Canonicalized URL received organic search traffic
This means that the URL in question is canonicalized to another URL, yet received organic search traffic, per the connected Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts.
Why is this important?
If a URL is canonicalized then a specific instruction has been given to search engines to NOT index the page. Yet since URLs need to be indexed in order to receive organic search traffic, this implies that search engines may be ignoring the canonical instruction.
What does the Hint check?
This Hint will trigger for any internal, canonicalized URL which recorded some clicks in Search Analytics, and/or some visits in Google Analytics.
This data was collected from Google Search Console and Google Analytics, via API, for the connected Property/View, and for the specified date range.
Examples that trigger this Hint:
Consider the URL: https://example.com/page-a, which has registered some search traffic.
The Hint would trigger for this URL if it had a canonical that pointed at any other URL;
A canonical tag in the <head> which pointed at another internal URL:
OR a canonical tag in the <head> which pointed at an external URL:
OR a canonical tag in the HTTP header which pointed at any other URL:
How do you resolve this issue?
Before jumping to any conclusions, it is worth remembering that the traffic data collected is historical, yet the crawl was done in real time - so it might be the case that this URL used to be indexable, and is now canonicalized.
Assuming this is not the case, then you would need to understand why a canonicalized URL is appearing in the search index (which it must do to get traffic), when the deliberate instruction is for it to not be indexed.
Even if canonicals are set up correctly, Google can decide that they disagree with the canonical, and select another one - which might be the original URL itself, as in this instance.
If you think this might be the case, check (the new) Google Search Console, to see if you have any URLs flagged as 'Google chose different canonical than user'.
There are a number of factors that determine what Google consider the 'correct' canonical:
- Are canonicals being specified for pages that are not duplicates?
- Does the canonical URL have more link equity than the original URL?
- Is the canonicalized URL referenced in XML Sitemaps?
- Does the canonical point at a redirecting URL? (or other non-200 status)
- Does the canonical URL have lots of external inbound links?
- Are there other conflicting robots signals, such as noindex, or disallow?
If these factors are not in alignment, then there is every chance that Google may choose a different canonical, which would need addressing in order to solve the issue.