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How to Fix "Duplicate without User-Selected Canonical" Errors

By drips.ai team · 7 min read

Last Updated on June 6, 2023

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Introduction

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Photo by NisonCo PR and SEO on Unsplash

As a content creator or website owner, you want to ensure that your content is easily discoverable on search engines, like Google. However, it can be frustrating to find that Google has not indexed a specific page or website due to the "Duplicate without user-selected canonical" error status. This error status means that Google has found identical or very similar content on your website but has not been able to determine which page is the original or canonical. As a result, the search engine may exclude the page from search results.

In this article, we will explore the causes, impact, and fixes for the "Duplicate without user-selected canonical" error status. We will also provide recommendations to prevent this error status from occurring in the future. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of how to optimize your content for search engines and avoid this frustrating error status. So, let's dive in!

Understanding Duplicate Without User-Selected Canonical

The "Duplicate without user-selected canonical" error status occurs when Google finds duplicate or very similar content on multiple pages of your website, and cannot determine which page is the original or canonical. This can be caused by a range of reasons such as technical errors, poor website structure, and duplicate content.

Google uses canonical tags to identify the preferred or original page for indexing purposes. However, when multiple pages have similar or identical content, and no canonical tag or other method is provided to indicate which page is the original, Google may not index any of these pages. This can lead to a significant loss of organic traffic, causing frustration for content creators and website owners.

It's important to understand the causes of this error status to prevent it from occurring and to fix any problems that arise. In the following sections, we will explore the reasons behind the "Duplicate without user-selected canonical" error status and how to fix it.

Causes of Duplicate without User-Selected Canonical Errors

The "Duplicate without user-selected canonical" error status can be caused by various factors. The following are some of the common causes of this error:

Duplicate Pages

One of the main reasons why Google cannot identify the original page is the presence of duplicate pages or content. Duplicate pages occur when multiple pages on a website have the same content or similar content with different URLs.

Poor Website Structure

A poorly structured website may unintentionally create duplicate content, making it challenging for Google to determine the preferred page for indexing. For instance, a website that generates multiple URLs for the same page, such as HTTP and HTTPS versions, may confuse search engines.

Inconsistent Canonical Tags

Inconsistent use of canonical tags can create duplicate content issues. If a website uses canonical tags but does not ensure consistency, Google may have trouble determining the preferred or original content.

Syndicated Content

Publishing content on multiple platforms without indicating the original source using the canonical tag can also result in duplicate content. While syndicating content is a valid practice, it is essential to ensure that search engines identify the original source correctly.

In the next section, we will explore the impact of "Duplicate without user-selected canonical" errors on SEO.

Impact of Duplicate without User-Selected Canonical Errors

The "Duplicate without user-selected canonical" error status can impact your website's SEO efforts negatively. Google uses various metrics to rank websites and web pages, including relevance, authority, and usability. Duplicate content issues can affect these metrics, leading to a drop in overall website traffic.

When Google identifies duplicate content, it may decide not to index any of the pages, which can negatively impact the website's search engine rankings. As a result, your website's organic traffic and search engine rankings will decrease, and your content may not be visible to potential readers.

Additionally, duplicate content can result in split link authority, which means that any inbound links to the pages are divided between the duplicates, reducing the overall link strength. This split link authority can negatively impact ranking efforts, making it more challenging to improve your website's positioning in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Now that we understand the causes and impact of "Duplicate without user-selected canonical" errors let's explore how to fix them in the next section.

How to Fix Duplicate without User-Selected Canonical Errors

Fixing the "Duplicate without user-selected canonical" error status can be challenging, but it is necessary to optimize content for search engines. The following steps provide a practical approach to fixing this error.

Step 1: Update Canonical Tag for the Original Page

The most effective strategy for fixing "Duplicate without user-selected canonical" error is updating the canonical tag on the original page. Updating the canonical tag to indicate the preferred URL can help Google determine the original page and index it accordingly. This tag will usually direct users and search engines to the primary page.

Step 2: Remove Duplicate Page from XML Sitemap and Use 410

On locating the duplicate page(s), it is best to remove it from the XML sitemap to prevent the page from being shown in search results. After removing the duplicate page, send a 410 signal, detailing that the page is permanently unavailable instead of a 404 error, meaning temporarily unavailable. This informs the search engine that the page has been removed, making it no longer indexable.

Step 3: Redirect to Original Page

If updating the canonical and removing the page from the sitemap isn't feasible, try redirecting the duplicate page to the original via a 301 redirect. When done correctly, this will ensure that users and search engines are always directed to the preferred URL.

Step 4: Validate Fix

Lastly, use the Google Search Console to validate the fix by submitting a request to index the updated page. The Google Search Console will review the change and update their index accordingly.

By following these steps, you can fix "Duplicate without user-selected canonical" errors and improve your website's indexing and search visibility.

Prevention of Duplicate Without User-Selected Canonical Errors

Preventing "Duplicate without user-selected canonical" error starts with adopting best practices to create unique and original content. Here are a few practices to prevent this error from occurring:

Use Canonical Tags Consistently

Ensure that you use the canonical tag consistently across your website. Consistent use of canonical tags indicates the preferred or original URL to Google, preventing any duplicate content indexing challenges.

Avoid Duplicating Content

Duplicate content is one of the major causes of "Duplicate without user-selected canonical" error status. As a content creator, avoid duplicating content intentionally, whether on two different pages on your site or syndicating your content on multiple sites without indicating the original source.

Structured URL

Having a structured URL system can help reduce duplicate page issues. As much as possible, ensure that content on your website only uses one URL. Adopt a well-structured URL schema, and aim to reduce the use of query strings and parameter-based URLs.

Regular Site Audit

Perform a site audit regularly to identify any potential content and technical issues before they become significant problems. Also, ensure that your website is mobile-friendly, uses SSL/TLS protocol, and optimizes the use of robots.txt and sitemaps.

Implementing these best practices can help prevent the occurrence of "Duplicate without user-selected canonical" error status, ensuring that your website's pages are easily indexable, and your content is easily discoverable on search engines.

Conclusion

"Duplicate without user-selected canonical" error status can have a significant impact on your website's SEO. The causes of this error status often revolve around website structure and technical website issues. Fixing this error can be challenging but is worth it, as it helps improve your website's indexability and search engine rankings.

This article has provided steps to help fix "Duplicate without user-selected canonical" errors, prevent this error from occurring in the future and adopting best practices that optimize a site for Google and other search engines. Following these recommendations will help keep your website performing at its best.