TLDR: Local SEO Guide CEO Andrew Shotland recently appeared on the Voices of Search podcast to talk about domain cannibalization. You can watch the full episode here and the recap below.
Having multiple domains can be tricky, and there are some pitfalls and questions you need to consider when managing them from an SEO perspective. Andrew Shotland explains: “As SEOs, most of our time is spent figuring out what the problem is and doing it creatively. When we work with corporate brands, we need to consider not only how our domains compete with each other, but also how search engines analyze them.” One such concern is multi-domain cannibalization which can impact organic traffic for both sites.
Some of the topics covered in the podcast included:
- What is multidomain cannibalization?
- Common mistakes associated with having multiple domains
- How to deal with multidomain cannibalization
- How you go from tanked to ranking and an SEO first aid kit
Multi-domain cannibalization defined
Multi-domain cannibalization occurs when brands set up different domains and try to target the same keyword or groups of keywords. A good example of this is Yellow Page companies that create business listings with categories like “restaurants in Houston.” They tend to reuse a lot of data, so they might have one domain that’s “coolyellowpages.com” and another that’s “coollocalbusiness.com,” but both of these sites are basically the same. When this happens, it can cause SEO issues as Google needs 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 have noticed is that many domains that repurpose their content and try to target the same terms tend to drop 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 it across a wide range of clients.
Many companies don’t consider this possibility when acquiring new sites, but Google is able to connect the dots. So, it’s worth considering how to put together a strategy to avoid cannibalization if you acquire new sites or own multiple domains.
Ideally, your sites would rank first and second for the terms you’re targeting, but if you see traffic starting to drop, then start thinking about ways to differentiate the two.
What we’ve seen is that websites, such as local business directories, with the same 1000 listings are often hosted from the same IP address with the same code base, so Google probably has a way to account for and downgrade them.
How to deal with multidomain cannibalization
To figure out what problems might be occurring, you’ll need to use Google Search Console to run an analysis of all your domains. Ideally, you should create a dashboard so that you can overlay them with Looker (formerly known as Google Data Studio) or a similar data visualization tool. Look for any patterns that indicate they are moving in sync or in opposite directions to diagnose the problem.
If you’re trying to find out if your brand is being punished by Google versus a downward trend in traffic in the industry, start by checking your estimated rankings in Semrush or ahrefs. If your competitor’s traffic goes in the opposite direction or is flat while your site is going down, then there is likely something going on with your site.
Sometimes you can’t help having the same lists or business pages in different places, so in this case you can solve the cannibalization problem by canonizing all the lists in the domain you want to boost. This could have a negative SEO impact on the other site, however you can stop the bleeding on the first domain and stop both of you from continuing to tank.
How you go from tanked to ranking and an SEO first aid kit
Sometimes, a big drop in a website’s SEO performance only needs a minute-long fix, while other cases will lead you down rabbit holes. Ultimately, understanding how to transform that performance starts with understanding how Google values your website and an obsessive curiosity to regularly diagnose and fix the unexpected.
We put together 7 of them ways to diagnose traffic drops which will help you with some of the most common reasons why your organic traffic is piling up and quick ways to fix them.