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Links for identifying canonical content - is rel="canonical" always required? 0 Recommended Answers 2 Replies 2 Upvotes
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Hello,
 
I'm working on a large site that currently licences its content under Creative Commons BY 4.0. The potential problem is that other, similarly large sites may be making use of this content without using rel="canonical" when linking back to attribute it.
 
I've done some research around this and found this section in an article by Yoast:
“…some websites use RSS to include news from other websites on their website. That can be done by including a list of your latest article titles that link to your website. You’ll probably have no problem with it if someone does this.
But if it’s done to republish your content on their website without that link to you, it’s a different story. This is one of the reasons our Yoast SEO plugin allows you to add an extra line to your feed items (check out the Search appearance > RSS section of our Yoast SEO plugin). That line could say “The article (article title) was first published on (your URL)”. We include a line like that by default, by the way. This ensures that, if people copy content from your website via your RSS feed, there will always be a link back to your website. Google will find that link and understand you are the original source.” - https://yoast.com/what-if-people-copy-content
 
Even Google itself says “it is helpful to ensure that each site on which your content is syndicated includes a link back to your original article” - https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66359/?hl=en
 
To me, this suggests that if people attribute their copy of your content to you with a link back to your content, Google will understand that your content is the original. Can someone who knows please confirm if that's the case - that Google will treat your content as canonical if people link their copies back to it even without using rel=”canonical”?
If such a link is not enough for Google to recognise content as canonical, could you please outline the various ways of attribution that Google will understand?
Thanks,
Jenn.
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Hi Jenn,
 
Cross domain canonical tags are useful if your content is republish across other sites. 
 
Like canonical tags on your own site, they help search engines combine signals into a single url if multiple variations are found.
 
Worth noting that canonical tags are a suggestion, not a directive so your content on other sites can still be indexed and occasionally even rank well if it is very popular on their site. 
 
It certainly doesn't hurt to use cross domain canonicals but they aren't fool proof. 
 
 
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Hi RickRoll,

Thanks for replying so quickly!

To be a bit more specific, the problem would be with people copying content from the site I'm working on and putting it on sites I have no control over (that's ok - it's why the content is under a CC licence) but not bothering or knowing how to canonicalise my content properly so Google might rank their copy instead of my original. I understand that canonical tags are just a suggestion to Google and that even if they were present Google may still rank a copy instead of the original but I'm keen to maximise my chances of ranking as high as possible and I know that canonicalising my content will help with that.

I'd like to find the easiest way of attributing content that Google will understand as canonicalising - if attributing copies as canonical is simple, I assume people will be more likely to do it. As mentioned above, some sources suggest that if copies of your content include a link such as

The article (article title) was first published on (your URL)

Google would understand that the 'your URL' page is canonical. Is that the case?

I want to know if an attribution link has to have rel="canonical" in it for Google to realise it's marking something as canonical or if a link like the example above is enough. I think some users would willing to attribute with a basic link like the one above but may not know how to include rel="canonical" in it.

Thanks,
Jenn.
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