I don’t know if they had a pow-wow, a retreat, or a meeting through spirit guides, but Yahoo!, Google, and Microsoft all recently released new rules about “duplicate URLs” and their respective search engine results.
What in the heck are they talking about? Canonical names.
Background for non-web-geeks. Web sites and pages can have several names. In the most technical terms, the address is an IP address. We mask it with an alias, like “lib.calpoly.edu.” From there you have your folders and page names. You know, “forward slash research, forward slash guides” so that pages can look like “lib.calpoly.edu/research/guides/.”
But even these pages can be referred to by several names. One, your site can be “lib.calpoly.edu” or it can be “www.lib.calpoly.edu.” If you use a content management system (like libguides), the CMS may display pages through a database leaving you with a strange, techno-babble string; and then the author can choose a “user-friendly” name for the page to share with others.
All of this contributes to many different ways to get to the same page. How does a search engine determine which of these ways is the official way? It doesn’t serve anybody (well, maybe the company, but only by squeezing out their competitions’ content) to have a page of search results all pointing to the same content at the same web site.
That is what these guidelines hope to simplify. Only, many think that they don’t.
Meanwhile, we will continue to work our magic in making sure we have the best search results possible. And for the record, our official web site address is “lib.calpoly.edu,” sans the www.