Biting the Hand That Feeds: Cannibalizing Your Titles

by Joe Schaefer No Comments December 7, 2009

Let’s review my own personal theory of what Google intends to return in the SERPs. The theory is that a searcher is seeking websites that are authoritative, relevant and trustworthy. With that said, the SERPs should be just that. The results should be an ordered list of the most authoritative, relevant, trustworthy sites, right? Why, then, are you throwing your chances to the SERPs wolves?

Today’s topic revolves around the page title and cannibalizing your pages, thus making them not rank correctly or not rank well, or at all. Cannibalizing? My word! What do you mean?

Let’s step back to the first paragraph. Part of what you want to do in order to get pages to be recognized as authoritative, relevant and trustworthy is to make sure that each page is somewhat of an island onto itself. For example, let’s say you are the world’s best fly-fishing instruction company. A goal might be to rank the home page for ‘fly-fishing instruction’.

Then, straight out of the box, you have page titles for various pages that look like so:

(homepage): Fly Fishing Instruction | Jimbo’s Super-Fly

(interior): Fly Fishing Instruction | Jimbo’s Super-Fly | How to Tie a Fly

(interior): Fly Fishing Instruction | Jimbo’s Super-Fly | How to Dress for Fly Fishing

(interior): Fly Fishing Instruction | Jimbo’s Super-Fly | Buy New Flies


Then, you realize that there is a lot of competition for the key phrase ‘fly fishing instruction’, but you’re not ranking well. Here’s a disclaimer: Just fixing your titles isn’t the answer, but it’s part of the equation.

Let’s go back to the idea that each page is an island onto itself. All of those interior pages are kind of asking Google to recognize that they are just as important as the homepage for the term. Since you won’t get more than two listings per SERPs, Google has somewhat of an internal struggle to then pick which one should rank and rank well.

Google ain’t dumb, but let’s play this game like the Googs is dumb. So, I’m Google and I get to a site and I have to figure out what every page is about in order to possibly rank it and rank it well. Then, I say to my Google self, hrmmph…I want to rank a page for ‘fly fishing instruction’ and rank it well, but I’m a bit trepidatious…so I’m going to hold off on ranking it well.

Okay, so that’s not really how it goes, verbatim, but for a novice, it makes sense. So, what’s going on here? A great deal of potential value for the term ‘fly fishing instruction’ is getting eaten, cannibalized really – by all the other pages using it the same way (or, if that’s too graphic, the value is spread out too thinly among other pages).

Want to rank for that term (note: there’s a lot of other things to do as well)? Start by positioning it well on your target page and for goodness sakes, don’t keep positioning it in the same way, place or form from page to page. Give that little fella all the value you can in regards to page titles. If not, you run the risk of biting the hand that feeds.

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