Google updates guidance on cross-domain canonicals

Google Updated Guidance on Cross-Domain Canonicals for Syndicated Content; However, the guidance for syndicated messages remains the same.

Cross-domain canonicals

A canonical link element is a way of telling search engines that a webpage should not be considered the original source of the content, that it should be considered a duplicate page, and also pointing to the page with a link that Google recognizes as the page should consider original (the canonical site).

A cross-domain canonical occurs when the duplicate page appears on a completely different website (domain).

Google updated the Crawling and Indexing Guide on Tuesday, May 2, 2022 to remove cross-domain canonical guides.

However, this change was confusing as it seemed to indicate a change in the use of cross-domain canonicals, but no explicit statement existed to confirm that there was a change.

We contacted someone at Google on Tuesday to ask if cross-domain canonicals were no longer supported.

They told us they would get back to us on Wednesday for clarification, but in the meantime the documentation in question has been updated.

However, Google STILL hosts older conflicting guides… Clear as mud?

Google updates crawling and indexing guide

There are two changes in guidance on using cross-domain canonicals for syndicated non-news content.

Change #1 – Instructions removed

The first change was to the Crawling and Indexing Guidance to avoid duplicate content.

Google updated the crawling and indexing guide to remove a recommendation to use a cross-domain canonical.

This has been removed:

Reasons for specifying a canonical URL
To manage syndicated content.
If you are syndicating your content for publication on other domains, you may want a specific URL to appear in search results.”

Change #2 – Added instructions

The second change was the addition of a new guide to Google’s canonical fix page.

The new guidance specifically advises against using a cross-domain canonical for syndicated content.

This is the new guide:

Syndicated Content
The canonical link element is not recommended for those who want to avoid duplication by syndication partners as the pages are often very different.

The most effective solution is to have partners block your content from being indexed.

For more information, see Avoid duplicating articles on Google News, which also includes advice on 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 continues to recommend that news publishers syndicating their news content continue to use cross-domain canonicals, as mandated by their existing guidance, which has not changed.

The News Publisher’s Guide provides instructions on how to avoid duplicate articles in Google News.

There are two ways to handle syndicated content that is news:

1. News content syndicated within own website or network

“There are several ways that 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 website or network of websites, you can use the rel=”canonical” tag.”

2. News Content Syndicated to Third Party Sites

Publishers that syndicate their news content to third parties should have their syndication partners use the “noindex” meta robot tag policy to prevent Googlebot News from crawling and indexing the syndicated content published on third party sites.

The original source of the news content should be the only content that Googlebot-News will crawl and index.

This is the noindex meta robot directive to use:

<meta name="Googlebot-News" content="noindex">

The noindex meta tag above should only be used on third-party news sites where the content will be republished. Do not use it on the news website where the original content is published.

This is the official guide:

“Do not allow Googlebot News
If you’re syndicating your articles to other news sites, make sure that only the original version of your articles appear in Google News.

To do this, your syndication partners should use a robots meta tag to prevent Google News from indexing their versions of your original article.”

Additional guidance for using cross-domain canonicals

There is more information.

Google published guidance in December 2009 advising the use of cross-domain canonicals for syndicated content/product descriptions.

Instructions in the form of a Q&A:

I offer my content / product descriptions for syndication. Do my publishers have to use rel=”canonical”?

We leave that up to you and your publishers. If the content is similar enough, it may make sense to use rel=”canonical” if both parties agree.”

Presumably the above guide will be superseded by the new guide for non-news content on their Canonicals troubleshooting webpage.

“The canonical link element is not recommended for those who want to avoid duplication by syndication partners as the pages are often very different. The most effective solution is to have partners block your content from being indexed.”

Read Google’s new guidance on canonicalizing syndicated content

Fix canonicalization issues – Syndicated content

Avoid duplicate articles in Google News

Featured image from Shutterstock/Asier Romero