Let me guess, you have a massive authority site with hundreds of pages of content, aaaand it’s not ranking as high as it should.
Keywords are a commonly used term in the marketing world. They help boost your search engine optimization (SEO) and make it easy to attract traffic to your website. Keyword integration is essential to the success of your business, especially in an increasingly online world. However, there is such a thing as using keywords improperly—whether it’s done intentionally or not. In this article, we’re going to focus on one of these improper uses: keyword cannibalization.
What Is Keyword Cannibalization Exactly?
Keyword cannibalization is a term that describes focusing on optimizing a single keyword throughout multiple posts and pages on a website. People who don’t have much experience with best SEO practices usually do this unintentionally, but that’s not to say the pros haven’t succumbed to it either.
When post after post or page after page of content targets the same keyword, it muddles the underlying search intent and makes it harder to grow in the search engine results pages (SERPs). This ends up having a counter-intuitive result. Targeting keywords is supposed to help you grow, not shrink you down. When you have multiple pages optimized with the same keyword, you end up competing with yourself. You spread out the benefits of having one, strong piece of content and that ends up harming you in more ways than you’d imagine.
The Negative Effects of Keyword Cannibalization
Instead of competing with yourself, you need to focus on outranking the competition. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself with a slew of negative side effects. Check out a few of the most common below:
- Diminishing Authority
Rather than creating one, high-achieving page of content, keyword cannibalization spreads out your results. You will experience a lower per-page click through rate (CTR) because each of your own pages competes against each other rather than an external competitor.
- Over Saturation
Pages with the same keywords cause over saturation in content and spread out information for visitors, backlinks, internal links, and anchor text. Rather than having one authoritative page, backlinks are divided and split between all of the pages optimized for specific keywords. Similarly, you end up directing your visitors to multiple pages revolving around the same keyword instead of one, primary location.
- Decreased Value in Relevant Pages
The pages you have that are relevant to your website end up decreasing in value because of over saturation and diminished authority. Google doesn’t know which page to rank as #1 and as a result, your strongest may end up lower in the SERPs.
- Demonstrates Poor Quality
Content creation is all about giving your readers value. However, when a person winds up on a website with multiple pages that are very similar and stretched way too thin, a red flag goes up. It signals poor quality and more often than not, they’ll leave your site.
- Lower Conversions
Since one of the main purposes of your website is to increase profits, this is an important side effect. In most businesses, one page does much better than others at turning conversions. When you have too many pages, your high-converting page might get lost in the shuffle and you’ll lose leads, sales, and loyal customers.
- Harm to Your Crawl Budget
This is mainly for larger organizations and e-commerce sites to worry about, but it’s still important to note. Search engines will go over your sitemap and URLs only a limited number of times and when you have too many pages with similar keywords, you significantly lower this crawl budget.
How to Identify Keyword Cannibalization
Since keyword cannibalization is often done unintentionally, the main problem is taking the time to identify when or if it’s occurring. The good thing about this is once you understand what you’re doing, it becomes more apparent and is easy to fix. First, identify all of the areas your keywords are cannibalizing your website.
Open a spreadsheet and create a keyword matrix—something that lays out your site’s main URLs and the keywords they’re associated with. If you’d prefer to use a tool like Site Explorer, that’s fine too. Just make sure you have your URLs and associated keywords in front of you.
Once you’ve compiled all of them, scroll through and search for any keywords that are duplicated. If you find some, you’ve identified places where your website is cannibalizing keywords. Now you need to work on eliminating them.
How to Eliminate Keyword Cannibalization
Like we mentioned before, once you identify where you’re suffering from keyword cannibalization, it’s fairly straightforward to fix. A lot of the time, the main problem is simply organizational. If it’s not, you’ll just need to add some redirects or add a different landing page. Let’s walk through all of the ways to eliminate keyword cannibalization from your website.
- Examine Your Content
Chances are some of the content you have across multiple pages cannibalizing each other is good content. Maybe they bring in a lot of organic search traffic, have a high rate of conversions, or get strong click through rates (CTR). You don’t need to delete either of them. This would de-value your site, especially when your audience is benefiting. All you need to do is go through and de-optimize one, or more, of the pages for the specific keyword. Look at the content itself along with any internal or anchored links and either delete the keyword or find a new one to use.
If you’re not getting benefits from the content, or if you’re pages are pretty similar, consider consolidating them. Take a few weaker pages of content and merge them into one. This can boost authority and help you get a stronger piece of content for SEO rankings.
If the page is irrelevant, just delete it from your website.
- Fix Your Website’s Structure
The way your website is structured tells search engines which page is the “master” or most authoritative page of your site. It prioritizes that page and ranks it better in SERPs. Take your authoritative page and transform it into a landing page.
Using the landing page as a starting point you can link additional pages with keyword variations together and create a hierarchical structure for algorithms to read.
- Add Landing Pages
If you don’t have a strong landing page, create one that will dominate your site. Just like we mentioned above, having a strongly authoritative page helps search engines understand how to rank your pages accordingly.
- Redirect Pages
If your website has a large number of pages that rank for the same keyword, you’ll need to go in and add some redirects. While this is generally ill advised, it’s worth it to fix any keyword cannibalization issues. Redirect the affected URLs to the strongest, most relevant page of content. If content is vastly different but rank for the same keyword, use one of the aforementioned processes instead.
- Research Fresh Keywords
If you go through the above and fixed all of the internal problems, it’s time to research some new keywords. Having a strong keyword strategy is essential to your SEO efforts, so take the time to use any of the keyword tools online – like Google Keyword Planner – and create a campaign to launch new content. Just remember, relevancy and accuracy is important.
Keyword cannibalization can happen to anyone, regardless of if they’re SEO beginners or pros. It’s easy to let it fall under our radars, but if we’re mindful of our SEO strategies we can avoid any problems before they start. Luckily, at the end of the day keyword cannibalization is an easy fix with reversible damage. Use the tools provided above and you’ll be on your way to SEO success.