Keywords are not cannibals unless you make them be. Yes, the word sounds scary, and it does a lot of damage to your site’s performance unless you take corrective measures to rectify it.
Keyword cannibalization could well be the most misunderstood concept out there. Before going further into the topic, let us understand this fundamental question, ‘What is keyword cannibalization.’
Keyword cannibalization means having more than one web page on your site ranking for the same keyword or search query. It could be because you have optimized the content for the same keyword or the topic is quite similar. When you optimize the content for similar keywords, it will start reducing the ranking potential of each page, and it could also impact the organic performance of the site.
When you target the exact keywords, you send search engines unclear messages about which pages to rank. Worse still, the search engine could rank the wrong page for a particular keyword. Moreover, you are also diminishing the chances of ranking higher, reducing click-through rates, leads, conversion rates and page authority.
You are also not showing your visitors the depth of your knowledge or giving them unique information about your products or services.
What is Keyword Cannibalization?
Keyword cannibalization involves having several pages in your website optimized for the same or similar keywords, compelling those pages to impact SERPs negatively.
People think that the more pages you have that talk about your products or services using similar keywords, the more you will improve your rankings for that keyword. They believe the more pages target the same keyword, it will compel Google to pick those keywords and improve your rankings.
Well, that is not the case.
When it comes to keyword cannibalization, Google looks at the intent behind the keyword usage rather than its usage itself.
For example, when you type ‘Apple 7 Series Watch’ in Google, you are likely to find two pages from Apple that are trying to optimize this particular keyword. But why is Google not penalising the page?
It has to do with intent. The first page is a basic informational page talking about the features of Apple 7 Series watch, while the second page is transactional. They are at different places in the sales funnel.
When you have more pages appearing on top of the SERPs, you improve page visibility, leads and conversions. You should consider these points when targeting similar keywords,
- Offer unique content and different value to readers
- Offer high-quality content
- Give similar weightage
Why is Keyword Cannibalization bad for SEO?
With keyword cannibalization, one page of your website could be stealing the thunder of the other page. Let us take a look at the negative impact of keyword cannibalization on SEO,
- When you optimize two or more pages in your website for a specific keyword, you give Google confusing signals. It does not know which content should be ranked higher for that particular query.
- Keyword cannibalization can put a dent in your CTRs, loss of page value and weaken web reputation.
- Google might even rank the wrong pages – pages you are not intending to prioritise.
- Creates a bad user experience which could impact the dwell times and bounce rates.
- Your website traffic could also get affected, leading to fewer conversions.
But why does this matter?
- You are not prioritising the page you want to value. Essentially, diluting the CTR and dividing it among several average pages.
- Your anchor text is without a proper anchor. Instead of leading your visitors to a specific authoritative page, your anchor text and backlinks are going to several different pages.
- Prominent vendors or eCommerce stores might see a significant dent in their crawl budget.
- Finally, it could also impact your leads and conversions.
Impact of Keyword Cannibalization
One of the most difficult aspects of keyword cannibalization is that many are unaware that something is wrong. Some Web pages might rank fourth or fifth and so do not raise alarm. However, the website will do better if you have one authoritative page.
Keyword cannibalization can have many adverse effects on your Web page. These are:
When you have two or more pages competing for the same keywords, then your internal links or external links are probably directing visitors to other pages with the same or similar information. Rather than creating pages that link to one authoritative page with great information, the information gets split across multiple pages, thus lowering the value of your Web pages.
Google might devalue the relevant page
Google tries to pick the ‘right’ page for the relevant information in its search results. Multiple pages with the same keywords confuse the algorithm with the result that a less relevant page may be ranked higher while devaluing others.
One of the biggest effects of keyword cannibalization is the effect it has on page rankings. Multiple Web pages with the same keywords optimized for SEO will result in these pages ranking lower in search engine results.
Low conversion rate
Your aim with SEO should always be to optimize the one page that is the best source of information while providing links to other pages. Since this is spread across different pages, you could experience lower conversion rates since visitors will land on less relevant pages.
Diminishing the Authority of Your Page
Keywords tell Google what the content on the page is all about. If more pages have the same content, Google will not discern the value of the content provided on those pages.
What keyword cannibalization does is it manages to reduce your page authority. When you have two or more pages targeting the exact keywords, the Click-through-rate of the page gets distributed to various pages instead of heading towards a single authoritative page. It means that you are making one page in your website compete with the others for SERPs.
