February 3, 2023

How to Audit Canonical Tags for SEO

A canonical tag tells search engines which page they should prioritise when crawling a website where there are duplicate, or very similar, web pages. They are located within your HTML and are extremely useful for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to fix cannibalisation issues, remedy duplicate pages, help your site’s overall ranking performance and more. 

So, when you’re met with a website that has multiple canonical tags, how do you audit canonical tags for SEO? When looking at your canonical tags, there are 3 important factors that you need to consider. These are; recording each page that has a canonical tag, ensuring that the tag is placed correctly and directs crawlers to the correct landing page, and checking for any technical issues that are preventing the page from being crawled. 

Naturally, we all want our websites to perform to the best of their ability. A website producing duplicate URLs for the same page is a common occurrence that will need to be addressed to ensure that your rankings aren’t penalised. To help guide you through your canonical tag audits, we’ve written this short guide. Simply keep reading to learn more.

Jump To:

How Do You Audit a Canonical Tag?

If you have canonical tags implemented on your website, it’s important that you regularly audit them to ensure that they are running correctly. Improper use of the canonical tag, or failing canonical tags, can significantly damage your rankings and overall website performance. For example, if your canonical tag directs crawl bots to a URL that has since been redirected, your tag will fail. Changes in your ever-growing website are normal, and a canonical audit is a simple way to ensure that everything is running as smoothly as possible.

The first step in conducting your canonical audit is to find the most practical way to check the status of your existing tags. If you have a short list of existing tags, then you may choose to do this manually. For larger websites, using a software tool to run a site-wide audit is the best and most time-efficient method to ensure everything is running as it should. 

Checking Your Tags Manually

To check your tags manually, you simply need to inspect the page. To do this, right click on the page and select ‘View page source’. From here you can use the search feature by pressing ‘Ctrl + F’ to search for ‘canonical’. Your tags (if present) will be highlighted for you to easily locate.

Once your tag is identified, you need to ensure that the tag uses the correct URL (preferably the original page source) and is located in the correct aspect of your HTML, which should be in the <head>. If everything looks good in your HTML, you then need to check the actual page and the content within it. This includes ensuring that your links aren’t broken, and running the URL through Google Search Console to ensure that there are no technical issues that are preventing the page from being crawled. 

Using Software to Conduct a Site Audit 

Alternatively, if you have a large website, or want to explore if any other URLs on your website are facing duplication problems, then using software to inspect your site may be the best way to audit your tags. Here, you can run your website through software such as Screaming Frog, Moz or SiteBulb to identify any issues. Typically, these types of software will be able to detect and report if a page requires a tag added to fix any technical issues, or if an existing tag is broken. This is a preferred method of audit to ensure that no pages on your website are missed. 

What are the Different Types of Canonical Issues?

When you are conducting your site audits, there are a variety of different canonical tag labels that you need to be aware of. We’ve listed all the essential information below:

Contains

This identifies that the page has a canonical set.

Self-Referencing

This page has a canonical tag set and the URL specified within the tag is the same page that has been crawled.

Missing

A ‘missing’ label means that this page requires a canonical tag to be set.

Canonicalised

If a page is flagged as ‘canonicalised’, then a tag is present that is instructing crawl bots to index a different page that is not the current URL.

Non-Indexed

Non-indexed canonical warnings imply that the page the tag is directed to is a non-indexable page. This is a technical issue that will need to be resolved.

Multiple

This is a warning that indicates that multiple pages are tagged to be directed to in the canonical. This will need to be amended to just one targeted URL.

Why Do I Need to Audit Canonical Tags?

If you do not audit your canonical tags, then you run the risk of technical failures penalising your ranking ability. This could be through pages being unable to index correctly, crawl bots being unable to correctly navigate your website, or duplicate content causing cannibalisation issues on essential landing pages. This is an essential technical skill that those within SEO should learn more about to fix what are extremely common issues. 

Get Help with Your Canonical Tags From the Experts at Wildcat Digital 

If you’re having trouble with your canonical tags, let the expert team at Wildcat Digital help. We are an experienced team of SEO experts that are ready to help any website achieve its best potential. Simply explore our website to learn more, or get in touch with us today to receive your free consultation. 

