 301 redirects in Google Search Console or by using a canonical tag, the latter of which we will look at in more detail below.

So, canonical tags. These are very helpful pieces of code when you have multiple versions of what is essentially the same page. By adding a canonical tag, you can tell Google which one is your preferred version. Note: The canonical tag should be applied only to help search engines decide on your canonical URL. For redirection of site pages, use redirects. And, for paginated content, it makes sense to employ rel=” next” and rel=” prev” tags in most cases. Canonical tags are useful for just about any website, but they are particularly powerful for online retailers.

This does it funnels down the SEO value each of these three URLs might have to one URL displayed in the search results (the canonical URL). Normally search engines do a pretty good job identifying canonical URLs themselves, but, as Susan Moskwa once wrote at Google Webmaster Central: “If we aren’t able to detect all the duplicates of a particular page, we won’t be able to consolidate all of their properties. This may dilute the strength of that content’s ranking signals by splitting them across multiple URLs.”

Main Content vs. Supplementary Content

There are clear references to both main content and supplementary content in Google’s own Search Quality Evaluators Guidelines (a must-read document for all SEOs!). The main content will be your lead page in each section that sets out what your category is all about. It will set out your stall as a relevant source for a topic. Supplementary content provides, as the name suggests, additional information that helps users navigate the topic and reach informed decisions.

URL structure is an essential component of getting this right. So, let’s go back to our whiskey example to see how we might tackle this. Our site is an e-commerce focused, and we want to sell the product, of course. However, going for the jugular and only pushing out product pages is equivalent to SEO tunnel vision. Our initial research from Moz Keyword Explorer is a great resource as we make these plans. Below, I have exported the keyword list and reduced it to the highest-volume topics. We can start to decide what might qualify as a topic for the main content or supplementary content page.

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