djbaxter

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Google: Noindex & Rel=Canonical Should Not Be Mixed
by Barry Schwartz, Search Engine Roundtable
July 20, 2018

Google wants clear signals that are consistent and straightforward. When you start to confuse Google by communicating that one URL is more important than the other, but another signal says the opposite or you use the noindex to hide pages that you think are less important but want to pass that weight to other pages - it can ultimately confuse Google and come back to bite you.

John Mueller explains it in this Reddit thread:

The general rule of thumb is that signals get forwarded & combined with canonicalization. When Google sees two URLs from your site, they look the same, and you tell us your preference clearly, we'll try to combine them and treat them as one (usually stronger) URL instead of separate ones. Redirects, rel=canonical, internal & external linking, sitemaps, hreflang, etc all tell us your preferences, and the more you can align those, the more we'll follow them and use them to pick a canonical out of that set (and forward all the signals to the canonical chosen). On the other hand, noindex (alone) & robots.txt disallow (in general) are not clear signs for canonicalization. Just having a noindex on a page doesn't tell us that you want to have it combined with something else, and that signals should be forwarded. A robots.txt disallow is even trickier, we don't even know if the page matches anything else on your site, so we couldn't even use it for canonicalization if we wanted to.

This is also where the guide that you shouldn't mix noindex & rel=canonical comes from: 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).
 

JoshuaMackens

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The only issue is, what happens when you don't want the page being forwarded by canonical to show up in the index at all?
 

djbaxter

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More on the rel=canonical tag from John Mueller...

Having Rel Canonical Doesn't Guarantee Google Picks Up That Page As Canonical
by Barry Schwartz, Search Engine Roundtable
July 23, 2018

From Twitter:

Vlad Rappoport @vladrpt asks:
Jul 20, 2018

@JohnMu Is there a reason why Google indexes the wrong sequential URL of the pagination instead of the primary? For example, page 3 of the pagination sequence would get indexed instead of the primary? rel canonicals and prev/next appear to be set up properly. @glenngabe

John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ ✔ @JohnMu replies:
Jul 20, 2018

We use multiple factors when determining the canonical for a page, a rel=canonical isn't a guarantee, so ultimately that can happen. Also, rel=canonical to the first page + rel next/prev are a bit conflicting, either it's the same as the first page, or they're paginated series.
 

Eric Rohrback

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Expanding on John's point,
Also, rel=canonical to the first page + rel next/prev are a bit conflicting, either it's the same as the first page, or they're paginated series.

Don't do that... don't rel=canonical from pg x to page 1. That's how ecommerce sites get screwed up and products drop from the index. Google will follow the rel=next link to find additional pages of products (still using the ecommerce example), so you shouldn't be telling Google that the products on page x are the same as page 1. That's bad :) If you really want to use a rel-canonical tag, then you would need to make an "all products" page where someone can view everything on a single page. In that case you rel-canonical from page x to the view all page. I'd stick with the pagination though.

Don't send conflicting signals to Google :) Be clear in your directives and how you want their bots to interact with your site.
 
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