What is cannibalization? Troubleshooting training

In addition to the console search, the simple and practical technique of using the Site: operator also helps us diagnose cannibalism. To use this technique, it is enough to enter the desired keyword in the Google search bar as follows:

In the semi-dark and lesser known SEO, there are important concepts and topics that, if we do not pay attention to them, will have a negative impact on the site’s position. One of these lesser known cases is Keyword Cannibalization.

Is it a good idea if two or more pages of our site are displayed in Google results by searching for a keyword? Not always! In some cases, this is like a catastrophe; Because our pages are competing and swallowing each other!

Cannibalization can negatively affect the ranking and ranking of our site pages. That’s why we want to step into the dark side of SEO, find ways to find the problem of cannibalism between the pages of the site and how to solve this problem.


The concept of Cannibalization in the world of marketing and sales

Cannibalism is not just about SEO, it is also used in marketing and sales. If our brand produces a product that reduces the sales of another of our products, there is so-called cannibalism. Let’s take an example; Samsung launches new products every year. With the introduction of a flagship phone like the Galaxy Note 20, sales of previous products like the Note 10 will decrease. Simultaneous production and supply of these two products confuses the user when buying and increases production and marketing costs. As a result, with the introduction of a new product, similar samples will no longer be produced and offered.

Of course, not every new product is a competitor to previous products, for example, the launch of the A51 model targeting another segment of customers can not have a direct impact on sales of flagship models, but will help increase Samsung’s market share and make a wider range of customers responsive.


What is the meaning of Keyword Cannibalization? The concept of cannibalism in SEO

Cannibalization often occurs when two or more pages of our site are optimized for the same keyword (you read the keyword concept) or several very similar and closely related keywords. In this case, Google can not determine which of these pages provide a better response to the search term, and both of them are displayed in Google results for the user to decide.

The main problem is that; If both of our pages have the same theme and purpose, users will not notice the difference and will click on them randomly. This gives these pages a chance to get more click-through statistics and a better position. In this way, the pages of our site will be swallowing each other’s ranking opportunities.

The image below is a clear example on the Fidebo site, two pages that have exactly the same purpose and nature and both are displayed in search results, but not in high rankings!

Of course there are exceptions!

Just because two pages of our site have a target keyword does not necessarily mean that cannibalization has occurred.


Cannibalization depends on the purpose and meaning of the pages

Homophobia occurs when the purpose and concept of two pages are the same. If the purpose of our pages is different, but as a result of searching for a particular keyword both have a good position, homogeneity has not occurred.

For example, if we search for the phrase “SEO book forever” in Google, we will see the following image:

The website of seo teaching has two pages in search results. Does having 2 pages of a site in the search results of a keyword mean cannibalization? To answer this question, we must first examine the purpose of these pages.

First place; Is the introduction and download page of the book and the second place; Archive of all SEO books on the website. These two pages pursue different goals and were not designed for the same concept. In fact, here Google has offered pages to the user that have independent and different applications.

Google and users are well aware of the difference between these pages. In this way, having these two pages together in search results will not lead to Keyword Cannibalization on our site.


Why does Cannibalization damage SEO?

So far, the most important thing we have learned to understand the concept of cannibalism in SEO is that; Having two or more pages with the same keyword does not mean cannibalization unless the purpose of these pages is the same. In this section, we are going to examine the most common problems that cannibalism creates on our site.


1- Change the suggested page in search results

Sometimes we find that we have a keyword in the search results; But over time, different pages of our site will appear on the Google search page for that keyword. In these cases, we have the problem of changing the URLs in the search results. Seeing such events usually means that Google can not figure out which of our pages should rank for this keyword.

For example, one page of our site with a high click-through rate will be cannibalized by another page with a lower click-through rate. As a result, Google regularly displays these two pages instead of in search results. In this way, the page that is our main target for this phrase will lose the chance to attract more users.

2- Fluctuation of rank and position of pages in search results

Changing the target page is usually accompanied by changing the position. In such cases, when we examine the collected information, we will notice sudden changes in the site ranking in a phrase. For example, one of these pages is displayed in the 4th rank and the other in the 8th rank, and our position in the target phrase is constantly changing.

