With all the focus on conducting keyword research today, the prospect of keyword cannibalization receives far less attention.
Yet, it can be damaging to your overall SEO strategy and dilute the organic performance of even your best website content.
It forces that content to be at competitive odds, eating away at your chances for higher rankings.
But just how will you know if your website suffers from keyword cannibalization?
With a quick analysis of your positioning, ranking, and organic performance, you can identify which keywords, as well as any secondary keywords, are wreaking havoc on your SEO results due to the cannibalization and get to work solving each one.
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What is Keyword Cannibalization?
Digital marketing strategies today rely on getting it right when it comes to selecting the best keywords to focus on when it comes to website content.
Yet, there is the chance that concentrating on those keywords will result in overuse in ways other than keyword stuffing.
This mistake can lead to keyword cannibalization and adversely affect your rankings.
Keyword cannibalization occurs when more than one page on your website targets the same keywords, or those similar, causing those pages to compete against each other when it comes to search engine rankings.
It means you have various content on your website that can potentially rank for the same query on Google.
While this may seem like a good strategy for getting the attention of search engines and letting them know you are an expert on the topic, it can and most likely will backfire on you, negatively impacting your SEO strategy.
Why is Keyword Cannibalism So Bad for SEO?
Keyword cannibalization can result in negative consequences for your SEO.
Here are a few specific ways this can happen.
Diminishes Page Authority
You want your most authoritative pages to rank the highest because they are the ones most likely to result in higher click-through rates and conversions.
Yet, instead of providing that one strong authoritative page, with keyword cannibalism, you are splitting the results and ranking potential among two or more semi-relevant pages.
As a result, you have now turned your different pages into competitors, diminishing any one page’s authority over another.
Interferes with Ranking of Relevant Pages
Google utilizes keywords as a way to understand what your web content is about.
If you use the same or similar keywords for more than one page, Google is in charge of determining which page fits best with a query that includes that keyword.
Chances are high that the search engine will get it wrong.
Often, the page that receives the higher conversion rate may end up ranking lower on SERPs, meaning you miss out on high-quality leads and organic traffic more likely to convert.
Affects Your Link Structure
Keyword cannibalization can affect your link structure, both internally and externally.
Internally, your links may be leading your visitors to several different pages instead of to the one authoritative page which offers the most value.
Externally, your backlinks will often be split between the pages with the same or similar keywords, not creating the most value for your website.
How to Recognize Keyword Cannibalism
Recognizing keyword cannibalism on your website requires a few steps, all of which are simple to master.
Essentially, you need to search your website for any use of specific keywords in multiple pieces of content.
Your focus will be on those pages that target the same or similar keywords and seek to respond to the same or similar user intent.
Conduct a site: search
To help you search for these pages, you can conduct a common “site:search.”
Pop over to Google Search and enter your domain plus the topic you want to check on.
It will look like this: Site:yourwebsite.com “topic”
For a specific example, it will look similar to: Site:VideoPros.com (+topic such as “live events”).
Google will return a results list with all the content on your site that relates to the topic.
Examine the list and determine what is ranking the highest.
In particular, you want to see if some of your older content is ranking higher than the more up-to-date articles or blog posts or the more relevant pages you’ve put in place.
If so, it shows that keyword cannibalization is potentially occurring and points you in the direction of what to review next.
Don’t get overwhelmed by the list, however, as Google is prone to returning many matching and semi-matching results. Not all of those page results are a problem, and many will target other keywords.
Keyword cannibalization can affect your link structure, both internally and externally.
Utilize Google Search Console
Another way to identify potential keyword cannibalization is to try using Google Search Console.
Go to your performance report to see a default query list that your website has received clicks and impressions from most recently.
Via the Pages tab, click on one of the queries. A list of the URLs ranking for that particular query will show, along with the associated stats.
If you see more than one page URL appearing, keyword cannibalization may be at play.
Solving Any Keyword Cannibalization You Find
Now that you understand what keyword cannibalization is, how it affects your SEO, and how to recognize it, you can now find a solution.
To help you get started, you may want to conduct a content audit to identify what you currently have and how it is displayed.
You can also benefit from analyzing the performance of your content, and identifying historical rankings as well as current rankings.
Next, take action by consolidating or merging content, revamping your internal linking structure, and using redirects.
Consolidate or Merge Content
If you find that two or more pages on your website are serving similar purposes, consider consolidating or merging the content into one authoritative page.
The result will be simplifying your content marketing strategy and increasing your site’s SEO.
First, you’ll need to discover whether or not the pages are unique, providing something the other doesn’t and therefore still valuable, even if they are targeting the same keyword.
If not, then determine the best way to consolidate or combine them.
To help with this, begin by examining your analytics and determining which of the pages is performing better in regards to organic traffic, bounce rate, and other important metrics.
You want to focus on the higher converting content, however, not necessarily the one receiving the highest traffic.
Then consolidate the two, incorporating the higher converting content onto the page with the higher traffic.
For those pages that are similar in content and attract the same audience, find a way to combine them.
Rewrite them into one post or article to benefit your rankings and eliminate the keyword cannibalization problem.
Address Your Internal Linking Structure
Change or add internal linking on your website so that the less valuable content pages link directly to the more relevant or authoritative source page on a topic.
In turn, you’ll be sending a signal to the search engine algorithms that the content being linked to most often is the priority.
Also, take a look at the backlinks in the content that are ranking higher and on any other similar pages.
Are all backlinks for the authoritative page or one of the less valuable ones?
You may need to reach out to those who are linking back to your website and ask them to change the link.
If you find that more than one of your similar topic pages is ranking for those same terms, you might want to consider occasional 301 redirects.
These redirects can send visitors of those similar pages to the most authoritative and higher converting content instead.
Be sure to also update content where links point back to the pages that are now being redirected.
Consider Website Restructuring
If, after looking at your website content, you find that a website restructuring could be beneficial, then go for it.
For example, create a landing page to consolidate your product pages, creating a more authoritative source. The different product pages will then need to be linked to the new landing page.
Bad Keyword Cannibalization Solutions
While you may be looking for a quick fix for any keyword cannibalization you find or suspect on your website, it’s best to avoid the following solutions.
Bad solution #1: Delete the Web Page Entirely
Deleting a webpage is only beneficial to you if it provides no value, including a lack of conversion, traffic, or fails to already rank on the SERPs.
The more likely truth, however, is that that page may already rank or contain valuable backlinks and can better serve you with one of the solutions for keyword cannibalization listed above.
Bad Solution #2 Add “Noindex” to the Page
Implementing a “noindex” strategy allows the page to remain on your site but not be indexed.
With this coding, however, search engines like Google will eliminate the page from their index, discontinuing any possibility of ranking through the search engine algorithms.
Bad solution #3: Remove Page Optimization
Optimization of a page doesn’t focus solely on keywords. If you choose to remove page optimization, then, it will affect your rankings.
A better solution is to merge the content with another higher-ranking page, or link or redirect to an authoritative source page.
Wrap Up: Avoid Keyword Cannibalization and Improve your SEO
Keyword cannibalization often goes undetected and creates a situation where you are essentially competing with yourself as well as with others when it comes to Google rankings. In turn, it can lower your SEO success and marketing ROI and lessen the chances that your target audience finds your most relevant content.
Whether you are a local business or a multinational corporation, keywords are essential to your online marketing and website content.
Choosing the best ones for your business, and staying diligent in keeping keyword cannibalism at bay, needs to be a part of every SEO strategy out there today.
Need more help choosing those local keywords to make you stand out on Google? Check out our informative post.