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What is keyword cannibalization? 5 effective ways to solve it

  • Alladdine Djaidani
  • 7 min read
What is keyword cannibalization? 5 effective ways to solve it

Intro

When it comes to your online business ABCs, increasing ranks or revenue, getting more clients, and an organic reach requires a plethora of well-planned strategies, often including some content for reaching your target audience. Many business owners start a blog, do their basic research, and start publishing content regularly until they realize their goals still need to be met. Sometimes the content can be too generic. However, suppose you are doing all the work by the book. In that case, you might be doing everything right and still butchering your business, or more specifically, you are most probably doing keyword cannibalization. And as harsh as it may sound, this phenomenon is more frequent than people are probably aware of. But before we dive into understanding it more, let's recap the perspective and steps that a business owner gravitates toward or has already done.

When the website/blog content is not ranking as expected, most people will start over, adapt and try rescoping the word structure, tone of voice, or their social media strategy altogether, and nothing will bring the expected improvement.

Learning the basics of SEO optimization should only be the start of your journey, as ranking high in Google should be carefully planned. Sometimes if more than one page is ranked for the exact keywords, there will be internal competition- meaning you will kill your own business. The browser will have trouble recognizing the more important page in such a scenario. As a result, your business pages will be ranked lower than others, virtually cannibalizing your keywords and degrading your business rating.

What is keyword cannibalization?

As we already explained, more than one page targeting the same keyword can cause keyword cannibalization. The term's origin comes from negatively impacting your results, sharing CTR, connections, content, and (often) conversion between two pages that should be one. Keyword cannibalization in SEO means that two or more web pages are optimized for the same keyword. No matter if it happens due to the similarity of the content or search that logically answers the inquiry with both results.

What is keyword cannibalization?

When this happens, you are not revealing your expertise to Google or increasing your authority for the previously mentioned inquiry. Instead, you ask Google to weigh both pages against one another, choosing the one that is more relevant for the inquired keyword.

For example, if the website sells shoes, and you use that one keyword on all your landing pages, you are telling Google that every page refers to shoes. While in reality, you may have different pages on mountain shoes, sportswear, or any other season footwear.

What really happens?

To better understand the process, we will take an example many online business owners have encountered- copywriting. Sometimes owners follow something that only feels like a natural flow of topics focusing solely on the niche. Focusing on a single topic and repeating it will increase the chances of getting noticed by Google and ranking higher... well, not exactly.

What really happens?

Including good-ranked words and planning the entire flow of topics should be the approach website owners should lean towards. So, regarding copywriting, you will find different topics on the website, such as marketing, optimization, blogging, entrepreneurship, tips, and miscellaneous content related to the focused niche.

How can keyword cannibalization harm SEO

Websites owners suffering' from keyword cannibalization are mostly not aware that something is not correct. They might be lucky enough that one page of their website is ranked fifth or sixth for the targeted keyword, not knowing that one authoritative page probably ranked even higher with better conversion.

The tangible consequences are quite clear, as they are shown through lost website traffic, changed ranking, and, finally, losing potential sales.

Keyword cannibalization potential harm

Losing domain authority

Instead of having one high authority page, you are reducing the CTR on more moderately relevant pages. In essence, this creates competition for yourself, lowering your website ranking altogether.

Backlinks that could have gone to one unified source of information are divided between two or more pages. Similarly, your anchor texts and intern links take visitors to several pages instead of having one authoritative page on the subject.

Wasting budget on indexing

The budgeting index is the number of times the browser will go through the website at a certain time. More pages attributed to the same keyword will result in unnecessary indexing pages.

A sign of low website quality

More pages targeted on the exact keywords can indicate to your audience that the content is probably spread. It also signals to Google that your content might not match the keywords on every page.

How to spot your cannibalizing keywords

Once the problem is successfully defined, removing the cannibalization of keywords is not as complex. To understand what keywords your website ranks for, it is important first to report your website at the Google Search Console.

By using a similar keyword to target multiple website pages, Google's ranking would not be able to differ in what page or text is the most relevant. This would result in taking all of them out of the game. It is essential to know that a similar result can occur if authors decide to fill in the content with the targeted keyword simply.