Scattering Your Crawl Budget
It is the number of times Google indexes and crawls your website within a particular time. So, when you have more pages optimised for the same keywords, you eventually have more pages than necessary. So, if more pages need to be crawled, you end up exceeding the crawl budget, leaving you with indexing issues. Without indexing, you cannot expect Google to rank your pages.
You do not have to waste your crawl budget if you take care of these issues,
- Do away with excessive redirects
- Have enough crawl budget to cater to the newly added pages
- When working on a large site, make sure you have enough buffer crawl budget to accommodate all pages.
How to check keyword cannibalization?
There are some simple steps you can take to ensure you do not end up with keyword cannibalization. The first step is to create a keyword grid with the most important URLs and their corresponding keywords. Ensure that the keywords do not overlap across multiple pages.
You can also use a keyword mapping tool that is freely available. These tools allow you to combine keyword research, relevancy, estimated search volume, and avoid keyword cannibalization. Do cross-check the meta data of your page and remove duplicate keywords.
How to fix or solve keyword cannibalization?
Once you identify that your website is suffering from keyword cannibalization, here are some improvements and organizational restructuring you can do to fix keyword cannibalization.
Restructure the website
One of the easiest solutions for keyword cannibalization is to establish one great authoritative page from which you can link to other relevant pages. For example, a super-page on architecture can provide links to variations on the types of architecture styles.
Create new landing pages
Do take a critical look at your website and determine if your website has a landing page that can consolidate all similar pages with related keywords. This will allow a larger set of visitors to determine which pages they want to explore further.
Consolidate the content
Audit your pages and combine pages that have similar keywords and content, particularly if they are underperforming. This will give the new page more authority and will rank higher in search results.
Find new keywords
Be sure that your keyword strategy is on point. There are several tools available to find a range of keywords that can be incorporated into your website. In most cases, all you require is a new keyword. However, you should make sure that your pages fit the keywords without seeming forced.
Use 301 redirects
Use this option sparingly as too many redirects could turn off visitors. Combine similar pages with the same keyword queries.
When you have two or more articles that trumpet a specific keyword, combining these two into a single unique article is a good idea. You can include all the points provided in both the articles and write a lengthy value-laden article.
You can solve the problem of having two non-performing articles and turn them into a single great article. Also, make sure to maintain readability when drafting a single consolidated content. It will effectively solve the keyword cannibalization issue.
Once you have consolidated the content, you should not delete the unnecessary pages and rework the redirect properly.
Improve Internal Linking
Internal linking is very crucial to the success of your website. When you remove unnecessary pages, you should make it a point to create a robust internal linking structure. It is always a good idea to link the less significant pages to the most important pages. It will give Google a clear idea as your priority list.
Another point when working on internal linking is matching the proper anchor text to the correct content. Remember that the number of links leading to a page also has a lot of importance. Categorise and tag the pages effectively, in addition to adding unique content.
Keyword cannibalization and commerce websites
If you have an online shop, product pages with similar keywords are of concern. It is important to structure your site thoughtfully. You must consider internal linking from every product page to your category page. The category page should be the page you optimize to rank. Detect, delete, or fix old product pages that could cannibalize other pages that are more important.
How Can You Avoid Cannibalization Issues in the Future?
Although sprucing up your website of keyword cannibalization issues is essential, it is never straightforward. It is a highly time-consuming activity. It is true especially in the case of a large website that has built up multiple pages targeting the exact keywords over time. Of course, the best way to avoid keyword cannibalization is to prevent it from happening again.
You can avoid keyword cannibalization by creating a proper content marketing strategy that is drafted keeping your particular website needs in mind.
When you consolidate content, make sure you keep in mind the intent behind each page. Think about the value it provides your readers. Try any keyword research tool to bring you relevant keywords, including long-tail keywords. Using Google, collect a list of your web pages that have content relevant to those keywords. Approach these pages with an intent analysis mindset.
Scrutinise the content for intent, purpose, and value and match it with the content you intend to create. In case you find more than one page with the same intent and keywords, you can try updating the content or adding relevant points rather than running into cannibalization issues.
To Summarize It All
Keyword cannibalization is becoming widespread. Content developers intend to optimize their site, but do not fully understand Google’s language. Fortunately, solutions for the problem are not difficult, and the damage isn’t permanent. The right tools can give your website a much-needed boost. SEO and search engines will continue to evolve with time and you must be in a position to utilize these changes effectively. Understanding keyword cannibalization and its intricacies will help you adapt quickly and more efficiently in the future.
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