Any good marketer knows the importance of keywords in an SEO strategy. They are the foundation of your content that helps searchers find you and search engines understand the subjects of each page. Everything starts with keywords. But are there situations when your efforts can start to backfire? Are there times when you can overdo it? The answer is yes, especially if you’re unaware that you’re engaging in keyword cannibalization.
What is Keyword Cannibalization?
Now you’re probably wondering: what is keyword cannibalization, and why should I be concerned?
In simple terms, keyword cannibalization is the process of optimizing articles, blog posts, and website content for the same keywords or key phrases. This can occur in a couple of different ways, either through publishing articles with similar topics or using the same keywords throughout the content. Sometimes it can even be the result of keyword stuffing, the disapproved SEO technique of loading keywords into content, meta tags, and backlink anchor text to unfairly improve ranking. Most of the time it happens accidentally when people forget about the content they’ve already created and published and go ahead and produce content with similar intent and keywording. This is one of the most common situations, as more content generally means a greater chance of similar pages and articles.
Why Keyword Cannibalization Hurts SEO
You may think that ranking for the same search query on a search engine and sharing the love is a good thing. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that it can hurt your SEO, and sometimes it can do it without you knowing.
When you use the same keywords in your content and your content has the same intent, search engines will crawl your site and discover more than one page trying to rank for the same queries. In this case, you’re telling Google to compare your articles or pages and select the one it deems the best overall for a particular keyword. When this happens, Google gets confused and has a hard time distinguishing between the two. If you were given the choice between the two, which one would you choose? If you can’t answer this question, chances are, Google and other search engines won’t be able to either. And sadly, in the end, your ranking will not be the best it can be.
Keyword cannibalization can result in a variety of SEO issues, such as:
- Decreased Page Authority
When you have pages that are battling against each other, they both only become somewhat relevant separately rather than being one super relevant, keyword-rich, and powerful page. The more pages you have, the more spread out your content appears to Google, which can reduce your domain’s overall authority.
- Reduced Click-Through-Rate
Chances are when there is more than one page with the same keywords or subjects, one of them is bound to be stronger. Even though you might know which page you prefer, Google does not. As a result, the search engine can rank similar pages higher than your page, which can substantially lower your CTR.
- Lower Conversion Rate
If you give people more than one option to click on, you may be sending them to a page or article that isn’t optimized as well for conversions. With two or more similar pages, users will land on multiple pages rather than being led to just one. This can surely lower your conversion rate over time.
- Weakened Backlinks
With multiple pages, you’re splitting up the backlinking power and sending people in different directions with internal links rather than one designated place.
How to Recognize Keyword Cannibalization
Thankfully, it’s relatively easy to check your site for signs of keyword cannibalization. Once you recognize a problem, that’s when you can fix it! Below are a couple of ways you can see if your business has been guilty of cannibalizing keywords:
Google Search Console
One way you can find out is by using the Google Search Console. Examine your performance report, and you’ll see a list of queries that have received clicks and impressions. Click on one of them using the Pages tab and this will show you a list of ranking URLs. If you find more than one URL, this is a good indicator of keyword cannibalization.
Site: Search Operator
Another way to discover keyword cannibalization is to use the “site:[domain] keyword” search operator on Google. Simply type in this phrase and insert your domain name and the keyword you’re searching for. Then, you can see what pages pop up. Are they the pages you want? Ask yourself: is the blog post you published three years ago showing up above your latest post? If so, at least you are aware of it and can fix the content accordingly.
How to Fix and Prevent a Keyword Cannibalization Problem
You might be overwhelmed thinking about how many pages on your site are targeting the same keywords. Companies that produce tons of blogs and have giant websites often run into this problem, as they forget what they’ve done before. The result? A nasty case of keyword cannibalization. But don’t worry! There are a few things you can do to make things right and stop competing with yourself, confusing Google, and leading searchers down the wrong path. Here are a few ways to fix your keyword cannibalization problem and prevent it from wreaking havoc on your SEO strategy down the road:
- Track Your URLs and Keywords
An easy way to correct keyword cannibalization now and avoid it in the future is to keep track of all of your URLs and keywords of pre-existing content and the content you produce later. If you find duplicates, that’s when you’ll know to make corrections. Use a simple Excel spreadsheet to keep tabs on your website pages, blog articles, and other online content.
- Observe the Stats
As previously mentioned, you can use Google Console to examine the reports and statistics for each of your pages. This can help you stay updated on what’s ranking and make sure you don’t have duplicate content.
- Consolidate Your Pages
Unless you have a good reason to keep pages separate, you should always try to consolidate pages with similar topics. This will give the single page more authority rather than splitting it between two or more pages with the same content.
- Maintain an Organized Website Structure
Try to incorporate a hierarchy of page topics on your website, as this will help you select your keywords.
- Use 301 Redirects
A 301 redirect takes website visitors from a previously removed page to an existing page, which can be beneficial when you discover that you have more than one page that’s ranking for the same keywords or phrases. This technique allows you to redirect cannibalized pages into one standalone page.
- Conduct Regular SEO Audits
There are plenty of easy-to-use online tools that let you run a test on your website to see if it’s search-engine friendly. These tools will check for duplicate title tags, meta-descriptions, and keywords, which gives you great insight into the status of your site.
- Delete Cannibalized Pages
If you determine that your pages are no longer valuable, you have the option to delete them and start fresh. This decision comes after seeing the duplicate or overly similar content you have and weighing whether you should alter it or simply remove it altogether. Most likely, you can create better content that focuses on keywords you haven’t already used before to improve your ranking and help with consolidation. However, the choice is ultimately up to you.
Taking the right action steps to eliminate all instances of keyword cannibalization can be the difference between a better search engine ranking and a poor one. Make sure you’re spotlighting the right content to not only rank higher, but to serve the people searching for your information, products, or services. You won’t regret it!
Avoid Keyword Cannibalization and Leave Your SEO to the Pros
As sad as it is to say, it can be a waste of time when you do all the work and your pages end up fighting each other. Fixing this issue should definitely be part of your ongoing SEO maintenance plan, as you don’t want it to damage your SEO. At the same time, correcting keyword cannibalization mistakes and ensuring that it doesn’t occur again takes some serious time and effort. Thankfully, there are experts available to manage it for you and keep you on the right track toward success. Sometimes the best thing you can do to avoid costly SEO mistakes like keyword cannibalization is to leave your SEO needs to the professionals.
Here at Higher Ranking, our team of specialists is dedicated to generating quality leads for your business through top-notch SEO strategies. We want to turn your visitors into customers, so you can achieve your business goals and get the best value for your money. Are you interested in building brand awareness, establishing a sophisticated online presence, and driving more traffic and sales? We’d love to help! Are you struggling to keep up with the constant task of avoiding keyword cannibalization or need help correcting the damage that’s already been done? Contact Higher Ranking today to get started — 03-9399-1469.