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In this Whiteboard Friday, Jon discusses how to identify, troubleshoot, and prevent cannibalization. He identifies three specific types of cannibalization: internal, international, and subdomain cannibalization.
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Hello Moz fans. How are you? My name is Jon Earnshaw. I’m the Chief Product Evangelist at Pi Datametrics and today I’m going to speak on a topic that’s close to my heart and has been for over 15 years. One day when I was analyzing the SERP and spotting this unusual flow, I saw content that was doing really well on page 1 and suddenly it was falling off.
Then, after a couple of weeks, we realized that the decline wasn’t without reason. This content was removed because other content was somehow inconsistent. Now we know that there is no penalty for duplicate content, and Google has always said that. However, what we’ve since come to understand is that Google and other search engines too are becoming increasingly sensitive to content of a similar nature, and that’s what cannibalization is all about.
So today we’re going to take a look at how you can quickly identify it, because it’s possible with tools. I’ll show you how to fix the problem and eventually prevent it from happening in the first place, and of course if you do it right, you won’t have to worry about a thing or two.
Step 1: Identify the type of cannibalization
So there are three types of cannibalization. Well, there’s more, but there are three types we need to be clear about.
The first reason is internal conflict or cannibalization. I will use these terms interchangeably. This is where your content conflicts with itself. Then we have international conflicts, and that’s a completely different issue, because that’s solved by hreflang, for example. So we keep that out of the mix.
Then we have a subdomain conflict, and a subdomain conflict will always happen. For example, if you have a help subdomain, help.mysite.com, and you have content there that is similar to the content on your main domain, there will always be conflicts. But we won’t talk about that today. Actually, first of all, we’re going to talk about internal conflicts and how you can fix them.
Step 2: Fix cannibalization issues
So let’s imagine you wake up one day and you’re on page 1 for “men’s blazers”. We all want to be on page 1 when selling men’s blazers. Then, all of a sudden, you notice your content plummeting. Then, if you take a closer look, you might notice that multiple URLs are being returned for the same keyword over time. The important thing to note about cannibalization is that it happens at the keyword level.
It’s not the content layer. It depends on the keyword. So it can’t be that a piece of content conflicts with another term, with a derived term, for example “men’s jackets” or “men’s summer jackets”, and this page can wonderfully be present on page 1. But let’s imagine you have one, two, three, four pages.
This can be, for example, men’s summer blazers, men’s winter blazers, men’s blazers 2023. If these pages are similar and the keyword you want to position yourself for e.g. B. “Men’s blazer” included in the title, there is a high probability of conflict because we know that the HTML title is one of the strongest indicators for Google from a thematic point of view.
URL, title, header 1, meta description, content, all that counts. However, making changes to the title can have a fairly immediate impact on viewability in less than 24 hours. So back to our situation of cannibalization. What do we want to do for URLs? Well, we have to make a decision.
Which should be the gateway to our ecosystem? Because if we don’t make a decision about which is the gateway to our ecosystem, Google will make that decision for us and we will end up in a situation of cannibalization. Cannibalization might be consistent. It could all play out at the bottom of page 1. Sometimes people say, “Well, I’m on page 1, but I don’t really care.”
But you should care, because imagine your audience searches for the men’s blazer, finds your content and loves it, comes back the next day, googles it again and finds it again: “Oh, that’s it.” other side. You enter the construction site in a different area. Suddenly I’m confused because we have incoherent, uncoordinated and random approaches to our world.
So we have to make the decision and not leave it to the search engines. There are a number of things we can do to actually fix the problem. But first we have to check the position of the URLs for other terms, derived terms. Is this content positioned independently?
Before we start manipulating, before we start playing with titles, before we start redirecting, before we do anything, are they positioning themselves for themselves? Then we have to make decisions. One possible option, and I’ve seen a lot of clients do this, is to actually merge one of the older pieces of content and put that in with the new content, and that works beautifully because we don’t lose anything.
So let’s merge that and then of course 301 the original article. So we get that injection of authority right away. Okay, demote the topic. How to downgrade the theme? Remember the title, the strongest element on the page? We can actually change the title so it’s not about men’s blazers. We can say “men’s summer outfits” when that’s appropriate.
Again, we shouldn’t do this if the page is being positioned on its own, as we don’t want to lose that traffic. We can also check traffic on the site. Internal link. For example, if we decide that A is the page that should be our entry point, we give it the authority it needs to position itself.
Let’s internally link from B, C, and D to A using the anchor text “men’s blazer”. What do we do? Well, we’re going to tell Google that this page is all about men’s blazers, and the anchor text and those links will give this page the authority it needs.
So we’re doing this in conjunction with some of these other options. We can also use “No Index” if necessary. So we have a number of tools in our arsenal. But imagine we all love these sides and don’t want to lose them because these are summer blazers, winter blazers, linen blazers and other blazers.
If your CMS allows it, you can actually create a hub page. Let’s call this hub page “Men’s Blazers” and link from the new page, let’s call this page X, “Men’s Blazers”, to this page with the anchor text “Summer Blazers”, to this one “Winter, Linen”, etc. We’ll adopt those here internal linking and linking from all of these back to the hub page.
What have we created there? This wonderful hub and spoke structure on our website will make your audience understand and Google will understand it too. So it’s actually about sending signals to Google so Google doesn’t get confused.
So that’s on us, because the search engine is incredibly sensitive. This is how you can fix the problem and have a number of options.
Step 3: Prevent cannibalization
Finally, my favorite part: How do you prevent this? How can we not go through this and that? Well, the key to prevention actually lies in employing one of the four pillars of contextual optimization.
Contextual optimization is about optimizing in the context of the SERP, optimizing in the context of your competitors, optimizing in the context of Google’s algorithms, and optimizing in the context of your ecosystem. What we mean here is that before I bring any new men’s blazer-related content into my ecosystem, I need to stop and think and ask the question, “Is there anything in my ecosystem that’s potentially contradictory?”
That’s the first question you ask, because if there’s other content in the ecosystem with “men’s blazers” in the title, there’s a good chance they’ll conflict and you might end up taking a page from page 1 of Google and yours Page never reaches page 1. So you may lose outright. A really easy way to analyze your ecosystem is to work with a website operator.
So site:www.mysite.com intitle and you type intitle and we search for “men’s blazers” in quotes because that will return all the pages on your site that Google has indexed that have “men’s blazers” in the title.
Remember the strongest subject. So before we insert the new content, we might realize: Hey, I have A, B, C, and D in my ecosystem. Then we come back here and make the decision. If it’s new content, I can start adopting and using one or more of these techniques to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Honestly, cannibalizing content leads to a huge loss of visibility. I estimate about 40% of the content on pages 2 and 3 is due to it. Identify the conflicts. Once we’ve done that, we identify the complements. How do you recognize the complements and why?
Well I’ll tell you why. Because when you add new content to your ecosystem to place it alongside this one, it needs authority if it is to work well, and the best and quickest way to gain authority is to borrow it from other sites to a related one Topic to talk about blazers or men’s style or men’s fashion. We make another site operator here, site:www.mysite.com.
Forget the title. Let’s look for “men’s blazers” in the body of the text. We can do that and we can find complements. Once you’ve found the additions, you’ll want to create links with “men’s blazers” as the anchor text to your new content. How do you find older content?
Quotation marks, “2019” or “2018”. Add to that the fact that you suddenly come across older content that you completely forgot about, which gives you authority in addition to the links. You can then add some redirects. In short, that’s all there is to it: Detect, Fix, and Prevent, and I guarantee it will all work for you.
Thank you for watching.
Video transcription from Speechpad.com