3- Targeting and planning becomes difficult

Two pages that are both good answers for the user and have a place in the search results, it is really difficult to choose between them. Even when internal and external linking we can not decide which one is better for the user and should have a higher position.

In these cases, the credibility of our pages is split between two or more pages instead of focusing on one page, and none of the pages are strong enough to rank higher.


4- Getting a wrong page

Another issue we may encounter is the problem of getting a wrong page instead of the page we are looking for.

This problem usually occurs when a product page appears in search results instead of a category page (or vice versa). For example, when a user searches for “Samsung Wireless Handsfree”, he or she expects to see a categorization page with different options displayed. If a page related to a particular product is displayed, the chances of turning the user into a buyer are reduced due to limited selection. (Picture below)


How to diagnose Cannibalization? In search of all kinds of eaters!

Finding competing pages, especially on sites that have a large number of pages or are managed by a large team, is not an easy task. Of course, it does not work, fortunately there are powerful tools and methods to check the homogeneity between the pages of the site. Here are some of them.


1- Detection of cannibalism using Google Search Console

Google Search Console is our main tool for SEO. This powerful tool helps us to easily identify cannibalism problems on our site.

By selecting PERFORMANCE from the menu on the left in the search console, we can see a list of key concepts through which our site receives impressions and clicks. Clicking on one of these QUERIYs and selecting the PAGES tab will display a list of pages that have been ranked for that keyword. Here we can see the click and impression statistics of these pages.

If, for a particular keyword, there are several different pages with close statistics, we should examine these pages in terms of cannibalization. Coincidence cannot be considered an example of cannibalism. For the example above, if we look at the search results page, we will see that displaying these pages with this phrase is not only a problem but also helps to improve the user experience.

In the Google Search Console workshop, we will talk about how to use this tool and how to analyze its reports.


2- Using Site technique: to detect cannibalization

In addition to the console search, the simple and practical technique of using the Site: operator also helps us diagnose cannibalism. To use this technique, it is enough to enter the desired keyword in the Google search bar as follows:

As you can see, three articles are displayed from the site that are similar in subject matter. But not all of them are in competition with each other, the first result targets the concept of “travel guide to Mashhad” and the third result of the concept of “day trip to Mashhad” as a result of the two are not in competition and are not an example of cannibalism.

The main problem with both methods is that the process is done manually for each keyword, this can take a lot of time and energy from you, so we suggest starting the evaluation process with important and search terms in your site. do.

Site:example.com keyword

It is not without merit to mention that;

Usually the problem with cannibalism is not the fault of the content production team!
This happens either during the design and development of SEO strategy or due to technical problems on the site. In the SEO strategy development workshop, we talk about the nature of the pages, researching keywords and understanding the user’s purpose of the search in an accurate and practical way, the result of which is that we never face a problem such as two pages competing with each other.

Of course, participating in this course is not suitable for starting SEO learning, if you are new to the concept of SEO and you are still at the beginning of the road, it is better to follow the learning path according to our suggestions on the SEO training page.


How to solve the cannibalization problem? No damage to rankings and hits

Once we find the homogenous pages that are consuming our important traffic and resources, it’s time to fight them.

First of all, we must pay attention to the important point that there is no single version to solve the cannibalization problem. In simpler language, not all problems can be solved in one way. Here we introduce common solutions that we have experienced using and cover a wide range of situations.


The first method; Delete and redirect pages using redirect 301

When we have several pages with the same and similar content on the site that are copying, one of the best ways is to select a page and remove the annoying pages.

The way it works is that we first select the strongest and best page. Checking incoming links, inbound traffic and page rank in Google results will help us find the best page. Now easily delete other pages and transfer their value and credibility to the target page using 301 redirect. By doing this, we will direct Google bots and visitors to the best surviving page. In the article What is a 301 redirect, we have fully talked about the 301 redirect and how to use it.

This is usually the easiest way to get rid of cannibalism. But do not forget to update the incoming links to the pages after deleting the pages so that your site does not face the problem of broken links or nested redirects. For more information, we suggest you read the article What is a Broken Link?


