Suspicious flux – The canonical tag

26 Apr 2016

Our CTO Jon Earnshaw took to the stage once more to present Pi Datametrics unique research and comprehensive findings on suspicious SERP flux, in the context of Ecommerce.

Focussing on Pi Datametrics' client Waterstones, Jon identified two forms of cannibalisation and worked through these issues with Waterstones to stabilise rankings.

View Jon's slides here:

Watch Jon's talk here:

Suspicious flux: Internal cannibalisation

Using data from our enterprise SEO platform, Jon showcased the effects of duplicate content across Waterstones' book portfolio and stated that, while Waterstones books came in many forms and varieties (paperback, hardback, audio books, ebooks etc.), their synopses and descriptions were the same, which caused a lot of confusion in the SERPs.

Pi Datametrics Position Explorer Chart: Waterstones hardback and paperback books conflict in Google

Suspicious flux - The canonical tag - Waterstones Internal Cannibalisation

He explained that this is fast becoming a major issue in Ecommerce for any company with multiple products that exist in multiple varieties.

Suspicious flux: Introducing the canonical tag to regain positions

 Suspicious flux - The canonical tag - Waterstones introduces the canonical book

With the "Canonical Book Formula", Jon showed how Waterstones managed to work through their internal cannibalisation issues. At each stage of the book lifecycle, Waterstones needed to choose a "Canonical Book" to direct authority to in the SERPs.

Hardbacks and paperbacks, as non-differentiated objects, would return for the same search query, so it was important that Waterstones communicated to Google which one they needed to rank at a given time, as well as which one needed to be taken out of the crawl space.

Suspicious flux: External cannibalisation

Jon Earnshaw then moved on to the issue of external conflict, as Waterstones book reviews and content was stolen or partially duped by similar sites like Harper Collins; causing their rankings to nose-dive and losing them vital presence in the Google Knowledge Graph.

Pi Datametrics Position Explorer Chart: Waterstones are usurped in Google by a content thief

Suspicious flux - The canonical tag - Waterstones loses positions due to external duplicate content

By appropriating Waterstones' content, Harper Collins had jumped up 99 places into their exact former position.

Suspicious flux - The canonical tag - Waterstones drops 99 places out of Google due to stolen content

With the advice of Pi, Waterstones re-wrote their book descriptions with unique, relevant content and regained their rankings and Knowledge Graph status almost instantly (within 10 hours).

Suspicious flux - The canonical tag - Waterstones made content unique and regained Google positions instantly

Suspicious flux - Jon's key takeaways:

  • Work out who else is using your content...
  • With people you know, make sure you have a 3rd party content strategy in place, and find the people you don’t using data!
  • Use data - lots of it!
  • Utilise historic SERPS data
  • Always investigate suspicious flux (look within + or - 2 positions)
  • Don’t be afraid to minimise crawlspace
  • Don’t abandon the keyword game just yet!
  • Begin inside the mind of your customers
  • Use this insight to shape your content
  • Follow the flowchart...

View Jon's content flowchart here:

Pi Datametrics - Avoiding Internal Conflict - Content Flowchart

If you suspect that your site is suffering from internal or external cannibalisation, and would like to see how Pi could help you recover your positions, don't hesitate to get in touch:

Book your demo now

Louise Linehan

Louise Linehan

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