Post by

Rachel Moore

Will Hitchmough

Founder

Our founder, Will Hitchmough, worked at a number of high profile Sheffield Digital Agencies before founding Wildcat Digital in 2018. He brings an extensive knowledge of all things related to SEO, PPC and Paid Social, as well as an expert knowledge of digital strategy.

Digital Marketing can be a minefield for many businesses, with many agencies ready to take your money without knowing how to deliver results. I founded Wildcat Digital to deliver digital success to businesses with smaller budgets in a transparent way.

Chloe Robinson

Content Strategist Team Lead

With a degree in Marketing and a background in more traditional, offline marketing, Chloe joined Wildcat in 2021 after deciding to move into the digital marketing industry. She joined us as a Content Specialist and quickly moved up the ranks, becoming a Content Strategist and later an SEO Team Leader.

Outside of work, Chloe is an avid creative. If she’s not knitting, you’ll likely find her behind a sewing machine or in the kitchen trying (and often failing!) to make sourdough.

Paul Pennington

SEO Account Director

Paul has a strong background in SEO, having previously founded and ran a successful eCommerce business, as well as running a personal blog that achieves an average of 17K users per month. Paul’s knowledge of SEO is extensive, with a strong emphasis on client handling and technical SEO.

Outside of work, Paul enjoys spending time with his family and staying active with weight lifting and combat sports.

Nadea van der Merwe

Head of Operations

Nadea joined Wildcat in 2021 and has since overhauled the way we work. She has a background in various administrative, operations and HR roles, which gave her the experience and skills needed to lead and organise a growing business. 

Outside of work, Nadea loves anything that keeps her active, but she especially enjoys hiking, camping and mountain biking.

Molly Sturgeon

SEO Account Manager

With a background in sales, Molly is a natural Account Manager, brilliantly handling any issues that come her way. Having joined us as a Digital Marketing Executive, and working part-time through her final year of University, Molly is a shining example of how hard work pays off. She is now an SEO Account Manager with a particular interest in Content and Client Management. 

In her spare time, Molly loves to get out in nature, hiking and exploring the Peak District. She also loves cooking and likes to unwind with a bit of yoga.

Libby Oldale

Senior PPC Account Manager

Libby joined Wildcat in 2021 as our first PPC hire. With a degree in Digital Media Production, a Master’s in Digital Media Management and previous experience in Social Media Management, Libby hit the ground running and has since climbed the ranks to Senior PPC Account Manager and has a particular interest in the eCommerce sector.

Outside of work, Libby likes gaming, and cooking and likes to keep active by lifting weights.

Jasmine Savery

SEO Team Leader

Jasmine joined Wildcat in 2022 with a strong background in SEO and Account Management. At the time, she was finishing up a Level 4 Apprenticeship in Digital Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and has since worked her way up to SEO Team Leader. Jasmine excels at content writing and promotion, and particularly enjoys finding creative ways to join the dots on multi-channel campaigns.

In her spare time, Jasmine volunteers at a charity, helping combat loneliness & social isolation experienced by older neighbours. Outside of Wildcat, she owns a catering company, Savery Grazing, creating delicious grazing tables & platters for a range of events. She also loves skiing and exploring the Peak District.

Braden Godley

Senior PPC Executive

Prior to joining Wildcat, Braden founded and ran his own Social Media Management agency where he gained valuable skills in growing brands’ online presence, which has since proven invaluable in his role at Wildcat. 

Outside of work, Braden is a big football fan, regularly travelling to Pride Park to support Derby County. He also enjoys watching and playing snooker, hiking in the Peak District, and attending air and car shows.

Jon Herdman

SEO Executive

After spending ten years managing businesses, restaurants, cafes and event spaces across Sheffield, Jon decided to change careers and joined Wildcat as an SEO Executive in 2022. He especially enjoys the client management side of the job, helping them to understand digital marketing and ways in which they can build their business’s presence online. 

Outside of work, Jon likes to keep fit with running, badminton and football, and also loves music. 

