“Alternate page with proper canonical tag” is a Google Search Console status. It indicates that a page is marked with the canonical tag pointing to another URL. The affected page wasn’t indexed.
As long as this status message is a consequence of your deliberate actions, there’s nothing to worry about.
However, if you’re unsure how to approach it, let me guide you through the possible causes and solutions.
Causes for the “Alternate page with proper canonical tag” status
If you see “Alternate page with proper canonical tag” in the Page indexing (Index Coverage) report in Google Search Console, it probably means that you met the following conditions:
- You have duplicate or thin content that you want to optimize,
- You chose the best version of your content that you wanted to be displayed in search results, so
- You marked your duplicate version with the canonical tag that points to the primary URL.
As you chose another page as the canonical URL, you need to know that search engines will index it in favor of your alternative page. When done on purpose, it’s a positive sign of an indexing strategy that’s working.
It doesn’t mean that you prevent bots from indexing your duplicate page, but it underlines to search engines which page is your preferred one.
Which pages may you consider duplicates and want to canonicalize? These are, e.g., URLs with filtering parameters or user-generated content.
Take a look at the real-life examples of managing duplicate content with canonical tags in my Twitter thread.
Struggling with duplicate pages?
Let’s manage your duplicates to avoid self-induced indexing issues. Read my article on how to optimize duplicate content for SEO.
How to fix “Alternate page with proper canonical tag”
First, ensure you caused the “Alternate page with proper canonical tag” status on purpose.
I recommend browsing the whole list of affected URLs in the Page indexing (Index Coverage) report to confirm it.
Entering the status page, you can filter your URLs in the upper left corner from “All known pages” to submitted (or not) in your sitemap. However, considering that you add only canonical URLs to your XML sitemap file, you shouldn’t find any affected pages when filtering out the list for “All submitted pages.”
Based on your investigation, decide how to approach all the affected pages. You may experience two possible situations:
When you don’t want your alternate page to be indexed
In general, “Alternate page with proper canonical tag” indicates that:
- Google is respecting your canonical tag, and
- It indexed another web page that you deem the preferred version.
If you used the canonical tag on purpose, and if your alternative pages aren’t contributing further issues, you don’t have to change anything.
But it may also happen that you may want to change the canonical page you’re referring to.
To troubleshoot it, use the URL Inspection tool to find the current canonical version of your page.
If you properly point to the canonical page, you will see its URL in the User-declared canonical section at the bottom of the report.
Depending on how you implement canonical tags on your website, update the canonical version of the URL.
When you want your alternate page to be indexed
If you wish your “Alternate page with proper canonical tag” URL to be indexed, you need to remove the canonical tag pointing to another page.
However, in this case, you need to remember about two caveats:
- Ensure your page provides unique value for your users, so Google won’t consider it a duplicate, and
- Add a self-referential canonical tag – Google recognizes that this page is essential and you want it indexed.
But remember – if you just remove the canonical tag from a given page without changing its content, it will result in duplicate content issues. In this case, after Google crawls your page again, it will likely mark that page as “Duplicate without user-selected canonical” in Google Search Console.
Here’s what you can do now:
- Contact us.
- Receive a personalized plan to deal with your duplicate content and indexing issues.
- Enjoy your organic traffic.
Still unsure of dropping us a line? Read how technical SEO services can help you improve your website.
Why you should monitor the “Alternate page with proper canonical tag” status
Don’t forget that your website is constantly changing. You add new pages or update existing content so search engines can change how they evaluate your website.
Even if you see the “Alternate page with proper canonical tag” because of your conscious decision, regularly track the affected URLs to ensure they contribute to your website’s effective crawling and indexing.
Check if your alternate pages aren’t wasting your crawl budget
If you manage a large domain, like an eCommerce website, you may have many alternate URLs, e.g., based on your filtering parameters.
However, even if you canonicalize them properly, it may happen that Google still considers them crucial to be extensively crawled. It may be the case when you link to these non-canonical pages by mistake, e.g., when doing a navigation redesign on your website.
Then, it may turn out that bots spend too much time crawling your alternative pages instead of focusing on the canonical ones.
If they do, consider whether all non-canonical URLs should be crawlable to prevent wasting your crawl budget.
You can check how often Google crawls your URLs by looking at the last crawl date in the URL Inspection tool or performing a crawl analysis using an SEO crawler like Screaming Frog.
But watch out: don’t block the crawling of your alternate pages in robots.txt by default. Remember that Google needs to visit your pages in the first place to see the canonical tag.
Also, pay attention to your internal linking:
- Ensure you link internally only to indexable pages that you consider canonical, and
- Remove the internal links to your alternate pages that are crawled more than necessary.
Manage your crawl budget optimization
Reach out to us for crawl budget optimization services to ensure efficient crawling and indexing of your website.
Make sure you have control over your canonical pages
Proper canonicalization of your pages is a crucial step to efficient indexing.
But even if you properly used the canonical tag, Google may disagree with your perspective and consider a different URL more critical. It will result in the “Duplicate, Google chose different canonical than user” status message in Google Search Console. Read my colleague’s article to learn how to address this issue on your website.
If you’re managing a large website, you won’t avoid having duplicate pages.
The “Alternate page with proper canonical tag” status indicates that you optimize your duplicate content in the right way.
However, you should always double-check if your actions align with your crawling and indexing strategy.
Go for technical SEO services to receive a thorough audit of your website and spot any problems that may contribute to crawl budget issues and harm your search visibility.