This topic was addressed in a Reddit thread in which a person asks whether they should listen to Google’s advice or follow what big sites are doing. In particular, this question referred to canonical tags for pagination.
The original poster of the Reddit thread points out how Google recommends canonical pages should point a canonical tag at themselves. While big sites, on the other hand, point their canonical tag toward the first page in a series.
John Mueller’s Response
Mueller begins his response by advising against following what big sites are doing with SEO because many get it wrong. Sometimes big sites succeed in search rankings despite getting things wrong, but other sites might note fare as well.
As the thread was published in the r/TechSEO sub-Reddit, Mueller notes that technical SEO follows a logical process and there’s often a right and wrong way to do things.
”Luckily, a lot of technical SEO is not a matter of blind trust or hope, it’s not a magical black box where you have to believe, there’s no “Person X said Y, therefore Y must always be true.” It’s something that’s very deterministic, and you can logically find the answer, just as you can often test it out for your case. You can do it right, or you can do it wrong (though to be fair, search engines will try to help when you do it wrong, because lots of sites get it wrong).”
In addressing the original question, Mueller says the use of canonical tags depends on which pages you want indexed. Using a self-referencing canonical on every page helps ensure that all pages of a series get indexed on their own.
On the other hand, if every page in a series has a canonical tag pointing to page one then Google will likely index only the first page in the series.
Mueller points out that there are advantages and disadvantages to using a self-referencing canonical on each page:
“The advantage of a per-page canonical is that you’re sure all links to all items will be found. The disadvantage is that there’s potentially a lot more to crawl, and it’ll be a bit harder for us to understand how to rank the paginated pages (eg, if they’re “running shoes” category pages, which page is the right one to show for a [running shoes] search?).”
For what it’s worth, several other users in the Reddit thread recommend using self-referencing canonical in a paginated series.
5 Tips to Boost Your Holiday Search Strategy
With the global economic downturn, inflation, ongoing supply chain challenges, and uncertainty due to the Ukraine war, this year’s holiday shopping season promises to be very challenging. Will people be in the mood to spend despite the gloom? Or will they rein in their enthusiasm and save for the year ahead?
With these issues in mind, here are five considerations to support your search engine optimization strategy this holiday shopping season:
1. Start early.
Rising prices are likely to mean shoppers will start researching their holiday spending earlier than ever to nab the best bargains. Therefore, retailers must roll out their holiday product and category pages — and launch any promotions — sooner to ensure their pages get crawled and indexed by search engines in good time.
Some e-commerce stores manage to get their pages ranking early by updating and reusing the same section of the website for holiday content and promotions, rotating between content for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine gifts, Fourth of July sales, etc. This approach can help you retain the momentum, links and authority you build up with Google and get your holiday pages visible and ranking quickly.
2. Make research an even bigger priority.
With all the uncertainty this year, it’s vital to use SEO research to identify the trending seasonal keywords and search phrases in your retail vertical — and then optimize content accordingly.
With tools such as Google Trends you can extract helpful insights based on the types of searches people are making. For example, with many fashion retailers now charging for product returns, will prioritizing keywords such as “free returns” get more search traction? And with money being tighter, will consumers stick with brands they trust rather than anything new — meaning brand searches might be higher?
3. Make greater use of Google Shopping.
To get the most out of their holiday spending, consumers are more likely to turn to online marketplaces such as Google Shopping as they make it easier to compare products, features and prices, as well as to identify the best deals both online and in nearby stores.
Therefore, take a combined approach which includes listing in Google Shopping and at the same time optimizing product detail pages on your e-commerce site to ensure they’re unique and provide more value than competitors’ pages. Be precise with product names on Google Shopping (e.g., do the names contain the words people are searching for?); ensure you provide all the must-have information Google requires; and set a price that’s not too far from the competition.
4. Give other search sources the attention they deserve.
Earlier this year Google itself acknowledged that consumers — especially younger consumers — are starting to use TikTok, Instagram and other social media sites for search. In fact, research suggests 11 percent of product searches now start on TikTok and 15 percent on Instagram. Younger consumers in particular are more engaged by visual content, which may explain why they’re embracing visually focused social sites for search. So, as part of your search strategy, create and share content on popular social media sites that your target customers visit.
Similarly, with people starting their shopping searches on marketplaces such as Amazon.com, optimizing any listings you have on the site should be part of your strategy. And thankfully, the better optimized your product detail pages are for Amazon (with unique, useful content), the better they will rank on Google as well!
5. Hold paid budget for late opportunities.
The greater uncertainty and volatility this holiday season mean you must keep a close eye on shopper behavior and be ready to embrace opportunities that emerge later on. Getting high organic rankings for late promotions is always more challenging, so hold some paid search budget back to help drive traffic to those pages — via Google Ads, for example. Important keywords to include in late season search ad campaigns include “delivery before Christmas” and “same-day-delivery.” For locally targeted search ads, consider “pick up any time before Christmas.”
The prospect of a tough, unpredictable holiday shopping season means search teams must roll out seasonal SEO plans early, closely track shoppers’ behavior, and be ready to adapt as things change.
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