Content and sub-domain conflicts
Brands will often house their news and other content on sub-domains. This is not necessarily a bad idea, but it needs to be implemented with the overall search strategy in mind.
For example, Barclays has an Ask Barclays section which is heavy on content, answering various customer questions.
This is no bad idea in itself, and clearly has its uses for the site’s visitors, but it is also harming Barclays’ search rankings, as this page often ranks more highly than other pages on the site.
The chart below shows this conflict between ‘Ask Barclays’ and the main homepage for the term ‘switch banks’, a valuable one to own on Google.
The homepage was ranking on the top two pages of Google between January and May this year, after this the Ask Barclays pages are forcing it out of the SERPs for much of the time.
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In another example, from Morrisons, we can see that its content-led sub domain Your Morrisons isn’t necessarily helping here.
For such a broad term, I think Morrisons would prefer to show visitors its homepage, and it has solved this part of the problem at least, since traffic to your.morrisons.com redirects to morrisons.com.
However, this doesn’t necessarily solve the SEO issue, and we can see that this sub-domain conflict is affecting the homepage’s rankings for the term.
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If you were EE, which page would you want to rank for ‘apple iphone’? The main shop page or the help section?
The shop page seems to have been battling with its help pages for search rankings over the last eight months, though it does rally just in time for the new iPhone launch.
However, as I write this post, EE is down on page three of Google for the term, with all of its rivals ranking higher. So it has to spend money on PPC for visibility:
It’s a similar story for budget airline Monarch, with its blog content seemingly affecting search rankings.
Looking at the chart, there’s a lot going on here. The main site did edge into page one for the term ‘sharm el-sheikh city breaks’ for a while but has ended up on page six of Google. This is nowhere for all but the most determined searcher.
In all of these examples, the decision to create more content was seemingly taken without considering the effects it may have on search rankings.
This has led to sites creating sub-domains which cannibalise the search rankings of other pages which are more likely to convert visitors.
This doesn’t mean that sites shouldn’t create more content. As Editor of a blog which creates value for the business, I can see that there are more pros than cons, if done well.
However, simply creating more content without fitting it into an overall strategy will not produce the intended benefits.
Google is only going to index one page per search term from any site, so it’s important to decide which page you’d like to rank, and provide clear signals to Google to this effect.
We do this by using internal links and having hub or dedicated pages for the terms we target and using internal links to send this message to Google.
For example, if we rank for ‘content marketing guide’ we want to send searchers to a relevant report on the topic, or perthaps to a page showing available training courses.
Other times, if we have no report or training which matches, we’ll try to ensure that the most useful blog post ranks for the term. The key is to have a coordinated strategy so that different teams and departments are not competing for the same search rankings.