Keyword cannibalization can significantly impact your website’s rankings. It can dilute your website’s authority and confuse search engines about which page to rank. So, what is keyword cannibalization in SEO, and how can you prevent it?
In this blog post, we’ll discuss some examples of keyword cannibalization and teach you how to avoid it to help your website rank higher in search results.
- Keyword cannibalization occurs when multiple website pages target the same keyword, leading to competing rankings and a decrease in overall visibility on a search engine results page.
- The worst-case scenario is that search engines could penalize a website for keyword manipulation, leading to de-indexing and lower rankings.
- To prevent cannibalization, analyze your website structure to identify pages with similar or identical keywords, create unique and high-quality content, use canonical tags, and regularly monitor your website’s performance.
- To fix keyword cannibalization, conduct an audit of your website’s content to identify duplicate or redundant pages, analyze content performance, merge or consolidate content, and deoptimize or remove content if necessary.
Keyword Cannibalization Definition
Keyword cannibalization occurs when multiple website pages target the same keyword and search intent and end up competing against each other for rankings.
If search engines determine you’re deliberately creating additional pages targeting the same key phrase or keyword to manipulate rankings, they could penalize your website and push you down in the search results or even de-index your website altogether.
Examples of Keyword Cannibalization
Let’s take a deeper look into how and why keyword cannibalization can cause issues and affect your rankings in Google search results.
Different Web Pages Targeting the Same Keyword
One example of cannibalization is when you have multiple URLs targeting the same keyphrase or keyword. This often happens when similar topics are covered across different sections of your website. When this happens, search engine algorithms may struggle to determine which page is the most relevant for that particular keyword.
As a result, all pages may suffer in their search engine rankings. To avoid this, keep your content focused and avoid creating multiple pages that cover the same topic or keyword.
Too Many Variations of the Same Keyword
Another common example of keyword cannibalization is when you have too many variations of the same keyphrase or keyword. For instance, if you have pages targeting both “best laptops” and “top laptops,” this can lead to confusion in search.
This can happen when content is duplicated across multiple pages, or when you’re targeting keyword variations without a clear strategy. By keeping things simple and avoiding duplication, you can ensure algorithms understand the focus of each page.
Navigational Pages Competing With Main Content Pages
Navigation pages are a necessary part of any website, but they should not compete with main content pages for the same keywords. For example, if you have a blog post on a particular topic, it’s tempting to optimize your sidebar or footer navigation links to target the same keyphrase or keyword.
However, this can lead to cannibalization that hurts your rankings. Keep main content pages separate from navigation pages, and use different keywords for your navigational pages.
Internal Linking Structure
Your internal linking structure is important for search engine optimization, but if not done carefully, it can contribute to cannibalization. If you’re linking to multiple pages competing for the same keyphrase or keyword, it can create confusion for search engine algorithms.
Be thoughtful about your internal links, and make sure they’re concentrated on the most authoritative and relevant pages for a particular topic.
Impact of Keyword Cannibalization on SEO
Keyword cannibalization can significantly damage your website’s SEO score by negatively impacting your search engine rankings. It can also have an unpleasant effect on user experience.
Here’s a look at what can happen if you have multiple pages ranking for a keyword variation or an identical match.
Confuses Search Engines
When you have multiple pages on your site competing for the same relevant keywords, it can cause confusion. If search algorithms have to choose between multiple pages, they may not choose the one you want to rank for that specific keyword. Ultimately, this can lower your rankings for that keyword overall.
Dilutes Your Content
Keyword cannibalization can also dilute your content and lower its overall quality. When multiple pages on your site target the same keyphrase or keyword, creating unique and valuable content for each page can be difficult. This can lead to duplicate content issues and lower engagement from your users.
Confuses Your Users
In addition to confusing algorithms, keyword cannibalization can also confuse your users. If a user searches for a specific keyword and multiple pages on your site show up, it can be challenging to determine which page is the most relevant. This can lead to a lower click-through rate and fewer conversions for your business.
Wastes Team Productivity
Finally, keyword cannibalization can result in wasted effort for your team. When you optimize multiple pages for the same keyword, you’re essentially competing against yourself for search engine rankings. This means that the time and resources you spend on one page could ultimately be wasted if it ends up competing against another page on your site.
Identifying Keyword Cannibalization
To avoid keyword cannibalization practices, you will first need to identify what causes them.
Audit Your Site
The first step in identifying keyword cannibalization is finding pages targeting the same keyphrase or keyword. Go through your website pages regularly and identify those ranking for the same primary keyword. You can use Google Search Console or Semrush to easily determine which pages rank for a specific keyword.
It’s not just about pages targeting the exact same primary keyword that causes cannibalization to occur. It’s important to ensure your pages use only one variation of the primary keyword to avoid cannibalization.
