The cannibalization of in-store sites is a problem that many SEO experts struggle with. Is it possible to prevent cannibalization in a store site? Does cannibalization on the site mean that the SEO expert didn’t do it right? What should be done to fix cannibalization on in-store sites?
All these questions are discussed in this article. Although cannibalization is not unique to store sites, it is more common in online stores. If you understand the problem of cannibalization and the ways to fix it in-store sites, you will not have problems anymore and you can easily solve it.
Table of Contents
What is store site cannibalization?
Cannibalization means cannibalism, a word that sounds scary. Now imagine this scary term happening to your business.
The purpose of SEO is to rank in the specific keywords of that business. For example, consider an online mobile shopping store. The website of this store has pages such as the main page, the product category page, and the product page. Suppose we have a category page under the title “Samsung phone”. As a result, all Samsung phone models are included in this category. So far everything is clear. The difficulty begins when a user searches for the phrase “buy Samsung S22 Ultra” Several pages with the keyword “buy Samsung” are displayed. This problem is called cannibalization. In other words:
Cannibalization of keywords on the site means that several pages of the site compete with each other for a specific (or similar) keyword.
This is not an interesting event for an SEO site. Because it confuses search engine bots. In other words, search engines do not know which of these pages to rank. As a result, the rank and credit that might have been given to only one page for a particular keyword are now divided among several pages, and as a result, all those pages get a poorer ranking on the Google results page. A poorer ranking in Google’s SERP means fewer clicks, less inbound traffic, and thus lower conversion rates.
Additionally, cannibalization increases bounce rates and negatively impacts user experience. Because the user clicks on one of the results and may not find what they are looking for on that page and leave the site.
Methods of preventing and fixing cannibalization in the store site
Prevention is always better than cure. The SEO expert should prevent cannibalization as much as possible and try to prevent this from happening on the site. Because in some cases, fixing cannibalization may be very complicated and expensive. On the other hand, the occurrence of cannibalization on a website, especially a store website, is inevitable. But there are simple methods that we can use to fix it.
Don’t underestimate keyword research
Fundamentally, keyword research is the first and most important step for an SEO specialist to prevent cannibalization on the site.
Keyword research is a very detailed discussion of SEO that is not included in this article. But if I want to address it briefly, in keyword research, with the help of various tools that exist for this purpose, different keywords are extracted along with the amount of search and their degree of difficulty and competition. Then they filter and sort these words based on business needs. Finally, they arrive at a list of keywords. Now it must be determined which word or group of words should be optimized for each page of the site. Also, in the keyword research phase, it should be ensured that there is no overlap of keywords on different pages. With keyword research, you can reach a prioritized list of important site keywords that are very important for a store website.
Creating exclusive content for each product page
One of the most useful and effective ways to prevent cannibalization on store websites is to create detailed and unique content for each specific product on the site. Certainly, users and also search engines do not like to see the same text and duplicate content on the page of different products. Of course, producing accurate and unique content for each product goes back to the previous step, which is keyword research.
The more unique the content, the less likely it is to fall into the trap of cannibalization.
Redirect 301 dead and worthless pages
If there is a page on your site that doesn’t matter to you, doesn’t deliver value to the user, doesn’t drive sales for any reason, and is causing cannibalization on the site, use a 301 redirect to redirect it to the relevant page. To drive its traffic and credibility to the relevant and original page.
This is especially common on in-store websites. Because many products may no longer be available on the site and may not be produced. In this case, the page of that product is practically a dead page and will no longer have value for the business. In this case, we can increase the conversion rate of users to customers by redirecting this page to a similar or newer product or product category page.
Using the canonical tag
Using the Canonical tag is another way to fix cannibalization on a website, including a store website. The canonical tag gives the message to the search engines that although the website displays several pages for a keyword, one of these pages is presented as the main page.
We usually use the canonical tag when we have several pages for a keyword and we don’t want to delete or redirect any of them. In this case, using the canonical tag, we introduce the main and more important page to Google to show it to the user on the results page.
3 different scenarios of cannibalization on the store site
Suppose two pages on the site are ranked by Google for a keyword. What should we do? In this section, we examine the three main scenarios that may have happened.
Both pages, on the first page of Google results
If both pages of your site are on the first page of Google results, one solution is to do nothing. In other words, it is better to have two positions on the first page of Google than one. Having two positions on the Google results page will increase the visibility of your site and gain user trust.
If you’re not #1, another strategy is to try to put all your eggs in one basket to get #1. That is, cannibalize the page that is most important to you so that it is displayed on the results page.
Do not forget to choose the best solution for your website, and be sure to use important information such as the amount of traffic, clicks, and impressions in Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and back-end data related to the number of sales of products on the site.
One thing to keep in mind is that you should not remove a page that is naturally attracting traffic to the site.
One position in Google’s top results and another in a weaker rank
The second scenario is when one of your pages is on the first page of Google results, and the other page is in a weaker position, i.e. on the second page of the results. In this case, you should think about a weaker page. The decision to redirect it or use the canonical tag or change the entire structure of the content in it depends on the data related to these pages, as before.
In general, in this case, the weaker page is hurting your stronger pages, and you need to fix this problem as soon as possible.
Both pages are in a poor position
If both pages have poor rankings, you should re-evaluate them. That means you have to check all the details of those pages from the beginning to find the problem. Updating content, Meta description, images, etc. can help the page grow.