Technical SEO:

Rel Canonical Mistake: Daisy Chain or Multi Hop

rtowe January 6, 2016

Daisy Chain or Multi Hop Rel Canonical

Whatever you want to call this problem, it is a problem that is time-consuming and and as soon as you think you have corrected them all, there are still more and you ask yourself, “where on earth did these come from?”

Daisy chain by definition

First, the etymology of the term “daisy chain” dates back to the 1800s and refers to splitting the long stem of a daisy and feeding the next daisy through the split which creates a relatively fragile daisy ring. In the IT world, it is an interconnection of peripherals in a series in order to communicate but within network situations, however it can cause latency at the far ends of the chain.

Daisy chaining rel canonical tags

What happens if you daisy chain rel=”canonical” references? What if you put a rel=canonical reference on a page that canonicals to another page which then canonicals to a completely different page? Not a self-referencing canonical but a completely different URL which is now declared the “even more” authoritative page than the one that is being called out as authoritative for a prior page. We are clearly talking about an additional “hop” for Google’s magical algorithmic formulas to consider. This relative tag confusion also falls within the “daisy chaining” methodology and is considered bad practice.

It looks something like this:
Page: has a canonical in the tag directing authority to the “blue shoes page”


BUT page: has a canonical in the tag directing authority to the “black shoes page”


Page: may have a self-referencing canonical in the tag which is appropriate because it is the “final authoritative page.”

How Google processes the rel canonical tag

John Mueller explains in his Google Hangout video, processing “rel canonical” signals is not part of crawling, but is conducted later thus providing logic to those URLs that canonical to other pages being indexed. This information gives us a bit of insight on how Google handles the rel=”canonical” tag.

Who is your Google daddy?

How would Google actually handle daisy-chained rel=”canonical” tags? Well, here is their answer…sort of:

What if I have contradictory rel=”canonical” designations?

Our algorithm is lenient: We can follow canonical chains, but we strongly recommend that you update links to point to a single canonical page to ensure optimal canonicalization results.

Is rel=”canonical” a hint or a directive?

It’s a hint that we honor strongly. We’ll take your preference into account, in conjunction with other signals, when calculating the most relevant page to display in search results.

Above are direct answers to applicable questions. First, a canonical is a “strongly honored hint” but is not an edict. Second, contradictory designations include daisy chaining and they “strongly recommend” updating the pages.

As a child, when my dad would say “I strongly suggest…” that was a clear and present warning or recommendation to do whatever it was that he was suggesting.

I kinda see Google as the overbearing dad who lacks valuable communications skills. You have to attempt to please him without knowing exactly how because he is too vague and you are in his house. (That analogy wreaks of daddy issues and lots of therapy!)

How do you fix this type of rel canonical problem?

Above, Google says “…updates to a single canonical page to ensure optimal canonicalization results.” This does not mean point all pages to one page. That is also bad. What Google is saying is to point all similar pages to one page that you consider the authoritative page for all of those similar pages.

If you have a hundred product pages, the corrections will take some time but should be quite manageable. If you have thousands or tens of thousands of pages, this now becomes a daunting task. Some of our clients and client-prospects consistently have new products being added or products being discontinued on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

To fix this canonical chaos, it all starts with a tool that provides a detailed look at your links and their associated canonicals. Large samplings of the website URLs must be reviewed, following each canonical to see if it makes sense or if leads to another canonical and so on. Potentially some sort of spreadsheet gets involved to “vlookup” all the URLS and canonical references and cross-match each and then through a barrage of “if then” statements, a pattern emerges and potentially, a solution.

Ultimately, clear and direct rel=”canonical” references to an authoritative page for that variation of product is the goal.

The Altruik technology fixes the daisy chained canonical problem

The time and effort in the steps of fixing the problem listed above will cost a company tens of thousands of dollars at minimum in IT and SEO resources to parse through the information and implement the necessary steps to correcting the problem.

And while not all scenarios of this confusion are the same, our technology corrects and sets the canonical URL based on page type which takes this this issue from daunting to completely manageable.

Even if new pages are added, since they fall within the page type, the transformation created will automatically correct it.

This problem is very common to all types of industries but especially within eCommerce. Manageability is the key to keeping your sanity and your website well-organized.


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