What is Content Cannibalism and How to Prevent It – A Webinar from Jon Earnshaw

We recently had the pleasure of hosting a live webinar with Jonathan Earnshaw, CTO at Pi Datametrics.com about content cannibalisation and how it’s a threat to your search visibility.

Here is a short recap of the key points that Jon made during his presentation: 

Jon highlighted that today cannibalisation in all its forms is on the increase because Google has become intolerant to pages that are similarly themed. This is damaging to the performance of the content we’re creating and we are entering a vicious cycle of challenging questions:

  • Why does my visibility drop?
  • Why are my organic views so volatile?
  • Why can’t I get onto the first page, despite everything I am doing?

Jon’s answer was that cannibalisation is the reason for all these troubles. He explained that there are 4 types of cannibalisation that affects the visibility of our content:

  • Internal cannibalisation/ internal conflict
  • Subdomain conflict
  • International conflict
  • Semantic flux

In addition, Jon kindly shared with us this flowchart on how to prevent internal conflict:
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Internal cannibalisation may be to blame when your website all of a sudden starts losing its ranking positions or faces “glass ceiling” in the SERPs. As Jon explained, it happens when there is a conflict between two or more of your site’s pages that compete for the same search term. Google cannot determine which of the pages should appear for the given search term, and as a result none of the pages get the deserved ranking. To fix this type of cannibalisation, Jon recommended making clear statements to Google as to which page to return for the keyword by theming pages uniquely and getting the structure of the pages and your website right.

When the different departments involved duplicate content or theming, or a search term that is used is very general, subdomain conflict can occur. This means that the main domain and subdomains compete against each other for search rankings. This cannibalisation will hamper the site and sabotage search rankings for some very valuable keywords. To fix such conflict, one needs to decide which landing page is of the most interest to them, and provide clear indications to Google in terms of proper website structure.

International conflict is very similar to subdomain conflict, as it takes place when international versions of websites interfere with local ones. If you are not geo-targeting your websites or do not use rel=alternate tagging, your .com domain will interfere with local websites’ rankings. To fix this, you need to make sure that search engines treat each of your websites as individual entities with unique content, despite featuring the same products/services. With subdomain conflicts Jon’s advice is to re-architect or agree ownership.

Jon brought to our attention that semantic flux (i.e. conflict between your family of sites) has proliferated after Google introduced the ‘Hummingbird’ algorithm. Semantic flux happens when interrelated websites (e.g. sites related via brand) offer similarly themed content. Since search engines are able to identify the relationship between brands, they will confuse the results, flipping the positions of family sites in the SERPs. This will again mean that your family of domains will be fluctuating and underperforming in rankings. To avoid this type of cannibalisation, look out for flux not only between your family brands, but between yourself and competitors.

Should you want to get all the juicy details from Jon and hear all the concrete and clear examples he provided us with for yourself, check out the recording. In essence, Jon’s message is that if you see a suspicious flux or volatility in your online visibility, you need to investigate what exactly caused those changes.

We are grateful to Jon for this insightful session and we hope you enjoyed this webinar as much as we did! Feel free to share your comments and feedback down below.