You may or may not have heard the term ‘Cannibal Content’ or ‘Cannibalisation’ before. ‘Cannibal Content’ refers to when your website is essentially fighting itself with pages optimising for the same phrases, whether deliberately or by accident. This confuses Google and may be the reason for your poor rankings. We’ve outlined a brief guide on how to detect and fix this issue.
Cannibalisation in E-Commerce
A good example of Cannibalised content would be an E-Commerce store which sells clothes. They may have a crop top for sale on their store which is available in White, Black and Navy. Depending on the colour you choose you could be taken to one of 3 URLs. They are the same product but different colours. An example of the URLs would be:
Now with this you face a number of decisions. The first is which page you want to show up in the search results? The second is how do you tell Google which page should be showing up in the search results?
How Do I Determine If My Site Has Cannibalisation Issues?
There are a range of tools that you can use to track issues like Cannibalisation. Here at Anicca we use a tool called SEO Monitor. SEO Monitor is a great tool which not only can show up errors like Cannibalisation but also show the (not provided) part of your organic SEO data as well as show up potential ranking opportunities.
The screenshot above is from SEO Monitor. It shows a single keyphrase ranking from Jan 1 2015 to today. Each time a  is displayed means the page that is ranking in Google for the phrase changes. As you can see the ranking page changes almost every other day from July onwards. This is a clear case of Cannibalisation and shows that there are many similar pages on the website that Google believes are about the same product.
So, how can we fix this?
Canonical Tags are the most effective way to fix this issue. A Canonical Tag will tell Google to rank one page rather than another. So for example if you wanted the black crop top to be the page which is optimised and displays in search results you would put a Canonical Tag on the White & Navy top pages. This confirms to Google that the original page which you want to carry the authority is the Black crop top page. An example of this in the source code would look like this:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”www.xyzclothingshop.co.uk/ladies-crop-top-black”>
This tells Google that the black crop top page is the page you wish to have displayed and the pages will no longer be fighting each other to rank for the crop top keyphrase.
There are other ways to fix Cannibalisation issues including re-writing website content and redirecting pages, but Canonical tags is the most effective way and is much less time consuming than creating pages of new content. If you’ve got any great fixes we’d love to hear them!
If you have a site struggling with Cannibalised content or any other technical issues then do not hesitate to get in touch with us at Anicca, our technical SEO team would love to help out!