Back in February, we first told you about the canonical tag the search engines were providing. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft’s Bing, and later Ask, all joined together in an effort to reduce duplicate content. The canonical tag allows users to essentially dictate which page they want the search engines to index.
Is the canonical tag a better option than a 301 redirect? As Greg Grothaus of Google explains, the 301 redirect was the previous recommendation for duplicate page situations. However, that doesn’t mean that it is always the best option. The 301 redirect is primarily on the server side and transfers all the traffic from one page to another page permanently.
Take for example, a page that has a printer page option. Search engines may not be able to distinguish between the two pages and index each of them in their results. If a 301 redirect were used to solve the issue, any time a user clicked on the printer page he would automatically be sent back to the original page. In this situation, the canonical tag would solve the problem for the engines without affecting the users.
Both the canonical tag and the 301 redirect are useful, when given the appropriate situation.