Content gets cannibalized when individual URLs within a given website are visible on Google for the same keywords.
For instance, X.pl is visible for the keyword "rower" in search results. Its positions over individual days are as follows:
January 1, 2019: 10
January 2, 2019: 22
January 3, 2019: 23
January 4, 2019: 10
As you can see, the positions vary significantly over those four days. There’s a frequent problem in such situations and it’s exactly cannibalization. Here, the search engine often increases or decreases the rank of the website, simultaneously changing the URL displayed. Therefore, the URLs displayed in search results on individual days could look as follows:
January 1, 2019: X.pl/1.html
January 2, 2019: X.pl/2.html
January 3, 2019: X.pl/2.html
January 4, 2019: X.pl/1.html
In terms of optimization for the keyword “rower”, X.pl/2.htmlis optimized worse than URL X.pl/1.html; that’s why its rank is lower.
Reasons behind keyword cannibalization:
● Similar pages within a single website – e.g. there’re two very similar articles on the same website
● Errors in the information architecture – e.g. the same URL is provided with a different number of external links every day
● Using the same anchor text to source links for two different URLs
● Repetitions in the information architecture – e.g. a store category and an article posted on the store’s blog referring to the same keyword
● Other errors in the information architecture (similar products in the online store, misuse of categories and other taxonomies like tags)
Consequences of keyword cannibalization:
● Decreased traffic from the search engine
● Volatile positions in search results
How to cope with cannibalization?
The problem of cannibalization can be solved after identifying the reason behind it. The most typical steps you’ll need to take include:
● Introducing changes in the metadata of pages that get cannibalized – this process involves optimizing, for a given keyword, a URL which is ranked higher for that particular keyword or which is believed to be more important
● Setting redirect 301 to the right page – if cannibalization is a result of page duplicates (e.g. when various colors of a single products are indexed), it might be useful to set Redirect 301 to the right page (meaning the one which is ranked higher or more important)
● Establishing a canonical tag to the right page – an alternative to Redirect 301 can be a canonical tag, that is providing the search engine with the original source of content (here, for different colors of a product, this may be a page without the product colors)
● Other optimization efforts for a given URL – from time to time, there can be other optimization work to be done, for example adding new content for a selected keyword on a given page or providing additional elements
● Improving the external linking profile – when cannibalization is an effect of external linking, one has to check whether or not the links for the cannibalized keyword lead to the wrong URL within the website’s internal structure. If they do, they have to be redirected to the right URL
● Modifying the external linking strategy – when links to a website are acquired from external sources and anchor text including a particular keyword directs to more than one URL, the links should also be directed to one true URL.
Be aware that once you fix an error, the search engine will need a few or a dozen or so days to implement positive changes.
Where can I find it?
A Keyword Cannibalization report available on Senuto Platform can be found in Visibility Analysis which uses a database of 19 million keywords. Generate a report by entering a website into this module and go to Keyword Cannibalization available on the nav bar to the left.
The summary helps identify keywords problematic in terms of website visibility.
The first view displayed after opening this report shows the following:
1) (1 on the screenshot) – website matching – visibility analysis is sensitive to which matching type you select. If you choose *.domena.pl/*, then the system will analyze, for instance, polki.pl together with all of its subdomains like lekarze.polki.pl.
2) (2 on the screenshot) – cannibalization can be analyzed over individual points in time:
a) Yesterday – there’re displayed keywords for which the URL changed when compared to yesterday (2.5 million keywords monitored on a daily basis)
b) Last Monday – there’re displayed keywords for which the URL changed when compared to last Monday (19 million keywords monitored on a weekly basis)
c) Monday a week ago – there’re displayed keywords for which the URL changed when compared to Monday two weeks ago (19 million keywords monitored on a weekly basis)
This allows to identify cannibalization over a short and long period of time. The short-term perspective is good to check whether the problem has been solved, and the long-term perspective is good to determine a wider range of keywords subject to cannibalization (thanks to a larger database)
3. (3 on the screenshot) – cannibalization can be analyzed in two ways:
a) Keywords – there’re identified all keywords subject to cannibalization
b) Sections – keywords cannibalized are divided by website sections. This allows to determine if the issue pertains to individual sections or to the entire site.
Keywords table – description of the metrics
A report for keywords can display multiple columns. You probably know some of the metrics from other reports available in Senuto (all of them are explained here). Remember that results presented in the table depend on a time period selected. In this case, data have been generated for a comparison between today and yesterday (we chose yesterday).
1. Keyword – a keyword subject to cannibalization
2. URL – a URL which gets displayed now (today) in search results after typing in the keyword from column 1 for the website under analysis
3. Previous URL (yesterday) – a URL which got displayed yesterday in search results. It’s the URL that was replaced by the new one (from column 2)
4. Monthly history – monthly history of positions of the website under analysis for a given keyword (since 2015)
5. Daily history – daily history of positions of the website under analysis for a given keyword (last 14 days)
6. Current position – the current rank of the website (with the URL from column 2) in search results
7. Position change (yesterday) – it tells how much the position of the website has changed when compared to yesterday
8. Position (yesterday) – the rank of the website for a given keyword yesterday
9. Current visibility – estimated monthly traffic to the website for a given keyword if its current position remains unchanged
10. Visibility change (yesterday) – it informs how much the estimated traffic to the website for a given keyword has changed when compared to yesterday
11. Visibility (yesterday) – estimated monthly traffic to the website for a given keyword yesterday
12. Average search number – it tells how many times a given keyword is typed in the search engine over a month
13. CPC – it shows how much a click on a Google ad for a given keyword would cost.
When you open the Sections tab, you can analyze cannibalization across the website sections and determine whether it affects the entire site or individual pieces of content.
Sections table – description of the metrics
1. Paths – a path subject to cannibalization. Usually, it’s a directory within the website
2. Number of keywords – a number of keywords affected by the problem of cannibalization within a given directory
3. Average position change (last Monday) – it tells how much the average position for keywords subject to cannibalization has changed when compared to last Monday
4. Average position (last Monday) – the average position for keywords subject to cannibalization this Monday (from a range between 1 and 50)
5. Visibility change (last Monday) – it tells how much the visibility (estimated traffic) within a given directory has changed due to cannibalization. As you can see, cannibalization can also prove beneficial (positive values in the table, which mean a visibility increase)
6. Each section can also be expanded in order to reveal keywords cannibalized within the directory.
When analyzing the report, make use of filters. A detailed description of how to use filters on Senuto Platform is available here.
You can also export data shown in the report:
Now you know how to identify possible cannibalization issues across your website. Go to the system and check out this report.