SEO Cannibalization is when websites compete with their own keywords and content for traffic across search engines. This can be highly detrimental to them for two reasons:
- Search Engine crawlers will be confused on how to effectively index and rank websites in results
- Users themselves will be confused on which search result link to choose, or simply not find anything
Generally, SEO Cannibalization occurs within a single website containing duplicate keywords and content across the site’s internal pages. However, this applies across separate websites as well. For example, a company could have a franchise with two separate locations, Location1 and Location2. They want to have a strong brand, so naturally, they create a website for both locations; www.brandname-location1.com and www.brandname-location2.com. To add to this scenario, the company wants consistency within the franchises so all content across both websites are the same, the only differentiating factor consisting of their location-specific information.
Although these sites are optimized to perform well in search, the unfortunate mix of duplicate content, keywords, and URLs are causing the company to compete against itself across multiple facets. Considering search engines take the issue of Duplicate Content very seriously, it’s important to keep everything unique, even across separate websites. If one site is fully optimized, it seems intuitive to simply port all of this information over into Location2’s website to focus targeting efforts on geo-specific information. However, it’s important to fight this urge. Through simply porting all content over to a new website, it will inadvertently cause the company’s two websites to begin competing and “cannibalizing” each other in search, ultimately hurting both sites’ rankings.
How to fix it
The best approach to optimizing each location is to first decide on a single domain that will effectively and intuitively contain all content and locations. Ideally, this means having the url www.brandname.com, then creating a unique page for each individual location. In doing so, a company can promote the brand customers are familiar, while keeping their website fully optimized.
A great way to think about this is through looking at other big brands, such as Home Depot. They have locations all over, but they have a single, primary site under the domain url, www.homedepot.com. Meanwhile, each of their stores has its own location page, even stores within the same town. Take their South Beaverton location for example. They have created a unique page for this store, with location-specific information:
“The Home Depot S Beaverton – #4018 can help with all of your home improvement needs. Our address is 4401 Southwest 110th Ave, Beaverton, OR, 97005 and our phone number is (503)469-4242…”
This location-specific page allows search engines to index the page based on geographic location, centered on keywords specific to the local area without the unnecessary risk of pulling away ranking power from the primary branding domain. On top of this, it prevents them from getting penalized due to duplicate content issues. In other words, all keywords will remain intact on the main site, while separate locations will be ranked and found based on the main site’s primary keywords mixed with searchers’ location-specific keywords. Not only will this create a single powerful site for your business, but it will also mitigate any confusion for potential customers seeking the service.
Some approaches to correcting cannibalization issues include:
- Selecting the most powerful domain across all current company URLs, i.e., observe which domain ranks higher overall in search, as well as which has the highest quality clientele.
- Select a new domain that can effectively contain these two locations, while remaining intuitive to potential customers.
Once a primary domain has been selected, the next step will be to place 301 redirects on the secondary domains, redirecting them to the new primary domain. In doing so, all future SEO efforts will be focused to optimize the brand of one site using relevant keywords while creating and optimizing separate location pages using geo-specific keyword descriptors.