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February 21, 2019

Avoiding Content Cannibalisation

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I began my journey in SEO as a strong proponent of content and thankfully I still am. But there can be such a thing as having too much content or, to be more exact, too much similar content.

We are all guilty of writing overlapping content whether it be in blogs, service pages or most notoriously across suburb pages but making sure it does not affect our traffic and rankings is super important.

Severe overlapping content can create content cannibalisation which is basically two pages engaging in a vigorous arm-wrestle both with similar or close to identical content. This is different to duplication as duplicate content could be caused by canonical or pagination issues.

Content cannibalisation, on the other hand, is less of a technical problem and more of a creative one where a little writer’s block or poor content strategy could twist you into knots.

If a site is suffering from a little content cannibalisation, Google could get confused and downgrade guilty pages which in turn could take a big bite out of your incoming traffic. So not only could you lose traction on one page, but you could potentially lose it on several others.

There are a few tell-tale signs that this could be happening:

  • Keywords are ranking on non-target pages
  • Pages have similar topics, word clouds or content arcs
  • You have several blog posts which lift content off previous posts
  • You have a large site with a lot of spammy suburb pages

So, now the question is what do we do about it?

  1. We differentiate the copy on conflicting pages

    Make sure each page has a very specific direction and does not repeat concepts covered by previous posts. Refine the structure of each post in order to create more contrast between the offending pages so Google knows that one page is about X and another is about Y.

  2. We change similar terms to more relevant phrases

    Use word clouds (try webconfs.com) to compare keyword densities on each page and change phrases that are of equal value between them to phrases more indicative of the subject matter.

  3. Redirect, re-write or no index spammy pages

    If a few tweaks won’t cut it then you can rescue the page with a more comprehensive re-write. Perhaps update it with fresh information or more comprehensive data to give it new life while differentiating it from conflicting pages. If a page is not worth rescuing, the quickest solution may just be to no-index it or redirect it to another page which has a little more authority.

  4. Thread more detail into your preferred page

    A good way to create further contrast between articles is to add data, quotes or more in-depth analysis.  By drilling down into specific data points, you can separate conclusions and crucial post-discussion points.

You can also separate pages by sending well-crafted anchors to competing pages. For example, if one page is about residential gardening and another is about commercial gardening, locate powerful pages and send related anchors to those pages so Google knows more about what those pages are about. 

A site’s anchor text portfolio gives Google a good indication of what pages are about so by pointing targeted anchors to conflicting pages, you are providing signals to Google that each page differs in content.

Adding rich media to add more colour

Images can also be leveraged by inserting different alt texts and file specifications. By painting a slightly different picture on each page you can again create good contrast between pages and ensure you have unique content across your site.

Use a variety of graphics from infographics to gifs to add even more interest. Rich media can also come in the form of video and audio content so try to weave in a portion of this too.

In conclusion

When it comes to arm-wrestling, you don’t want it to be between your own pages. If anything, you want it to be with your competitors so don’t waste your strength fighting internally, get yourself into a habit of creating posts which are unique, and each tell a different story.

Long but concise and outcome driven content should always be your goal. At Impressive Digital we have always focussed on making sure we produce great content to drive traffic and keep people on the page.

This way it will be your competition with the aching muscles.


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Christopher Zerafa is SEO Manager at Impressive Digital Agency. We’re a team of creatives, techies and logistically-minded individuals that assemble each day in our Melbourne office with a couple of common goals. To provide each of our clients with ridiculously good customer service and a transformative digital marketing strategy via cutting-edge SEO, social media and SEM strategies.

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