Canonical Url Errors with All-in-One SEO WordPress Plugin

All in One SEO Pack is a very popular wordpress plugin and does some SEO tweaks for optimizing your WordPress blog for higher search engine rankings. But as our pagerank dropped recently, investigation revealed that though there may be many causes for PR drop, some canonical url options might be reducing our google pagerank.

All in One SEO WordPress Plugin & Canonical Urls

Google recently introduced a Canonical url option which allows webmasters and bloggers to specify a canonical url in the HEAD of their html to publicly specify the preferred version of a URL. If your site has identical or vastly similar content that’s accessible through multiple URLs, this format provides you with more control over the URL returned in search results. Which basically means that if your single page is accessed by multiple urls, the canonical url option can help search engines identify and index the url of choice and avoid duplicate content Google penalization issues.

The FAQ reveals its a very powerful atribute to add to web pages and is hint that Google will honor strongly, and is willing to accept URLs which redirects as a canonical URL to index it.

We have been using the excellent All in One SEO Plugin for quite some while for blog SEO purposes. WP 2.7 has made it super easy to upgrade the plugins in one click and usually we upgrade to new plugin versions without actually looking into the options everytime we upgrade. Big mistake!

Upgraded plugins may check new options by default in the new upgrade, which you might never know without reading the changelog (which how many of us do?).

canonical urls

The recent upgrade of All in One SEO Plugin checked the canonical urls option by default. While this was a good step for a SEO plugin, it possibly reduced our Pagerank. Here is how….

Canonical Urls and Google Pagerank

We host our WordPress blog in a subdirectory called “Archives”. Its easy to host WordPress in an alternative directory. So the canonical url of the front page should be

<link rel="canonical" href="" />

while the hosted blog archives page should be

<link rel="canonical" href="" />

But when I looked into the source code of the main page and the archives page, both show this

wrong canonical url

which basically means that when search engines visit, the canonical url tells them / redirects them with information that the actual page of choice which we want to index is and that creates a whole lot of confusion in the search engines.

Its possibly occurred on our blog because WordPress address and Blog address are the same in the WP admin settings, so maybe the plugin does not recognize the occurence of the new index.php at the root. But I am sure many bloggers out there have not changed the default wordpress settings. Anyways our google pagerank of the main page is now down from PR5 to PR4 and archives page has increased from PR3 to PR4!

Well we have now unchecked the canonical url options in the plugin, changed the index page to be different from the archives page and wait for Google to reindex our content and restore PR is possible. We had already set our preferred domain in Google webmaster tools earlier.

preferred domain


Considering that All in One SEO Plugin is the most popular wordpress plugin ever and is downloaded over 1.3 million time, and many WordPress bloggers host their WordPress files in alternative directories, I believe this is an important issue to address.

WordPress Plugin Lessons

So some humble suggestions for WordPress plugins developers, especially when popular plugins may effect thousands of blogs with one click –

1. Please do NOT check new options as default in upgrades.

2. It would be great if they added changelog link to WP options panel should be mandatory, especially the latest update, so bloggers can check out what are the latest major fixes out there.

It would be great if WordPress codex added a changelog to the individual plugin navigation page by default, so that users know what the latest updates are.

It would be interesting to hear the views of our learned readers, and what else could we be doing wrong to reduce our Google PR.

NOTE: All-in-One SEO Pack is an amazing and highly recommended wordpress plugin. I am not a SEO expert but the canonical url errors may have led to our PR drop, though there are hundreds of other issues that may have led to this Google PR drop, which Google best knows. Anyway it is essential to follow Google Webmaster guidelines always.

Update – I have changed the post title, which was being wrongly interpreted. Note that the plugin did what it was supposed to do and affected our site because WordPress address and Blog address are the same in our WP admin settings. So basically the plugin needs some more options for canonical url settings in with different wordpress settings. Basically those who host WordPress in an alternative directory should check the canonical options and fix them if required.

Update – Mark points to this nice video of Google engineer Matt Cutts explaining the canonical link element and SEO, which would be useful context here.

57 comments on “Canonical Url Errors with All-in-One SEO WordPress Plugin

  1. Christopher Bolton says:

    SEO is about optimizing your content and structuring your pages correctly. Installing a plugin that changes your page structures site-wide will look like obvious SEO to Google, and they are not keen on that are they?

