Choosing rel=canonical vs noindex

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In a recent webmasters video meeting, John Mueller answered a question about how to choose between rel=canonical and noindex when dealing with duplicate and uninformative content on an eCommerce site.

According to Mueller, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question; the question is what the professional is trying to achieve:

  1. If he wants the content to not show up in search at all, then it's better to choose noindex. This way the page will definitely not rank.
  2. If you want all the signals to be combined on one page, but do not exclude the display of individual URLs, then it is better to use rel=canonical. The likelihood that the page will not show up in searches is high.
  3. You can use both noindex and rel=canonical. Then, when you specify external links to this page, Google will see that the site owner does not want it indexed, but he indicated the option to show in search results.

Thus, the choice of solution will depend on what the site owner wants: 

  • make sure the page doesn't show up in search; 
  • consolidate link and relevance signals on the same page.

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