Does the "duplicate without user-selected canonical" status pop up in your search engine console? It basically means that the search engine has found similar or identical content on a website but cannot determine which content is the original/preferred canonical version. What could have caused this? And how can you address the issue?
This article will extensively explain what "duplicate without user-selected canonical'' means, factors that cause this status or error and, more importantly, how to fix or resolve the error. Let's begin.
What Is "Duplicate without user-selected canonical"?
"Duplicate without user-selected canonical" is an error or issue that indicates that Google has found duplicate content or URLs (Uniform Resource Locator), which are not canonicalized to a preferred version. The error simply means that, as it states, there is duplicate content but the user (you) did not select a canonical version (the canonical version being the master copy of the duplicates).
What Causes the "Duplicate without user-selected canonical" Status Or Error?
There are a few things that can cause the "duplicate without user-selected canonical" status to pop up in your search engine console, such as –
Having similar content that exists on a site is a major cause of the "duplicate without user-selected canonical" error. Duplicate content can happen when you do not make your pages/content different and unique from each other.
If your website has multiple versions of the same content and none of them have a user-selected canonical tag, it means that search engines may have a hard time in deciding which version of your content to index and display in the search console. This will undoubtedly result in duplicate content issues.
No Canonical Tags
Duplicate content isn't the only cause of the "duplicate without user-selected canonical" error. More than having duplicate content, the issue is that none of these duplicated contents was tagged to a preferred version using a canonical tag.
The canonical tag is an HTTP header or an HTML element that allows you to point to your preferred or canonical version of your duplicate content, ensuring that your preferred version will be indexed. Without canonical tags, your preferred version wouldn't be indexed. Instead, Google would send the "duplicate without user-selected canonical" error and automatically choose one of the content or pages to index.
Server or CMS Issues
Technical issues can sometimes be a cause of the "duplicate without user-selected canonical" error. It could be database errors, caches issues, bugs in your CMS or backups of your site that may cause duplicate contents without your knowledge. Essentially, any issues that result in the appearing of similar contents can lead to the "duplicate without user-selected canonical" error.
Site Structure Changes
Changes in your site's structure can also cause the "duplicate without user-selected canonical" error to occur.
For example, if you change your domain to a new one or you switch to another content management system, then the old content may still be crawled, making duplicates of the new domain's content.
How to Fix or Resolve the "Duplicate without user-selected canonical" Status
When the "duplicate without user-selected canonical" status pops up in the search engine console, it means you have to indicate which version is your preferred or primary version. Here are some ways to fix or resolve this status –
Determine Your Preferred Version of the Content
Reviewing the different versions of your content is really important because it will help you determine which one you should consider as your preferred version. Your preferred version should be the original, best-quality one that you want the search engine to prioritize and rank.
Use Canonical Tags
Using a canonical tag by adding rel="canonical" to the head of the HTML will help you point to the original version of your preferred content. For any duplicates that you would want to be indexed separately, use self referring canonical tags pointing to themselves.
Implementing a 301 Redirect
301 redirects signal to search engines that the version of a content still exists but just in a different place. These redirects are considered to be permanent. In addition to removing a duplicate version of your content by deleting the duplicate content, set up a redirect to your preferred version where the duplicate used to be.
In some scenarios, you may simply decide to address the ground cause by removing any unnecessary versions of duplicate content. You can edit duplicate pages by adding more content, changing title tags, meta description, and headings so that they can be considered unique to a search engine. You would also want to add a self referencing canonical to those content.
Implementing a "noindex" Ta:
Another way to fix the "duplicate without user-selected canonical" error is simply by adding a "noindex" tag to your content that is identified as duplicate. This will help ensure that search engines recognize the tag, do not index the duplicate, and prioritize the preferred version of the content.
As seen, the "duplicate without user-selected canonical" error occurs when search engines discover duplicate content but you haven't signaled the preferred version. Having duplicate content and not tagging your preferred version of your duplicate content is one of the causes of this error.
Technical issues and site structure changes can also cause the "duplicate without user-selected canonical" issue to occur. But the error can be fixed. Using canonical tags when there are duplicates is the best way to fix or resolve this error.
A solid technical strategy also helps in preventing this error. Again, creating unique and high quality content is necessary to avoid this error from occurring. When you have all of these in place, you will be able to ensure that Google indexes your preferred content and you can avoid the "duplicate without user-selected canonical" status.