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Google Search Console Switch to “Canonical URLs”: What It Means For Your Site’s Data

The Google Search Console Performance Report (previously the Search Analytics report) is now reporting consolidated query and URL data (impressions, clicks, average ranking, and average click through rate) based on “canonical URLs”. Google announced the change in February and provided the original and “canonical” set of data in parallel until April 10th, 2019. Google has replaced all data beginning with January 1, 2018.

How is data based on canonical URLs different than how the data was reported before?

Canonical vs. Non-Canonical URLs

First, what’s a canonical (vs. non-canonical) URL? For many reasons, the same page may be associated with multiple URLs. One of these URLs is the definitive, “canonical” URL. In ideal circumstances, Google consolidates the non-canonical URLs into a cluster with the canonical version, so that all value signals are combined and the content isn’t seen as duplicate.

Non-Canonical URL Tracking Code Example

Some types of non-canonical URLs rarely, if ever, rank in search results. For example, in the case of a non-canonical URL with a tracking code that has a canonical attribute value of the same URL without the tracking code, the canonical URL would generally always be the ranking URL.

  • canonical: https://www.example.com/page1
  • non-canonical: https://www.example.com/page1?ref=123

In this case, since the canonical URL is always the URL that ranks in search results, the data that Google Search Console previously reported and currently report should be the same.

Mobile Site Example

Other types of non-canonical URLs do rank for relevant searches. For sites that have separate mobile and desktop URLs, the canonical and alternate media markup links them together. This markup enables Google to consolidate the value signals and rank the relevant URL based on the searcher’s device type.

In this case, the canonical URL (the desktop version) ranks for searchers on desktop devices and the non-canonical URL (the mobile version) ranks for searchers on mobile devices.

Google Search Console used to report this data separately. If the desktop and mobile URLs are on the same property, the consolidated data would be reported for the query, with the breakout by mobile and desktop URL.

If the desktop and mobile URLs are on different properties (such as m.example.com and www.example.com), the data would be reported separately for each property.

Now, all data is reported under the canonical URL.

If the desktop and mobile URLs are on the same property, the consolidated data is reported for both the query and canonical URL. To see only the data for mobile or desktop, use the Device filter. (The URL shown in the report will be the canonical (in this case, desktop) URL.)

If the desktop and mobile URLs are on different properties, the consolidated data is reported under the canonical (desktop) property.

Note that the mobile property will likely continue to show some data. For example, some mobile pages may not have a desktop equivalent or may be missing a canonical attribute linking it to the desktop page.

AMP Example

The handling of AMP data is similar to mobile URLs. Google surfaces AMP URLs for mobile searchers when available (both in organic search results and AMP carousels) and previously, these were reported separately. If the AMP pages were on a different property, the AMP data was contained under that different property.

Now, Google Search Console has consolidated that reporting under the canonical property and doesn’t report data for AMP URLs separately. To see the traffic detail for AMP URLs, use the Search Appearance filter. (The URL shown in the report will be the canonical (in this case, desktop) URL.)

As with mobile URLs, the AMP URLs (and property, if applicable) will likely still continue to report some data. (For instance, if the AMP URL doesn’t have a corresponding desktop canonical URL.)

Other Types of Non-Canonical Scenarios

In some cases, the same content is published to multiple locations (such as syndicated to a third-party site) with a canonical attribute specifying the “canonical” URL. Google’s John Mueller has noted that in some instances, the non-canonical URL may rank (when the non-canonical URL has other value and relevancy signals that Google’s algorithms determine make it a better search result for that particular query).

The data from any instances that a non-canonical URL ranks for a query are likely now consolidated into the “canonical URL” reporting. Unlike mobile and AMP URLs, Google Search Console doesn’t provide a filter to view the data for these non-canonical URLs.

Another thing to note is that if Google hasn’t consolidated URLs into a canonical cluster, the data will still continue to be reported separately. (For instance, if the site has migrated from http to https but some http URLs are still indexed, Google Search Console will report data for both properties based on what URLs are ranking.)

To further consolidate data, you can set up a domain property in Google Search Console or aggregate properties with Keylime Toolbox reporting groups.

Keylime Toolbox Impact

Our testing has shown that for many properties (without AMP URLs or separate mobile URLs), the data hasn’t changed. For properties with AMP and/or mobile URLs, Keylime Toolbox typically aggregates all data together already, and so in these cases, the data (especially impression data) can be slightly different than it was before (since Google’s aggregation methods differ slightly).

The canonical URL data will be reflected in your Keylime Toolbox account as of April 7th, 2019.

By default, Keylime Toolbox won’t re-import data back to January 1, 2018. However, if you would like the original data replaced with the new data, just email us at support@keylimetoolbox.com and we’ll set up a new import from Google’s API.

If you have set up separate reporting groups for mobile and desktop properties, we’ll be in touch about your configuration options. You can either consolidate the properties and use the device filter in Keylime Toolbox to see mobile vs. desktop data, or we can configure the data (now consolidated in the Google Search Console data) to continue to be part of a separate filtered reporting group for mobile vs. desktop.

If you don’t use Keylime Toolbox now but are looking for a way to consolidate the AMP and mobile data that isn’t consolidated into the canonical property, you can set up a reporting group that aggregates the property data. Check out our free trial options.

 

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