So I was cruising through my Twitter feed this morning and ran across links to Stephan Spencer’s latest blog post. Glad I clicked through, too. Stephan posits that Google isn’t 100% up-to-speed in following or is simply not obeying the new canonical tag directives. In a nutshell:
The lesson here: I wouldn’t bet my business on the canonical tag being obeyed by Google.
In his post, Stephan references a specific example of Google’s “disobedience.” The site in question has instituted the canonical tag, but the links found in Google’s index are not in line with those instructions. Further proof lies in the cached date for the referenced pages. The canonical tags have been in place for over 2 months, and I agree with Stephan that this is more than enough time for Google to catch up!
So, what can we take from this information? The canonical tag directive was publicly agreed upon by Google, Yahoo! and MSN. By that token, it should be assumed that the directive will be followed. But what if Stephan is right, and Google is ignoring it? Well, stick with 301 redirects.
301s are certainly a more permanent solution, and in some cases can require more hands-on (server-side) work. But 301s are a more tested solution for telling search engines (and more often, users) what the right/canonical version of your content is. Stephan recommends the same in his post. To be perfectly honest, since the new canonical tag was announced in February, I have used it. But that never kept me from implementing 301 redirects, too. Just to be safe. Old habits die hard, I guess.
What has been your experience with the new canonical tag and it’s affect on your indexation with Google? Leave me a comment and let me know!