Can I combine a Canonical URL and Noindex tag?

Last updated: October 16, 2020

The answer: it depends. Specifically, it depends on how your canonicals are set up.

We keep seeing discussions involving canonical URLs and robots directives where people misunderstand how these two methods influence one another.

The reason for this confusion?

People don’t make the distinction between:

  • canonicals pointing to other pages, and
  • self-referencing canonicals

Let’s clear up this confusion with two crystal clear examples.

Robots noindex and canonical to other page

Imagine https://www.example.com/page-a/ has the following meta robots and canonical URL set:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex,follow"/>
<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.example.com/page-b/" />

In this example, it’s been said that the robots noindex may be carried over to the page that you canonicalize to, in this case https://www.example.com/page-b/. And that’s an issue, because that’s the page you wanted to assign page A’s signals to!

You want to avoid having a canonical to another page, and a robots noindex present as they are very conflicting signals.

John Mueller

You shouldn’t mix noindex and rel=canonical as they’re very contradictory pieces of information for us. We’ll generally pick the rel=canonical and use that over the noindex, but any time you rely on interpretation by a computer script, you reduce the weight of your input :) (and SEO is to a large part all about telling computer scripts your preferences) — source.

Not to worry, ContentKing monitors websites for issues like these 24/7:

Issue in ContentKing for off-page canonical combined with noindex directive
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Robots noindex and self-referencing canonical

Now, imagine https://www.example.com/ppc-landingpage/ has the following meta robots and canonical URL set:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex,follow"/>
<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.example.com/ppc-landingpage/" />

In this example, it’s not harmful to have a page that contains both a self-referencing canonical URL and a robots noindex directive.

While some people speculate that this causes issues, we’ve yet to come across a situation where it does.

Google’s John Mueller confirms:

John Mueller confirms in tweet that self-referencing canonical and noindex are not an issue

The self-referencing canonical tells search engines that this is the only version of the page that exists. And the robots noindex tells search engines not to index it.

Do we advise to implement both a self-referencing canonical URL and a robots noindex on pages that you don’t want to have indexed?

No. It doesn’t matter to Google, just do whatever is easiest in your situation.

Is it harmful if you already have this on your site?

No, it’s not harmful to have both a self-referencing canonical and a robots noindex on your site.

And do you need to make any changes to your pages?

No, there’s no need to change this as it doesn’t matter. Spend your valuable resources on changes that DO make an impact.

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