New Canonical URL Field Makes Exponent CMS More SEO Friendly

Over the years, Exponent CMS has proven itself to be one of the top search engine friendly CMS platforms available in the marketplace – and it just got better.

I recently teamed up with Exponent CMS code ninja Phillip Ball to integrate a new Canonical URL field into the core of the CMS, allowing webmasters to easily add a <link rel="canonical" > tag into the header of their Exponent CMS web pages, on a page by page basis.

The new Canonical URL field, which will be featured this Friday May 3, 2013 in the 2.2.0 release candidate, has been integrated into the Exponent CMS page manager configuration, and you can also assign a Canonical URL when creating a new news article or blog post.

If you're a developer using Exponent CMS and aren't familiar with the SEO ramifications of the Canonical URL field, you might be asking yourself why this new field matters and what its purpose is.

What's the Purpose of Canonical URLs?

In layman terms, what the Canonical URL Tag does is it tells the search engines what URL to give credit to in the case of multiple URLs having identical content.

For example, if you're trying to make finding information easy for your website users by adding the same content in multiple sections of your site, such as pricing information, photo galleries, etc. by using the Exponent CMS content aggregation feature on your website, you've created yourself a duplicate content issue with the search engines.

In this case, it's important to assign a <link rel=”canonical”> tag on the pages to let the search engine know which URL is the original (and often times only URL indexed) source of the content.

SEOMoz.org also suggests that the rel=canonical tag be utilized on each page of your website, even if you don't have a duplicate page, in case of future developments on your site that might cause a duplicate content issue.

How Do I Use the New Feature?

As Phillip and I have collaborated on this feature, we tried to make it as easy and straight forward as possible from an administrative perspective. If your website will be using Exponent CMS version 2.2.0 or newer, you'll find the Canonical URL field on any content page configuration under the “SEO” tab.

Exponent CMS Canonical URL Page Configuration

You'll also be able to find this Canonical URL field on the Exponent CMS blog, news, and ecommerce modules when adding or editing a post or product.

If you do not manually assign a Canonical URL within this field, the <link rel=”canonical”> tag will default to the SEF URL for that particular page/post/product.

In order to manually set a Canonical URL for a piece of content, simply type or paste in the FULL URL that you want to assign the canonical tag to.

What Does the Canonical URL Markup Look Like?

The canonical URL tag, whether you assign it manually or let it default automatically, will show up in the header tag of your Exponent CMS website, directly under the meta description tag:

Exponent CMS Rel=Canonical URL Markup

What if My Version of Exponent Doesn't Have the New Canonical URL Field?

If your website's version of Exponent CMS isn't the latest and greatest and you don't want to spend the time upgrading your theme in order to implement this new feature, Phillip Ball has come up with a work around that you can drop right into the header your site's theme.

However, because you should be assigning Canonical URLs on a page by page basis to eradicate duplicate content issues, this work around is not an ideal solution if duplicate content is what you're trying to fix. If you simply want to assign a Canonical URL tag to your web pages because it's a “SEO best practice” for pages not at risk of duplicate content, here's what you need to do.

Navigate into the backed files of your website, accessing the theme folder and adding this code snippet inside the header tag of your default theme and any subthemes you might have for your site:

 <link rel="canonical" href="<?php echo "http://$_SERVER[HTTP_HOST]$_SERVER[REQUEST_URI]" ?>"/>

Here's what that looks like in the theme file:

Exponent CMS Canonical URL Workaround

While not ideal, this relatively easy process will automatically add a rel=canonical tag on each of your web pages.

About the author

Atlanta SEO Consultant Chris J. EverettChris Everett is a SEO consultant and founder of Captivate Search Marketing in Atlanta, GA.

Chris has been a core contributor to the Exponent CMS open source project since 2008.

If you have any questions about rel=canonical tags or how to make your Exponent CMS site more SEO friendly, feel free to drop him a line on Google+.

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