Google’s John Mueller described how to choose between rel canonical and no-index and suggested using both could be beneficial.
In a Google SEO office-hours chat, Google’s John Mueller was asked whether rel canonical or the no-index tag is the best method for handling thin and duplicate content on an e-commerce website. John Mueller discussed both options and suggested a third option to tackle the issue. No-index Directive
The meta tag no-index is an instruction, meaning that Google must comply with the meta tag and remove the site from being displayed in search results.
The only thing this tag can do is stop the page from showing in Google’s search results.
Google’s official documentation says:
“You can block a webpage as well as other content from showing on Google Search by including a no-index meta tag or header within the HTTP response. If Googlebot comes back to the page and finds the header or tag, Googlebot will drop that site completely out of Google Search results, regardless of whether other websites connect to it.”
The rel=canonical tag is an indication but not direct instruction. It provides Google the option of which URL you’d like to show in search results.
This can be useful if several pages have similar content, mainly when an online shopping CMS produces multiple pages for the exact item. The most common distinction is the product’s color.
Google’s official documentation on rel canonicals describes the issue in this way:
“A canonical URL ” is the page Google believes is the most authentic from a collection with duplicate pages within your website.
The rel canonical can be a helpful solution as it can combine all relevant and link signals to the main page that publishers want to display in the search results.
However, since Google interprets that rel canonical label as a clue, there’s no guarantee that Google will follow it. The Google algorithm could decide to include a different website in the search results.
Rel Canonical Versus Noindex
The person who asked the question sought clarification on the best way to go with the no-index option or the canonicalization.
It’s not a bad thing to think about since an argument could be made using any of two solutions.
Here’s the query:
“We have our website… it’s an online store with lots of variations on products that contain very little material or the exact content times.
So …I created an inventory of all URLs we’d like to keep or want to be indexed, and I also put together a list of URLs we do not wish to index.
The more I thought about it, the spare I pondered whether it is better to have canonicalization or indexing?
I’m not sure which is the best of them would be.”
“…I consider that the general issue of whether to use an index or rel canonical on another web page is a question for which there’s probably not an exact solution.
It’s just an aside. It’s as if if you’re struggling with this issue, you’re probably not the only one who’s thinking, what should I go with?
It also implies that both options are possible.
The most common thing I consider is your most strongly held preference is.
If the primary reason is that you don’t wish for this content to be displayed in any way when searching, I suggest using an index.
If you prefer, I’d like to see everything on one page. For instance, if a few individual pages are displayed, however, the majority must be combined, I’d recommend using a canonical.
In the end, the result is similar, in that in reality, the website you’re currently considering will not be displayed when you search for it.
However, with an index, it’s certainly not displayed.
With a rel canonical, it’s more likely that it won’t be displayed.”
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A Third Method to deal with duplicates and thin Pages
Mueller further suggested that publishers can make use of both no-index and canonical to benefit from both.
“…you could also be used for both.
It’s also something. If external links, such as that point to this page, the presence of both links can help us determine that you don’t want this particular page to be indexed, but you have also indicated another.
Maybe some signals that we have can be redirected to.”
The combination of Rel Canonical and Noindex is not a solution that is often discussed. According to the research of John Mueller, it’s a reasonable solution to deal with thin and duplicate content.
It’s up to the webmaster to determine based on what they’d like to accomplish whether consolidating link and relevancy signals is essential and whether ensuring that the site doesn’t show up in the search results is crucial.