In today’s episode of Whiteboard Friday, Tom Capper delves into the issue of cannibalization, a problem frequently encountered by SEOs. What exactly is cannibalization, how can you detect it, and what steps can you take to resolve it? Let’s explore!
Cannibalization occurs when a website has two competing URLs targeting the same keyword, potentially leading to diminished performance. This could result from the site splitting its equity between the two URLs or Google becoming confused about which one to display, potentially seeing it as a duplicate content issue.
For instance, imagine Moz is trying to rank for the keyword “burgers.” In a hypothetical scenario, Inferior Bergz ranks first, followed by Moz’s Buy Burgers page (on the moz.com/shop subdirectory) in second position, and a Best Burgers page on the Moz blog in third position.
In a classic case of cannibalization, a clear pattern emerges in the rank tracking data, with one URL consistently ranking while the other falls drastically, indicating competition between the two URLs for visibility.
However, identifying cannibalization isn’t always straightforward. In some cases, like when searching for “Naples,” Wikipedia ranks first and second for Naples, Italy, and Naples, Florida, respectively. Here, Google may recognize multiple intents for the keyword and choose to display relevant Wikipedia pages for each.
To determine whether cannibalization is occurring, ask questions such as:
- Do we think we’re underperforming compared to similar keywords where we only have one page?
- Do both competing pages consistently appear in search results for similar keywords, suggesting a need for differentiation?
- Should we consolidate or differentiate our pages to address the issue?
If consolidation is the solution, combine the best content from both pages and redirect one URL to the other. Conversely, if differentiation is necessary, ensure that the pages serve distinct intents and don’t overlap in content or keywords.
As a preventative measure, before creating new content, conduct a site search to identify existing pieces targeting similar keywords. This allows you to avoid unintentional cannibalization by consolidating, redirecting, or updating old content as needed.
By addressing cannibalization effectively, SEOs can optimize their site’s performance and avoid diluting their ranking potential across competing URLs.