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Canonical tags are often misunderstood by SEOs, both beginner and advanced.
A canonical tag can and should be used in 3 situations:
1. When other websites rip your content (word for word) and post it to their own website. THEY should use a canonical tag that points back to your site telling Google that YOUR site is the authority on the subject
2. When YOU want to syndicate content from another website. You can use a rel=canonical link that points to the original source, keeping your free from Panda slaps.
3. When you want to tell Google which content WITHIN your site is the authority. Use this when you have multiple pages with the same or similar information.