Identifying cannibalisation with Jon Earnshaw and the ‘Conflict detector’

15 Dec 2017

With the release of our new ‘Conflict detector’ feature, Pi’s renowned CTO Jon Earnshaw takes us through the steps for identifying, fixing and preventing cannibalization.

Watch the webinar here:

How does the ‘Conflict detector’ reveal cannibalization?

Conflict detector example - anonymous site - Pi Datametrics

The ‘Conflict detector’ features as part of Pi’s in-app reporting, and has been developed to optimize speed to insight, enabling users to pull comprehensive reports on all instances of keyword cannibalisation across any site, ranked by severity of conflict.

With ‘Start’, ‘End’ positions and ‘Top URL changes’, as well as an exploration feature which enables users to dive back into the platform, 'Conflict detector' reports are an ideal starting point for identifying SEO cannibalisation.

What is cannibalisation?

Cannibalisation occurs when two or more pages within a site compete to return for the same search.

The conflict occurs when there is duplicate theming and Google cannot determine which page should appear for the given term.

This often occurs for quite general terms that don’t lead to a well-themed landing page, but can also transpire when link architecture is suboptimal, and a lower authority page becomes more prominent than the primary landing page.

The four types of cannibalisation

At Pi, we’ve identified four main types of keyword cannibalisation:

Internal cannibalisation: Internal conflict occurs when search engines aren’t able to decipher which page to offer in the SERPs, if multiple pages are equal in strength and theming.

International cannibalisation: International conflict is most likely to occur between same language sites such as US and UK, Australia and Canada. This is usually due to duplicate theming or duplicate content. Search engines spot a semantic relationship between the two sites - even if they are on different TLDs or CMSs - and pit them against each other if they share similar content.

Subdomain cannibalisation: Many brands use subdomains, whether it's to separate content based on audience, to break up different budgets by department, or to gain more positions in the SERPs. Subdomain SEO cannibalisation can occur when different departments are focusing on the same content, especially if their focus search term is very general.

Semantic flux: Family owned brands that share duplicate content, or brands that have their content repurposed externally, are typically those who fall victim to semantic flux. We have seen semantic flux between many big-name family brands. Search engines register similar content shared between these family brands and treats them, ostensibly, as the same domain; giving positions to just one at a time. We’ve even seen unrelated brands suffer from semantic flux.

Google is increasingly sensitive to content of a similar nature. Its primary initiative is to serve the content that delivers the best user experience, and duplicate content does not a good user experience make!

How to spot cannibalisation...

Daily tracking is crucial to identifying cannibalisation

Conflict detector - cannibalization chart - Pi Datametrics

The y axis on this chart shows positions 1 to 100 in google UK mobile - so page 1 to 10.

The x axis displays daily performance - and that is a crucial factor in identifying SEO cannibalisation.

Without daily tracking, this chart would appear as a straight line. Weekly and monthly tracking just can’t reveal the flux, because data is only collected on 1 out of the 7 or 30 days.

There you are, content in the knowledge that you're doing well in position 2, when in reality, your landing page is only present for half the time and is being superseded by another, perhaps, less relevant piece of content or - heaven forbid - your competitor's site!

The bottom line: Cannibalisation isn’t just losing eyeballs, it’s losing revenue!

Conflict detector - protecting revenue - Pi Datametrics

Cannibalisation isn’t just a vanity fear. It can translate as thousands of pounds in revenue loss.

Imagine if this one search term was hugely valuable to your business, generating - on average - £600 a week in conversions from an organic position of 2.

Now, imagine your loss in revenue when that same term isn't visible for a week. That's £4,200 down the drain!

And that's just for one search term. What if this stretched across an entire category of content? It doesn't bear thinking about.

That's why identifying cannibalisation is crucial, not just for making the SEO team look good, but for protecting the revenue of the entire business.

And that's why being able to make the right people realise the risk that keyword cannibalisation poses to wider commercial performance is the perhaps the most crucial step in then being able to fix it.


If you suspect your site may be affected by cannibalisation, we’ve got the toolset to help you identify it.

Get in touch, and we’ll arrange your demo.

Louise Linehan

Louise Linehan

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