Rachel Davies

SEO Executive

Rachel joined us as a graduate, having recently graduated from Sheffield University with a degree in English Literature. Since joining, Rachel has proven herself to be a Content Queen, and particularly enjoys getting stuck into projects that allow her to explore her creative side. 

Outside of work, Rachel enjoys a wide range of hobbies, including rugby, singing, reading, and spending time with her family and three labradors.

Carl Atterbury

PPC Team Leader

Carl joined Wildcat in 2023 with a wealth of experience in PPC. He has experience working with a wide range of clients, industries and budgets, from small local businesses all the way to international e-commerce businesses. Carl has a particular interest in strategic planning and forecasting. He is passionate about data analysis and creating sustainable long-term cross-channel strategies.

In his spare time, Carl enjoys keeping fit by lifting weights, bouldering and running. He’s also a keen musician, having played the double bass and bass guitar for 20 years.

Dariusz Baczyk

Team Lead & Technical SEO Account Manager

With a degree in Computer Science and SEO experience dating back to 2017, Dariusz has a wide range of SEO skills and knowledge. His specialist knowledge of Technical SEO has firmly landed him the title of Wildcat’s Technical Wizard, and he has recently taken on the responsibility of Team Leader for the Panthers Team.

In his spare time, Dariusz loves hiking, experimenting and trying new coffees and loves learning new things. He is currently learning more about CRO and AI and how this could benefit our clients.

Jamie Stowe

SEO Account Manager

With a degree in Film and TV production, and a varied career history, Jamie made the move to marketing with a Masters degree in Digital Media Management. He has since worked in SEO at Agencies across Sheffield, before joining Wildcat and working his way up to SEO Account Manager. Jamie has a particular interest in backlinks and Digital PR and has recently gained a client a valuable backlink from Forbes!

In his spare time, Jamie is an avid foodie and loves trying new restaurants and cuisines. He also loves to travel and spent a year travelling to Australia after university.

Andy Blanchard

SEO Executive

Andy joined Wildcat in 2023 after starting his digital marketing career in-house for a local Sheffield company. Since joining, he has developed a strong interest in Technical SEO and has strong skills in Account Management. 

Outside of work, Andy loves music and plays in a couple of bands. He also enjoys rock climbing, cycling, photography and good food.

Siena Russell

Client Success Coordinator

Siena joined us in 2023 with a background in sales and digital marketing. She leads on client relationships across the company, ensuring that our customers are happy throughout their journey with us, from their initial consultation through to onboarding and beyond. 

Outside of work, Siena enjoys travelling and getting stuck into the local culture. She likes to make the most of her experiences and particularly enjoys watching sunrises and sunsets from beautiful locations around the world.

Thea Chapman

Senior SEO Executive

Thea has a wealth of experience in SEO, having previously worked for other Digital Marketing Agencies in Sheffield. She has a particular interest and skills in Technical SEO, but is more than willing to get stuck in and give anything a go. 

Outside of work, Thea spends most of her time with her children, but also loves reading, photography and gardening. 

Tom Brookes

PPC Executive

Before joining Wildcat, Tom worked across different industries, building skills in sales and customer service. He later developed a passion for digital marketing whilst working on personal marketing projects and freelance ventures, and gained numerous certifications in PPC and Social Media. 

Outside of work, Tom enjoys staying active by going to the gym and hiking. He also loves travelling and motorbiking.

More blogs.

View all

May Digital Marketing Roundup: Latest Updates

May 21, 2024

SEO is an ever-changing landscape. With the ever-increasing prominence of AI in our field, how do SEOs find their place…

Jon Herdman

Knowledge Hub
News

Northern Pride: Our Double Success at Northern Digital Awards 

May 13, 2024

Reflecting on our journey as a dynamic force in the digital marketing landscape, Wildcat Digital takes immense pride in our…

Rachel Davies

News

Is It Better To Use “www” or Not for SEO?

April 29, 2024

For many that are setting up their first website, the question of whether they need to include “www” at the…

Jamie Stowe

Knowledge Hub
SEO
Technical SEO