    So in answer to your question, I think it was definitely the cause. There is not a plugin on this planet right now that will directly help you with your SEO in my opinion.

  2. DazzlinDonna says:

    I think this might be a rare occurrence, possibly because your blog is located in a folder called “archives”, and that might be confusing something on the back end with the WP archives. I’ve checked each of the blogs I own that are hosted within a subfolder and not at the root domain, and they all show the correct canonical url.

    Although I do agree that plugins should not auto-check new features (because I’ve had issues with that kind of thing causing problems in other plugins), I’m not sure this particular issue is widespread. Good catch though!

  3. QuickOnlineTips says:

    @DazzlinDonna – Its possibly occurred on our blog because WordPress address and Blog address are the same in the settings.

    So maybe the plugin does not recognize the occurence of the new index.php at the root. But I am sure many bloggers out there have not changed the default wordpress settings.

  4. brian says:

    I have had the same thing happen. I wondered why my page rank dipped and then I just check my homepage and I have the same issue.

    Thanks for the tip!

  5. VanUdin says:

    This case not happen to my blog. Even my blog now have PR3. And lot Organic traffic too.

  6. Jeffro says:

    Sounds like something really fishy went on but if the conical URL PR increased while the other URL decreased, it appears to be a logical conclusion. The All in one SEO plugin author happens to be a member of the WPTavern community and I’ve started a thread with this article in mind:

    Hopefully, he’ll either reply their in the forum or he’ll respond in the comments.

    But having interview Michael Torbert who is the author of the plugin, he told me that even if a new person who would simply activate the plugin on their WordPress install, it would help out their SEO despite their being a myriad of settings to choose from. While the most recent version is not covered, their is a changelog located here

  7. Craig Fifield says:

    nice catch! I’d say it is the most likely source of your drop and I’m sure your PR will return to normal once Google sorts things out now that you’ve fixed the issue.

    I did want to add though that setting your preferred domain in Google Webmaster Tools has no relevance to this issue, that is solely about “.www” or not in your domain.

  8. Davinder says:

    Even I host WP in a folder and redirect to root. I checked source code, it looks fine showing root URL and not folder URL – even though Canonical URLS option is checked, any idea?

  9. Peter says:

    Christopher, I just can’t agree with you, for a number of reasons:

    First, Google has nothing against search engine optimization – especially not the kind that this plugin handles. This plugin gives you the ability to better clarify what each page is about – instead of relying on wordpress to do it for you. Google has nothing against this, they encourage proper meta information and titles for sites – this helps them figure out what your page/site is about.

    As for the direct confirmation that this plugin caused your pagerank drop – this is just ridiculous. Is it possible? Sure – but there are hundreds of other possibilities – and its likely that a combination of them caused the drop. On top of that, I’ve seen across a number of other sites on the internet that we are in the midst of a pagerank update – this drop could have been months and months in the making.

    Lastly – there is no plugin that will help with SEO today? As referenced above, this plugin absolutely will help your on page optimization. SEO is not the voodoo that some people make it out to be – its about structuring your page so that search engines can easily understand exactly what it’s about, and driving relevant links to it. This plugin handles the first part of that equation perfectly.

    QuickOnlineTips, your sentiment that plugin authors shouldn’t set new options as the default is certainly debatable. I think it’s a little low, however, to publicly place the blame for your pagerank drop squarely on a free plugin, which may or may not have had anything to do with it.

  10. Stephen Cronin says:

    That’s a pretty big assumption you’re making there. You can’t see your current up to date PageRank, only your toolbar PR, which Google exports once every 3 months or so. As it happens Google just recently updated Toolbar PR, so it’s no surprise you’re seeing changes – however these changes are based on many different factors over the last 3 months or so. The new feature of All in One is only about a week old. It’s very unlikely that it would have had much impact in that small amount of time.

    That said, it would seem that people should be careful about this issue if they run WordPress in a subfolder. It may have impact on such sites, so if there’s any doubt, don’t use that feature of the plugin. However, it’s a real stretch to blame All in One for your PageRank drop (not that PageRank matters much any more).

  11. QuickOnlineTips says:

    Thanks for all your comments. I have changed the title of the post as it was being misinterpreted. I have also updated why the issue was affecting us.

    @Jeffro thanks for pointing out the forum. All points well taken. There is no doubt that Michael has created a very useful plugin and the very fact that it is the most downloaded plugin ever speaks for it.

