“Duplicate without user selected canonical” is a common indexing error status in GSC.
It basically means there’s another page on your website that has similar content to this page and you haven’t marked the preferred version with a canonical tag.
Canonical tags are HTML tags that tell search engines which version of a web page is the preferred or canonical version.
This is an indexing issue and you should only be worried if something you want indexed (like a product, post or page) is showing up on the report.
If the report contains URLs that make no sense like the ones below and you don’t want them indexed, just ignore them – there’s nothing to worry about.
In this article, I’ll talk about the causes of the “duplicate without user selected canonical” status and show you a couple of ways to fix it if the report has important pages.
Causes Of The Duplicate Without User-Selected Canonical Error
Basically, there are three ways this can happen – technical issues (without you knowing), actual content duplication and improper use of the canonical tag.
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If there are technical issues like structural issues, or having both HTTP and HTTPS versions of your site (FIX THIS RIGHT NOW), or responsive themes that generate pages with similar URLs like ?page=1 – Google will consider them as duplicates.
Changing website structure like changing permalinks or moving to a different CMS can also cause this issue.
Same goes for pagination and sitemap issues. And sometimes RSS Feed URLs (like the first URL on the image) get picked up as duplicates.
For actual content duplication – this could also happen if you are targeting different cities, states, or even countries with very similar content.
Or if you have an ecom site that offers downloadable PDFs with the same product information as the product detail pages or different pages for different product variations.
I don’t need to explain improper use of the canonical tag right? If you added one, just remove them and properly do some research before adding again.
How To Fix Duplicate Without User-Selected Canonical Error
Before we attempt fixing these, make a list of the URLs and ask yourself if you really need these pages. If the site doesn’t need them just delete the pages.
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Let’s go over the two ways of fixing this issue:
Add Canonical Tags
The obvious fix for this error is to add a canonical URL on all the duplicate pages. Canonical tags should be added in the page header and the format looks like this:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”orignal page address”>
If you are not tech-savvy you can easily do this from your SEO plugin (if you are on WordPress).
I usually use Rankmath and you can find the canonical URL option on the advanced tab. By default, it’s set as a self-referencing canonical but you can change it.
Just open up all the duplicate pages and add the original or “preferred” page URL on the Canonical URL section and hit update.
I hear people removing the duplicate URLs from the sitemap as well – you could do it if you want but I wouldn’t bother.
If you do these properly, your GSC error will soon disappear and the original page will be indexed and the duplicates won’t be indexed.
But remember, Google will not always obey these canonical signals and sometimes insist on choosing a duplicate as the preferred version and indexing it and putting out the “Google chose different canonical than user” GSC error.
If this happens, you can 301 redirect the real duplicates which we will talk about next.
Do 301 Redirects
Simply put, a 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another.
Keep in mind if you do this, your duplicate page will no longer be accessible and will be redirected to the original page, so this might not be a good solution for some ecom issues.
301-ing will also pass the traffic and link juice to the new URL
Now the good news is that setting up redirects is a piece of cake and you don’t need to know any code or edit htaccess files like we used to. There are a ton of free plugins that can take care of this.
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Even Rankmath can get it done! And we are going to use it for a demonstration.
By the way, I highly recommend not installing other plugins if you already have Rankmath because installing new stuff always slows down your site and is an attack surface for hackers.
Rankmath 301 Demo
First up, you need to go to your Rankmath database and switch on redirections.
Next head over to the redirections tab from the menu and click on “add new” on the top. You will see the new redirect options pop up. It’s going to look like this:
Afterward, you need to add the duplicate URLs one by one on the “Source URLs” field and put in the original page URL in the “Destination URL” field.
That’s about it. Click on the Add Redirection button at the bottom and you are all set.
Google will deindex the duplicates and index the original page and all the GSC errors will disappear.
Remember, the “duplicate without user-selected canonical” error is an indexing issue and you only need to fix it if the page is something you want to be indexed.
This error can happen in a number of ways and the best way to fix it without removing the duplicate pages is to add canonical tags to these duplicates.
Luckily the process isn’t complicated – open up each page and set the canonical URL in the advanced tab.
And if you want Google to quickly pick up the changes you have made, open up the error on Google search console and click on the “Validate fix” button.