Cannibalisation is a form of SEO conflict when multiple pages within your site, or across domains, are competing for the same search term. It’s an issue which can affect search rankings, but one that we can identify and fix.
It can affect ecommerce sites selling thousands of products, many of which are similar, or for publishers covering topics over many different articles and pages.
These sites tend to have product pages, new articles and site sections which use the same keywords multiple times. For example, a fashion ecommerce site will have multiple pages containing coats, or a news site will have lots of articles about a topic like Brexit.
There are three main types of cannibalisation which can affect businesses:
Internal keyword cannibalisation: This is when multiple pages on the same website are competing for the same term.
Subdomain conflict: You might have a sub-domain for a blog, or perhaps a version of your site targeting another country. These sites can cannibalise each other’s search rankings.
Semantic flux between family site: Some brands have a family of sites with similar content. For example, some fashion retailers operate multiple sites appealing to different parts of the market.
Without organisation and planning, this conflicting content means that Google and other search engines aren’t able to determine which page should rank from your site for a term, so it chooses the one it thinks most relevant at the time.
The result is often that the page doesn’t appear on Google at all, or at least not consistently, and that your overall rankings for the term drop.
The good news is that cannibalisation problems can be addressed. The first step is to identify any cannibalisation issues, using SEO tracking software like PI to identify content conflict.
Once you have done this, it’s about deciding which pages you want to rank for each term. In some cases this may be the most profitable producing landing page, the most relevant category page for users, or a hub page for content sites which holds like to all of the relevant content for each search term.
A well-planned internal linking strategy is most often the solution. Directing links to the target pages sends clear signals to Google about the page you want to rank for the target term, and helps users to find the most relevant content.