Merge and merge pages to create a powerful page

We suggest that you carefully review the content of the pages before deleting and redirecting them. If there is valuable text, image or video on these pages, it is better to move it to the target page and spend some time to rewrite and collect comprehensive and useful content. Provide the user.


The second method; Review of internal and external linking

If we use the same anchor text when linking internally to link to different pages of the site, we may face the problem of cannibalization. In many cases, rebuilding the internal link building structure of the site helps us to solve problems related to cannibalism between pages.

When creating internal links, we must make sure that the links are linked correctly to our pages by anchoring various texts. Linking to pages similar to anchor text is like a negative signal that will have a bad effect on the ranking.

Reviewing internal links alone will not solve all our problems. We usually use this method after deleting pages and redirecting them.


The third method; Solve the cannibalization problem using the canonical tag

In some cases we can not easily delete and redirect similar pages (with 301 redirects the page is no longer directly available to the user) and keep only one page; Because these pages are useful and valuable for users, but they have no place in the SEO strategy.

For example, in an online store, by selecting filters or using sorting options, new pages (with dynamic URLs) are generated that are not of a different nature or new purpose. If these URLs are indexed as separate pages by Google, in addition to competing with each other, they will also waste the site’s creep budget. In these cases we must use the canonical tag.

Sometimes ignoring the simple but important details in the pages of the site inadvertently causes cannibalism. For example, suppose we have a product with three different colors. If the page URL changes with the selection of the new color but the H1, title and other page information remain unchanged, we will see three pages with different URLs and the same content. If we do not use the canonical tag for these pages, we will have thousands of pages with different URLs and the same content that Google will have trouble recognizing.

Using this tag, we can introduce the best page to Google and ask Google to index and rank our page. This way there is no need to delete other pages. Canonical is one of the most complex and important SEO concepts. We suggest you read our complete guide to canonical tags.


The fourth method; Use the Noindex tag; Block page for Google bots

We also use the noindex tag when it is not possible to delete and redirect the pages with problems and the address of the created pages is predictable. To use the new tag, put the index in the page header so that Google does not index them.

<‌meta name="robots" content="noindex, follow" ‌/>

Using this method, all pages remain on our site. However, the only page that does not have a new index index will be indexed by Google and displayed in the results. This way we can solve the problem of displaying multiple pages with similar content in Google results.


Canonical tag or new index tag? Which is the best option to deal with cannibalism?

The new index tag and canonical tag seem to be very similar in terms of performance. But in fact, these two tags send very different signals and information to Google.

The canonical tag helps Google bots determine which content should be ranked. This will transfer the value of external and internal links that are referenced to side pages to the target page.
In contrast, the New Index tag only indicates to bots that the page should not be indexed, and makes no reference to the original content that Google bots are looking for.
Thus, using the canonical tag is a much better option than the new index. “We have a senior Google webmaster,” says John Mueller, Google’s chief webmaster.

“The new index index (alone) and disallow tag (in general) are not clear signals for cannibalization. Having noindex on the page does not give us much information.

It is also wrong to use the new index and canonical at the same time. This causes us to transmit conflicting information. “If there are both tags on the page, we select rel = canonical and prefer it to noindex.”


Cannibalization between advertising traffic and organic traffic

Cannibalization is usually a topic related to SEO and organic traffic, but can advertising strategies affect the organic traffic of the site and cause cannibalism?

Strange as it may seem, it can happen in certain cases.


Closing remarks; Troubleshooting cannibalism is not easy!

The problem of homogenization in keywords is one of the most common SEO problems that hits our site a lot. It is safe to say that identifying and solving the problem of cannibalism requires a lot of expertise and experience in the field of SEO because we must have sufficient knowledge in all four areas of strategy development, content production, linking and technical.

What we have learned in this article will help us to identify this problem on our site, but to solve it we may need to consult an expert and find a solution based on the structure and features of the site. If after reading the article, it is still difficult for you to make a decision, we suggest that you raise the problem in the comments section of this page so that the web experts can answer you.

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