Fixing Duplicate without user selected canonical error in search console

Website owners and SEO professionals understand the importance of Google Search Console in optimizing their online presence. One common issue that may arise is the “Duplicate without User-Selected Canonical” error, which can negatively impact a website’s search engine rankings. In this article, we will delve into the details of this error, understand its implications, and explore effective ways to fix it.

What is the “Duplicate without User-Selected Canonical” Error?

The “Duplicate without User-Selected Canonical” error in Google Search Console indicates that Google has identified duplicate content on your website that lacks a user-selected canonical URL. A canonical URL is an HTML element that helps search engines determine the preferred version of a web page when multiple versions with similar content exist. It essentially acts as a signal to Google to consolidate indexing signals and prevent duplicate content issues.

When the error occurs, it means that Google is unable to determine the canonical URL for duplicate pages on your site. This situation can lead to reduced visibility in search results and diluted ranking signals, as Google might index multiple versions of the same content.

The “Duplicate without User-Selected Canonical” error can have several implications for your website:
  1. Ranking Dilution: Duplicate content can divide the ranking signals among multiple versions of the same page, reducing their individual search visibility.
  2. Lower Search Engine Rankings: When Google detects duplicate content, it may choose to rank only one version of the page, or worse, none at all.
  3. Inefficient Crawling and Indexing: Googlebot might waste resources by crawling and indexing multiple versions of the same content, leading to suboptimal resource allocation.
  4. Confusing User Experience: Users might encounter duplicate pages in search results, which can be frustrating and impact their overall experience on your website.

Duplicate without user-selected canonical” in Google Search Console

You can see the “Duplicate without user-selected canonical” status in the Page Indexing report by scrolling down below the primary chart:

When raised, the report will guide you on how the number of not indexed pages has altered over time.

Reasons for “Duplicate without user-selected canonical” Error

There are several reasons why the “Duplicate without User-Selected Canonical” error occurs on your website:

  1. Duplicate Content: This error often arises when you have identical or substantially similar content available on multiple URLs. These duplicates can stem from various sources, such as printer-friendly versions, HTTP and HTTPS versions, or session IDs appended to URLs.
  2. Missing Canonical Tags: If you have duplicate pages on your website and fail to include a canonical tag on each duplicate version, search engines will be unable to identify the preferred version, leading to the error.
  3. Canonical Tag Implementation Issues: In some cases, you may have implemented canonical tags on your pages, but they are not set up correctly. This could occur due to incorrect implementation or conflicts with other SEO plugins or scripts.

Fixing “Duplicate without user-selected canonical” Error

  1. Identify Duplicate Pages: Use Google Search Console or specialized SEO tools to identify duplicate content on your website. Look for URLs with identical content and determine which pages you want search engines to index and rank.
  2. Choose a Preferred Version: Once you’ve identified the duplicate pages, select the preferred version that you want to be indexed and ranked by search engines. This decision should be based on factors such as relevance, traffic, and user experience.
  3. Implement Canonical Tags: On the duplicate versions, add a canonical tag to the HTML header section. The canonical tag should point to the preferred version of the page, indicating that it should be considered the original. Ensure that the canonical tag is correctly implemented and points to the appropriate URL.
  4. Update Internal Links: Review your website’s internal linking structure and update any internal links pointing to duplicate versions. Replace them with links to the preferred version, reinforcing the canonicalization signal to search engines.
  5. Redirect or Consolidate Duplicate URLs: If the duplicate content arises from different URLs, consider implementing redirects (301 redirects) to consolidate them into the preferred version. This consolidation helps search engines understand the relationship between different URLs and prevents them from indexing duplicate pages.
  6. Submit Sitemap: After making the necessary fixes, update and submit your XML sitemap to Google Search Console. This action ensures that search engines discover the canonical tags and process the changes accordingly.
  7. Monitor Google Search Console: Regularly monitor your website’s performance in Google Search Console to ensure the error is resolved. Check for any remaining instances of the error and take appropriate action to rectify them promptly.

Conclusion

The “Duplicate without User-Selected Canonical” error in Google Search Console can have a detrimental impact on your website’s search engine rankings and visibility. By understanding the causes behind this error and implementing the suggested fixes, you can ensure that search engines properly recognize the preferred version of your web pages. Regularly monitoring your website’s performance and resolving any remaining instances of the error will help improve your overall SEO performance, driving more organic traffic and increasing your website’s visibility in search results.

FAQs

1. How can I identify pages affected by the “Duplicate without User-Selected Canonical” error?

You can identify these pages using Google Search Console:
a. Go to the Index Coverage report.
b. Look for pages marked with the “Duplicate without user-selected canonical” error.
c. Review the affected URLs to understand the duplication issues and take corrective actions.

2. Is there a preferred method for setting canonical URLs?

Yes, using canonical tags in the HTML head section of your web pages is the preferred method for indicating the canonical URL. For dynamic content or parameterized URLs, ensure that your canonical tags dynamically adjust to point to the correct canonical version.

3. Can I use 301 redirects instead of canonical tags to address duplicate content?

While 301 redirects can help consolidate duplicate content, they serve a different purpose than canonical tags. Canonical tags are specifically designed to inform search engines about the preferred version of a page without redirecting users. It’s recommended to use both canonical tags and redirects strategically based on your site’s structure and content.

4. Will fixing the “Duplicate without User-Selected Canonical” error improve my search rankings immediately?

Fixing this error is part of an ongoing SEO optimization process. While addressing duplicate content issues can positively impact your site’s SEO health, the impact on search rankings may vary depending on other factors such as content quality, backlinks, and competition. Monitor changes in search performance over time to assess the effectiveness of your fixes.