Is there an advantage to using rel="canonical" over a 301 redirect?

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Hey Matt. I had a lingering question about using rel=canonical vs. 301 redirects. It takes longer for Google to find the rel=canonical pages but 301 redirects seem to lose impact (link juice) over time. Is there similar churn with rel=canonical? Sam Crocker, London, UK

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8 thoughts on “Is there an advantage to using rel="canonical" over a 301 redirect?”

  1. Matt says 301 redirects must carry a penalty because otherwise people would use them instead of links. I'm not sure I understand how you would replace links with 301 redirects. What would you put in your <a> tag so that it triggers a 301 but doesn't look like a link?

  2. In those cases where you would want to show not-exactly identical versions of a page to the visitors and want to transfer all link juice to one version, 301 Redirect would not serve the purpose as 301 would redirect all versions to one particular page without giving chance to visitors to have a look at them. In those cases rel=canonical tag will be just fine.

  3. @MrTVTL not to speak for Matt but it seems like it's not a true "punishment" so much as a necessary feature of the redirect to keep people from taking advantage of what would otherwise be a loop hole (i.e. people could exploit redirects rather than links to try and rank better). It's obviously an imperfect situation but I suppose gives folks reason to think twice about a rebrand/etc. and impact on their site.

  4. That is great news. So rel=canonical" can pass page rank from one domain to another? Does that mean we can put that in our content so when scrapers steal our content they will be secretly notifying Google where they stole the content from?

  5. I think you've missed part of the intent of the question. That is, is it safe to even use tags/categories (in WordPress for example) with the full post content under the tag/category page – or would it be best to avoid duplication entirely?

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