Google has updated the guidance on Cross-Domain Canonicals for Syndicated content; however, the guidance for syndicated news remains the same.
A canonical link element is a way to tell search engines that a webpage should not be considered the original source of the content, that it should be considered a duplicate page and to also point with a link to the page that Google should consider to be the original (the canonical page).
A cross-domain canonical is when the duplicate page appears on an entirely different website (domain).
Google updated the guidance about crawling and indexing on Tuesday May 2, 2022 to remove guidance about cross-domain canonicals.
But that change was confusing because it seemed to indicate a change in how to use cross-domain canonicals but no explicit statement about that existed to confirm that there was a change.
We contacted someone at Google on Tuesday to ask if cross-domain canonicals are no longer supported.
They told us they’d get back to us on Wednesday to clarify but in the meantime the documentation in question was updated.
That said, Google is STILL hosting older contradictory guidance… Clear as mud?
Google Updates Crawling & Indexing Guidance
There are two changes in the guidance for how to use cross-domain canonicals for syndicated content that is not news content.
Change #1 – Removed Guidance
The first change was to their Crawling and Indexing Guidance for avoiding duplicate content.
Google updated the crawling and indexing guidance to remove a recommendation to use a cross-domain canonical.
This is what was removed:
“Reasons to specify a canonical URL
…To manage syndicated content.
If you syndicate your content for publication on other domains, you might want a particular URL to appear in search results.”
Change #2 – Added Guidance
The second change was the addition of new guidance to Google’s page on fixing canonical issues.
The new guidance specifically recommends against using a cross-domain canonical for syndicated content.
This is the new guidance:
The canonical link element is not recommended for those who wish to avoid duplication by syndication partners, because the pages are often very different.
The most effective solution is for partners to block indexing of your content.
For more, see Avoid article duplication in Google News, which also has advice about blocking syndicated content from Google Search.”
Cross-Domain Canonicals for Syndicated News Content
The above changes do not affect how syndicated content is handled by the Google News crawling and indexing system.
Google still recommends that news publishers who syndicate their news content to continue using cross-domain canonicals as prescribed in their existing guidance, which has not change.
The guidance for news publishers, instructs on how to avoid article duplication in Google News.
There are two ways to handle syndicated content that is news:
1. News content Syndicated Within One’s Own Site or Network
“There are a few ways news sites can help Google News find the original version of a news article.
Use the rel=”canonical” tag
If you publish the same article on multiple pages within your site, or within your network of sites, you can use the rel=”canonical” tag.”
2. News Content Syndicated to Third Party Sites
Publishers who syndicate their news content to third parties should have their syndication partners use the “noindex” meta robots tag directive to prevent Googlebot-News from crawling and indexing the syndicated content published on the third party websites.
The original source of the news content should be the only content that Googlebot-News crawls and indexes.
This is the noindex meta robots directive to use:
<meta name="Googlebot-News" content="noindex">
The above noindex meta tag should only be used on third party news sites where the content is being republished. Do not use it on the news website where the original content is published.
This is the official guidance:
If you syndicate your articles to other news sites, make sure that only the original version of your articles show in Google News.
To do this, your syndication partners should use a robots meta tag to stop Google News from indexing their versions of your original article.”
Additional Guidance for the Use of Cross-domain Canonicals
There’s still more information.
Google published guidance in December 2009 that advises on the use of cross-domain canonicals for syndicated content/product descriptions.
The guidance in the form of a Q&A:
“I’m offering my content / product descriptions for syndication. Do my publishers need to use rel=”canonical”?
We leave this up to you and your publishers. If the content is similar enough, it might make sense to use rel=”canonical”, if both parties agree.”
Presumably the above guidance is superseded by the new guidance for non-news content on their canonicals troubleshooting webpage.
“The canonical link element is not recommended for those who wish to avoid duplication by syndication partners, because the pages are often very different. The most effective solution is for partners to block indexing of your content.”
Read Google’s New Guidance on Canonicalizing Syndicated Content
Fix canonicalization issues – Syndicated content
Avoid article duplication in Google News
Featured image by Shutterstock/Asier Romero