In the hustle and bustle of website optimization, one thing that often goes unnoticed is keyword cannibalization. It is different from keyword stuffing. Although a cannibal may sound monstrous, cannibalization in sales is more like digging one’s own grave – like when you introduce a new but similar product, resulting in a reduction of sales of a previous product.
What is Keyword Cannibalization?
When two or more pages rank for the same keyword, they lead to problematic instances, which we call keyword cannibalization. Now, you might wonder, “Hey, that should be a good thing, right? There will be more chances of more of your pages ranking on the top, resulting in more clicks.” Well, a big NO.
When a user types a search query (a.k.a. keywords) in the search engine box, the user expects to get a desirable result. Even the crux of Google is the same – to offer the best result to a search query. So, the best can only be one. So, trying to rank two pages for the same keyword is like two blogs eating up each other’s chances of ranking.
How can Keyword Cannibalization Harm Your Website’s SEO?
Due to keyword cannibalization, Google gets confused in finding the best result. Google might have to choose between two or more pages to rank at the top. Because in a thoughtful world, one keyword should not talk about the same thing on two different pages. For example, if someone searches for “best running shoes” and sees two results on the same website, they may get confused about which one to choose.
So, this may harm your website’s SEO because even after ranking on top of the SERPs, you receive fewer clicks. Your pages compete with each other. Now, of course, you will put across different content on both pages. So, even when a user visits both of them, they will find conflicting information. And that’s when Google muddles and punishes your web pages.
Is Keyword Cannibalization Always Harmful for Your Website?
There is a faint silver lining to keyword cannibalization. We might have to laugh it off in the end, but it’s an advantage nonetheless.
When two pages rank for the same keywords, Google displays them as parent and child links. That means right next to each other, with the second one being a subset of the first.
There are two instances when this becomes a good thing. But you have to be very careful that you don’t overdo things, or else search engines will penalize you for it.
- When one of the two pages is comprehensive (let’s say, a blog of around 2500-3000 words) and the other one is a page of around 1000 words complimenting the other.
- If you are planning on running a campaign around an existing page and you have to target the same keywords, you can do keyword cannibalization until your campaign runs to rank at the top quickly. But again, it’s a risky affair.
How to Identify Keyword Cannibalization?
The first question to ask is: how will you sense that keyword cannibalization is happening on your website? If you are not regularly monitoring, you will fail to notice. But there are other signs of decline. When your clicks and impressions drop all of a sudden and your pages fail to rank despite your best efforts, you can sense something is wrong- and it might be cannibalization.
Here are three ways to identify keyword cannibalization on your website.
1. Search Through Your Website
The first thing you need to do is use your website’s search box and start typing your keywords one by one from the list of keywords you have strategized. When you see multiple pages for the same keyword, take note of them. But you can’t entirely be sure of keyword cannibalization from this alone.
2. Google-specific Site Search
Using site:<site domain> <testing keywords> format in Google’s search box will narrow down search results specific to your site. If keyword cannibalization is occurring on your website, it will show you the results in the form of multiple pages. This doesn’t differentiate between focused keywords and related keywords. So, once again, you can’t be exactly sure about keyword cannibalization.
3. Use External Keyword Cannibalization Checker Tools
Using external keyword cannibalization tools not only ensures that your website is going downhill but they also give you the measures to tackle keyword cannibalization. They will offer a deeper insight into your keyword rankings and show you the possibility of keyword cannibalization. Here are the top 5 tools that most marketers use:
- Keylogs Keyword Cannibalization Checker
- SEMrush Position Tracking Tool
- Google Search Console
- SEOScout Cannibalization Checker
- Moz Keyword Explorer
How Do You Avoid Keyword Cannibalization?
- Focus on a targeted keyword strategy
Instead of randomly scattering your keywords, you need a targeted strategy so that each page can be assigned a focused keyword and a few other related keywords. This will reduce any chances of cannibalization even while creating new pages.
2. Track keyword rankings and performance
We know that distinguishing keywords for every article is not an easy task. Sometimes, one page’s focused keyword can be another page’s related keyword. So, to avoid keyword cannibalization, regularly track the ranking and performance of your keywords. You can use tools like Google Analytics, SEMrush, etc.
3. Focus on topics first; keywords come second
Instead of focusing solely on keywords, prioritize content more. Google promises to rank your keywords on the basis of the quality of your content. Your strategy comes next. So, try to devise a spectacular content strategy that has different types of intent for your content, such as descriptive, sales, convincing, etc.
4. Execute content audits on a regular basis.
Keep a tab on your content tree, or create one if you haven’t. You need to maintain relevancy in your content in sync with the keywords you are targeting. That’s because even if your pages rank at the top, users start to bounce off your content after finding it irrelevant to what they were looking for. It’s a way to eradicate keyword cannibalization from its roots.
5. Create a comprehensive page instead of breaking down your content into nuclear blogs.
If, at the very least, you face a situation where you need to create two pages for the same keyword, you can try to create one page with comprehensive and detailed content. This will reduce any chances of keyword cannibalization.
These are precautionary measures, but we do understand that sometimes we realize it late, and cannibalization has already occurred on your website. In that case, we are down to one last strategy – to fix keyword cannibalization.
How to Fix Keyword Cannibalization?
- Improve Internal Linking
Internal linking helps users, as well as search engine crawlers, to move seamlessly from one page to another within your website. This tells Google that you have built a good content hierarchy. In case two pages are focusing on the same keywords, then link them in such a way that it becomes self-explanatory to search engines. If it is about complimenting each other, they will take note and not consider that both pages are competing for the top ranking.
2. Create a parent article from two child articles.
We talked about this in the precautionary measure. So, if two pages with the same focused keywords already exist on your website, you need to create a comprehensive piece of content connecting both. Now, the question arises: which one should we keep? Of course, the one ranking higher. If none of them are ranking, you can create a new page altogether and delete the existing ones (it can be two or more).
3. Content consolidation and 301 redirects
Using 301 redirects is a good practice because even if you delete your pages, the links to those pages may exist in other places like Feed RSS and internal links on the other pages. So, 301 redirects will tell search engines that your content has moved to a new URL. This will preserve your SEO.
4. Refining keyword clusters and establishing clear search intent
Instead of having only a focused keyword for each page, you need to create a cluster of keywords that will include a focused keyword and a few related keywords. Focused keywords generally have large search volumes in comparison to related keywords. In this case, even if the focused keyword of one page coincides with the related keyword of another page, your strategy will prove useful and guide the search engines. Thus, No keyword cannibalization. No SEO penalty.
Every problem has its roots. When you sense keyword cannibalization, the earlier you get rid of it, the better. Otherwise, search engines will penalize you for the malpractice of trying to rank two pages for the same keyword with a conflict of content, eventually confusing the users.
I hope this article equips you with the right strategies and tools to tackle keyword cannibalization and not let it affect your website’s SEO. For any further queries, feel free to drop by. We will be happy to assist you.