Back in the day, it was necessary only to mention keywords several times in the content. Such a practice can have the opposite effect, as Google can view it as a scam and might even remove the page entirely from the search. Keyword cannibalization is viewed similarly, which is why it is important to try and avoid such practices as much as possible.

Can you prevent keyword butchering?

Prevention is said to be the best medicine, which is something to keep in mind. Develop a strategy within your respective field of work or niche. And if you find yourself already with a few keyword cannibalization mishaps, try to link to the right existing pages as much as possible.

Consider removing one or more URLs (pages/posts) because the content is irrelevant, outdated, or you have better. Delete the pages or stop indexing, and maybe even consider relocating if you want to keep the work you've done so far. However, joining can be the best option if a few pages can be combined on a specific topic. Group the content to the most relevant page.

Fixing keyword cannibalization issues on your site

The most efficient solution to the problem requires information on how it came to it in the first place. Most commonly, the solution happens by simply restructuring the organization.

How to fix keyword cannibalization issues

Restructure the website

The simple solution is to look at the grand scale or the website's layout. If you feel that the content is too similar on several pages, reduce it and improve the quality of the one that is the best in quality and content, this should also boost customer engagement rates.

The most 'representative' page can be the base and lead to more specific alternatives linked as subpages, alternative but similar keywords, etc.

Develop a new landing page

If you feel that the landing page you currently have is insufficient, perhaps consider making a new one. List out all of the segments of your website, try to reproach, and regroup the content. This might take some time and research, maybe even handwritten clusters of topics, but it will leave you with more polished and unified content.

Use interlinking

The relations' internal structure might resolve some keyword cannibalization problems. Try to determine which content is more important, and then set up interlinks of the less important content directing to the more significant one. This way, Google can set apart the interlinks and rank certain content higher on the browser. Before that, remember what seems to be the most important order of the content.

Add new keywords

Depending on the specific purpose of your site, it can be a bit harder to determine the best approach to restructuring the content. However, if you have already identified the unwanted competition coming from yourself, try doing some extra research on the keywords. You might be surprised and find a better fit for some content. This will help you include variety and freshen up everything. It is crucial to keep in mind that the keywords should aim to portray the page's content as precisely as possible.

301 redirection

This resolution should come as the last option if your budget, expertise, or content can not be repurposed with other previously discussed strategies. Using 301 redirections allows you to unify the cannibalized content by linking all of the less relevant pages in one authoritative version.

Such tactics can only be used for pages with similar content and those that provide specific answers to certain keywords.

4 tips to prevent future keyword cannibalization

After reviewing, identifying, and taking the necessary steps to remove the glitches from your SEO, the final stage is to try to prevent having similar issues in the future.

Tips to prevent future keyword cannibalization

Create a project in SE ranking

Assigning target URLs to all target keywords will automate your development as it can put a red flag for cannibalized keywords. Put it in your schedule to check regularly for the ranks on the chosen keywords, and don't overlap them.

Update your keywords list

Niche-specific websites can enhance their keyword range, so it is a good idea to track the changes in Google ranks when you see that some words are ranked lower. You can use others higher to your advantage and mend the content and marketing campaigns with these changes.

Keep the content focused on intent

Every quarter tries to identify the search queries of your target audience and customers. Section this content, preferably by transactional, navigational, and informational intent. This can help you sort the keywords relevant to each category.

Long-tail keywords can diversify the content and needs

Even though long-tail keywords have a lesser search volume, they can help the organic segment of the content. The more specific it can get, the easier it will be for your pages to rank higher in Google.

Conclusion

To summarize, always try to have unique content on your website with no similar pages, titles, or keywords on other URLs. Merging content is a simple and efficient solution to keep all of the content you worked hard on, and avoid keyword cannibalization. However, sometimes you will need to push that delete button and let your website 'breathe' free of repetitive content.

A good content flow that is clear and concise will do wonders for you when combined with good usage of keywords. You can change things around and refocus on internal linking. It will help navigate the webpage visitor through your content, allowing them a diversity of information, and still keeping them on your page. Of course, the complexity of this task depends on the niche and the amount of content at hand.

Try to plan out the layout, and see your texts as a virtual map of information. Create a natural flow, and fragment the content as naturally as possible. Combine that with good use of keywords and regularly track the changes in trends as algorithms are updated more and more, creating a more complex and competitive web among the search ranks.

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