    I hope Michael continues to work on this nice plugin. I apologize if this article offended him or anyone working on this plugin in any way, as it was just meant to help other bloggers like us who host wordpress in alternative directories and might be affected by the canonical url issues.

  12. QuickOnlineTips says:

    @Peter – I have clarified in the article that PR drop could be because of hundreds of causes and this is just one more possibility. I have changed the title it was being misinterpreted.

    @Stephen – Thanks for all your good points. This was not an attempt to blame the All-in-One plugin for PageRank drop, but just to warn other bloggers about the canonical issue.

  13. QuickOnlineTips says:

    @Craig – thanks for pointing that out.

    @Davinder – When the WP is hosted in an alternative directory, it would affect only those bloggers whose WordPress address and Blog address are the same in the WP-admin settings. I am sure there will be a new option in the plugin soon letting us set that too.

  14. Sarpras says:

    But my PR increased to 4, I selected canonical url options on ALL IN SEO plugin.

  15. Sarpras says:

    But my PR increased to 4, I selected canonical url options on ALL IN SEO plugin.
    P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

  16. Arun Basil Lal says:

    I have WP installed on the root folder and the WordPress address and Blog address point to the homepage. So I understand that I am safe.

    If there is any mistake in my statement, please correct.

    (lol. This was just to make sure that I am safe)

    Arun Basil Lal

  17. Miss Virtual Reality says:

    I do believe that Google keeps changing things in order to have an excuse to lower page ranks. As for upgrades in WordPress, I do believe that people should keep checking with them to make sure they get all of their upgrades and updates. Otherwise, it might cause real issues.

  18. Mark Jaquith says:

    For most WordPress users, there will be minimal benefit from rel=”canonical” and at worst, you can actually do harm. We are considering the rel=”canonical” feature for WordPress core for version 2.9. There is no rush. rel=”canonical” is really only going to help you significantly if you’re already in trouble and have a bunch of ?funky=tracking_parameters or something else appended to your URL. WordPress itself already handles things like slashes, ?p=1234 redirection, yes-www vs no-www and a bunch of other canonical URL issues.

    Matt Cutt’s advice for most users of WordPress is wait.

  19. Greg says:

    Have your search rankings for your keywords been restored yet??

  20. Albert says:

    I believe this will set most of the problems of duplicate problems as well as for webmasters who control a huge database of pages.

  21. Come faccio per says:

    I used the all in one seo plugin with the canonical urls checked.
    Now I use the canonical urls plugin from Yoast and all in one seo plugin with the canonical urls unchecked.
    Is it a right approach?
    What for all the time that i’ve been using that wrong option?
    thanks for anyone who will answer

  22. safdar says:

    rom the obvious to the “Hey-I-never-thought-of-that-great-idea-before”, here are 10 of the top 52 tips on how to optimize your website for its turbo-charge rocket ride up the search engine rankings.

  23. Raleigh SEO says:

    If your single page is accessed by multiple urls, the canonical url option can help search engines identify and index the url of choice and avoid duplicate content Google penalization issues.

  24. Berita Harian says:

    Never tried this one before, I believe I’m the most outdated person when it comes to All-in-one SEO pack.

  25. Orxan says:

    But I still have good SEO rankings with this problem.

  26. Florida SEO says:

    I would like to recommend the Platinum SEO Pack, it has more useful options than the all in one seo pack. There are more nofollow selections, additional post, page and home headers, you can nofollow all of the outgoing links on just the front page, you can add the noydir meta tag, the noodp meta tag, you can use the option for noindex on sub pages and my favorite option of all is all of the options that it gives you on each individual post and page of your wordpress blog.

    Those are just a few of the things that I can think of off the top of my head. The fact of the matter is that I have used both and have found that I am in greater control of my websites on-page seo than when I was using the All in One SEO Pack.

  27. Jermaine says:

    I know I have used that plugin for all my wordpress SEO needs….hope they keep it updated more often.

  28. wparena says:

    This is an excellent article and really thankful to author because my page rank was going down due to this plugin and now I hope, I will manage it properly.

  29. The real Internet Money says:

    Well, this way WordPress without the plugin All in One SEO do better than using the plugin with canonical URL.

    This is a great article for all the people that are wprried about SEO and page rank.

  30. sonia says:

    will you please explain,what is canonical url,and what is its function…

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