Today’s Ask An SEO comes from Dan in California, who asks:
“I have several products that are “specialty” products due to their size, all titled similarly (12 inch…). This has caused some keyword cannibalization. I also have a collection page with all of these items further adding to the cannibalization. None of these products are made by the same company and they have enough variation between them that creating variant pages is not an option, and I do not want to remove the collection page. I have been mulling over options to solve this and the one I am weighing is adding a canonical tag to each of the pages and choosing a single page as the “main” page – perhaps our most popular item that uses this keyword. What do you think?”
There are two easy enough solutions to this – I recommend solution one.
Because you have multiple products that are all equal but not unique enough, you can optimize the collection page for the main keyword phrases.
Then, choose an “official product display page (PDP)” for the product by brand.
On the collection or category page, have FAQs and copy about the specific product that is not brand specific.
Craft your copy around the styles and options of the items you carry and their uses.
If a couple of brands have higher demand (not just search volume), then mention them within the copy and above your product grid.
This will give you an internal link to pass some authority down to the branded PDP page while helping your consumers find the most in-demand brands faster.
The branded PDP pages should have copy specific to the brand of the product. This can include:
The canonical link on the collection and PDP page should be self-referencing in this case.
This is because the collection or category page and the PDP page are the best results for a query when someone is searching for the product or a specific brand of that particular product.
There is a catch, though.
You will likely want to go and remove the “non-official” pages from your site map if you can.
i.e., If you have an official version of a 12″ widget by XYZ brand, but it comes in 5 colors, each color could be seen as duplicate or competing – especially if it’s the same color options you have on the collection page.
The same goes for blocking crawling for the alternate versions in robots.txt. The reason here is that you always want to help search engine spiders find the best result possible.
If you send the spider to pages that are not the “official page,” you’re giving a bad crawling experience.
If you choose this strategy, you can apply it as your inventory and product selection grows.
You can also begin optimizing for brands, which is another traffic and revenue source for you.
The other solution you can try is adding a drop-down to your PDP page and setting a canonical link to the PDP page from variants and variations if the URL changes when the drop-down is set.
When they do, you’ll also want to add a meta robots noindex, follow, block the parameters in robots.txt, and remove the excess URLs from your sitemap.
If you have multiple selectors, think about adding those visually.
I.e., you can have a drop-down with brand and tiles to select for the preferred color. Once the brand is selected, grey out the colors that are not available from that brand.
Or, if a color is selected, cross out the brands that do not manufacture that color.
The copy on this page would be similar to the copy on the collection page in solution one.
You can also build brand pages out if you want to try and rank for the brand + product, but that is a bit excessive and one of the reasons I don’t like this option as much.
There are things you’ll also want to do regardless of the solution you take (there are more than two).
Without knowing your website or the specific products, these are the two I would start with.
If I had your website information, I would write something specific to your situation.
By doing this, you’ll reduce the amount of mix-matched signals to the search engines, making it easier for them to know which pages are the ones to show while helping to reduce the keyword cannibalization issue you’re facing.