TLDR: Andrew Shotland, CEO of Local SEO Guide, recently appeared on the podcast Voices of Search to talk about domain cannibalization. You can catch the full episode here as well as the recap below.
Having multiple domains can be tricky, and there are some pitfalls and questions you have to consider when managing them from an SEO perspective. Andrew Shotland explains, “As SEOs, the majority of our time is spent figuring out what the problem is, and doing so creatively. When we are working with enterprise brands, we must consider not only how our own domains compete with each other, we must consider how search engines analyze them as well.” One of those concerns is dealing with multi-domain cannibalization which can impact organic traffic for both sites.
Some of the topics covered in the podcast included:
- What is Multi-domain cannibalization?
- Common mistakes associated with having multiple domains
- How to tackle multi-domain cannibalization
- How you go from tanked to ranked
Multi-domain Cannibalization Defined
Multi-domain cannibalization happens when brands set up several domains and attempt to target the same keyword or groups of keywords. A good example of this, are Yellow Pages companies that create lists of businesses with categories such as “restaurants in Houston.” They tend to repurpose data a ton, so they might have one domain that’s “coolyellowpages.com” and another that’s “coollocalbusiness.com” but both these sites are basically the same. When this happens, it can cause SEO problems as Google has to figure out how to deal with these sites that have similar or the same content.
Common Mistakes Associated With Having Multiple Domains
What we’ve noticed is that many domains that repurpose their content and try to target the same terms tend to decline in Google traffic. Not just one of the sites but all domains tend to get less organic traffic when Multi-Domain cannibalization occurs. And, we’ve seen this over a wide range of clients.
Many businesses don’t consider this possibility when they acquire new sites, but Google is able to connect the dots. So, it’s worth considering how you can put together a strategy to avoid cannibalization if you acquire new sites or have multiple domains.
Ideally, your sites would rank #1 and #2 for the terms you are targeting, but if you see traffic start to dip, then start thinking about how you can differentiate the two.
What we’ve seen is that websites, like local business directories, with the same 1000 listings are often hosted from the same IP address with the same code base, so Google likely has a way of taking this into account and demoting them.
How to Tackle Multi-domain Cannibalization
To figure out what issues might be occurring, you’ll need to use Google Search Console to do an analysis of all of your domains. Ideally, you’d build a dashboard so you can overlay them with looker (formerly known as Google Data Studio) or a similar data visualization tool. Look out for any patterns that indicate they’re moving in sync or in opposite directions to diagnose the issue.
If you are trying to find out if your brand is being punished by Google vs. a downward industry trend in traffic, then start by checking the estimated rankings in Semrush or ahrefs. If the competitor traffic is going in the opposite direction or is flat while your site is going down, then it’s likely something going on with your site.
Sometimes you can’t avoid having the same business listings or pages in different places, so in this case, you can solve the cannibalization problem by canonicalizing all the listings to the domain you want to boost. This may have a negative SEO impact on the other site however you can arrest the bleeding on the first domain and stop both from continuing to tank.
How You Go from Tanked to Ranked
Sometimes, a big dip in SEO performance of a website just requires a one-minute fix, while other instances will take you down rabbit holes. Ultimately, figuring out how to turn that performance around begins with understanding how Google values your website and obsessive curiosity to diagnose and solve the unexpected regularly.
We’ve put together 7 ways to diagnose traffic drops that will help you with some of the most common reasons your organic traffic is tanking and quick methods for fixing them. If you are experiencing multi-domain cannibalization or want a free consult to ensure you don’t, feel free to contact us.