Use Keyword Research to Analyze Overlap
If multiple pages on your website rank for the same keyword, a good keyword research tool will assist you in determining how much overlap exists and which pages are competing for the same search term. You can use tools like Semush to conduct keyword research and identify unique keyword phrases on specific pages. Analyze keyword rank distribution across those pages to determine which to optimize, consolidate, or redirect.
Check for Duplicate Content
Keyword cannibalization is often accompanied by the prevalence of duplicate content across your website. Identifying these duplicates can help you consolidate pages and remove any similar or identical content with the same keyword focus, leading to improved search results rankings. Use Siteliner to scan your site for duplicate content and locate specific pages with similar content.
If you identify instances of cannibalization, follow the steps below to fix the issue.
How to Fix Keyword Cannibalization
As soon as you recognize the signs of cannibalization, it’s time to implement the proper procedures and practices to fix it.
Audit Your Content
Conducting a thorough content audit is the first step to fixing keyword cannibalization. Start by identifying all the pages on your website that target the same keyword. Analyze the content of each page to understand the differences and similarities. Look for pages that have similar content or that are redundant. A tool like Screaming Frog or Ahrefs can help you crawl your website to identify duplicate content.
Analyze Content Performance
Once you have identified all the pages on your website that target the same keyword, the next step is to analyze their performance. Evaluate which pages are ranking high on search engine results and which ones aren’t. Look at their traffic sources, bounce rates, and conversion rates.
This will help you understand which pages drive traffic, which don’t, and why. You can use Google Analytics to track your website’s performance and see which pages rank higher.
Merge, Consolidate, or Redirect Content
Once you have identified the pages you want to keep, the next step is to merge, delete, or redirect the ones that are not performing well or are redundant. Merging similar pages with unique content can help to strengthen your website’s overall authority and improve rankings on search engine results.
It’s recommended to merge content when:
- You have existing pages with similar or overlapping topics: If you notice your articles cover similar topics, merge them into a single, authoritative page.
- Your pages share complementary information: In rare cases, you’ll spot two or more pages that meet overlapping intent, and their segments have information that complements each other.
Redirecting old pages to new ones can help you maintain your website’s authority while passing the link juice from the old page to the new one.
Use 301 redirects to point all old URLs to the new main page URL. This action will consolidate the traffic and ranking authority of all pages to a single page, increasing its chances of ranking higher.
Deoptimize or Remove Content
Sometimes you may have to deoptimize content to get rid of cannibalization. Other times, you may consider deleting a page entirely. Before you decide to get rid of a page or content, make sure you completely analyze the content because you might find useful info for repurposing.
How to Prevent Keyword Cannibalization
Don’t let keyword cannibalization harm your business’s success. Below, we provide a step-by-step guide on preventing keyword cannibalization and optimizing your website for better SEO performance.
Analyze Your Website Structure
After conducting keyword research, review your website hierarchy and identify the pages that target the same or similar keywords. This will help you identify keyword cannibalization issues within your site’s structure. You can use tools like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb to crawl your website and analyze page titles, descriptions, and header tags. This will help you to identify areas where you can optimize title tags, meta descriptions, and header tags to avoid keyword cannibalization.
Create Unique and High-Quality Content
One of the most effective ways to prevent keyword cannibalization is by creating unique content that targets specific keywords on each page. This will help algorithms understand what each page is about and rank them accordingly. Ensure your content is high-quality, relevant, and engaging. You can use tools like Yoast or SEOPressor to optimize your content for SEO by including the target keyword in the right places, including internal and external links, and ensuring a readable style.
Use Canonical Tags
Canonical tags are HTML tags that help search algorithms understand which page to index and rank for a specific keyword. You can use canonical tags on pages that target similar or identical keywords to tell search engines which page is the primary source and which pages are secondary. This ensures that the primary page gets all the ranking power and reduces the risk of keyword cannibalization.
Monitor Your Website’s Performance
After implementing the above steps, it’s crucial to monitor your website’s performance regularly. Monitor your website’s rankings on Google search and other engines, the traffic it generates, and any changes in your conversion rates. This will help you identify any issues with keyword cannibalization and take appropriate steps to address them.
Keyword cannibalization can reduce the effectiveness of your SEO efforts and your website’s organic traffic, leads, and sales.
Now that we’ve answered the question, “What is keyword cannibalization?” you can conduct keyword research to avoid this issue. More tactics include developing quality content, avoiding duplicate content, and regularly monitoring your website’s performance.
Raymond Li is known for his deep understanding of SEO and ability to develop successful client campaigns. His technical expertise and creativity have helped businesses of all sizes to improve their organic search presence. Ray enjoys playing ultimate frisbee and exploring the local cuisine when not dominating the SERPs for a wide array of juicy keywords.