Search engines, like Google, generally prefer a clear and consistent approach to handling duplicate content. Having a page with a different 301 redirect and canonical tag sends mixed signals and can cause confusion. Here’s a breakdown of how search engines might interpret this situation:

301 Redirect: This is a server-side instruction that permanently moves a URL to another location. It informs search engines that the original URL is no longer valid and passes link equity (SEO value) to the new destination.

Canonical Tag: This is an HTML element placed in the head section of a webpage. It suggests to search engines which URL they should consider the “main” version for indexing and ranking purposes. It’s a suggestion, not a directive.

Conflicting Signals: When a page has a 301 redirect pointing to one URL (URL B) while the canonical tag points to another URL (URL A), it creates conflicting signals:

  • The 301 redirect suggests URL B is the permanent location.
  • The canonical tag suggests URL A is the preferred version.

Search engines may interpret this in a few ways:

  • They might prioritize the 301 redirect: This is more likely as it’s a stronger signal (server-side instruction). URL B might be indexed while URL A is de-indexed or marked as a duplicate.
  • They might ignore the canonical tag: Since the 301 takes precedence, the suggestion from the canonical tag might be disregarded.
  • In rare cases, they might choose neither: The conflicting signals could lead search engines to not consider either URL for indexing.


It’s best to avoid this situation altogether. Here’s what you should do:

  • If you’re using a 301 redirect to permanently move a page (URL A) to another page (URL B), remove the canonical tag on URL A.
  • If you have multiple slightly different versions of a page (e.g., with sorting options), use a canonical tag to point them all to the preferred version. Don’t use 301 redirects in this case.

By following these practices, you ensure clear communication with search engines and avoid potential issues with duplicate content.

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