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How to Identify and Remedy Keyword Cannibalisation

07 September 2019 | 0 comments | Posted by Breanna Golub in Industry Experts

Identify and remedy keyword cannibalisation issues

Keyword cannibalisation is when a single website is targeting the same keywords on multiple blogs, articles and pages, within the one website. A common misconception within the SEO industry is that the more pages targeting a specific keyword, the more likely the site is to rank higher.

If you’ve been creating content around the same topic for a few years, there’s a good chance that you’ll have an overlap of keywords. Multiple targeting the same keywords on a single domain is essentially eating away at each other’s chances to rank.

When a website has multiple blogs or landing pages all using the same focus keywords, it becomes difficult for Google to decipher which page should rank for one particular keyword. As a result, due to the competition, sometimes neither articles will end up ranking for the targeted keyword or query.

While keyword cannibalisation is usually unintentional and often occurs when a site is putting out a healthy stream of content, it is something that webmasters should be wary of, considering it is likely to impact the rankings of the entire site negatively.

Many of those experiencing keyword cannibalisation are often unaware that they are harming their own site’s efforts. In fact, to the untrained eye, one website ranking both third and fourth for the same targeted keyword may even be a positive result.

However, what some may not realise, is that it’s far more powerful to have one authoritative page than two that are ranking.

The impact of diversity

In June 2019, Google announced that they would be updating search results to include greater diversity.

The update means that websites intentionally targeting the same keyword across multiple posts or pages would no longer be rewarded with numerous page one results.

Additionally, keyword cannibalisation can also have a negative impression on many other SEO opportunities, such as:

Content quality

If the content is being duplicated, replicated and written over and over, the quality is compromised. If numerous pages are being targeted with the same keyword, they are likely to be based on the same topic.

This may seem as though there is a good knowledge of this particular topic, but it also puts the website at risks of poor quality.

Multiple pages targeting the same keywords will give off the idea that content within site is stretched thin.

Duplicate content doesn’t result in high amounts of valuable referrals and links, as it’s a sign of poor and low page quality.

Authority of the page is being diminished

Rather than having one more authoritative page, you’re diluting your authority across several landing pages.

Having the same keywords on multiple pages means you’ve essentially turned your different pages into competitors. Now they are all competing against each other for page views and SERP rankings.

Conversion rate

Inevitably, with multiple pages, one of them is going to convert better than the rest.

The highest-ranking, most authoritative and valuable page will naturally provide the higher the site with better conversion rates.

If you have two or more pages with similar or the same objectives, it’s likely that the efforts being put into targeting both pages for the same keywords are better off being focused into the one that is already converting better.

The lower converting page targeting the same page is not worth the energy as potential leads are being lost when users are landing on your less relevant pages.

External linking

Links coming in externally ideally boost the SEO of a page, as it’s a way for Google to see other pages pointing to those particular keywords. However, different pages with those keywords will mean the external links will be splitting between the competing keywords on the site’s different pages.

This will impact the value of the external link, as it’s being shared between multiple pages or articles.

To get the most value out of external links, it’s best to have specific keywords not duplicated on multiple pages so it can’t be cannibalised.

Internal anchor text

Using the same keywords within your site on multiple pages will also create problems internally for a website.

The internal anchor text and internal links will lead visitors to various different pages within your site rather than the one authoritative page with the best content.

Google may discredit the more authoritative page

Google’s crawlers have a multitude of ways to decipher what pages are about and how important they are.

If one website has the same keywords being targeted on different pages, Google will do it’s best to try and work out, which is the most valuable.

If the content is too similar, with the same keywords, queries and search terms being targeted, there’s a chance Google can get it mixed up and credit the lesser authoritative of the pages.

SEO onsite

Image source: seolium.com

Identifying keyword cannibalisation

If you’ve suspected keyword cannibalisation within your site, identifying it can be rather easy. Searching for your site for the suspected keywords will be able to give the results.

If you’ve found that your site is ranking several pages for the same search query, you’re likely suffering from keyword cannibalisation.

The easiest way to keep an eye on a website and ensure keyword cannibalism doesn’t occur is organisation. Safari Digital recommends keeping a spreadsheet listing each URL, and the corresponding target keywords will give clear visualisations of any double-ups of keywords used in multiple pages.

If the spreadsheet shows duplicated content in the column of target keywords, the next step is to consolidate content where necessary or use new keywords for pages or articles that aren’t applicable for merging.

Googling ‘site:domain.com” keyword” will also give an insight into whether or not a website is experiencing keyword cannibalism with multiple pages.

Another great tool to also use for detecting keyword cannibalisation is Google Search Console – the data will show all queries with more than one landing page. This will offer a simple way to see where keywords are being duplicated and eating at each other’s chances of ranking.

There are plenty of ways that proper research and planning can be implemented to prevent keyword cannibalisation. Picking focus keywords based on volume, low competition figures (where possible), optimising titles, metas, alt tags and content in general for the specific keyword terms will ensure a carefully paved road for a good keyword strategy in the long run.

Solving keyword cannibalisation

The good news is, once it has been identified and the problems have been detected, fixing keyword cannibalisation is relatively simple. As stated above, sometimes it can be as simple as merging content or finding new target keywords for the content that doesn’t suit consolidation.

Combining articles and content that are based on similar search queries will not only strengthen the ranking of the page but is a simple solution to keyword cannibalisation.

If two articles are attracting the same audience and are telling the same narrative, combining and merging them together to make an even better article will provide much better results for both your website and Google’s crawlers.

You can also help Google to understand which is the most authoritative and vital page by setting up a strong internal linking structure. Posts, articles and blogs that are less important and relevant, should be linked to those that are relevant.

This way, the trail of links will point Google directly to the most authoritative and vital pages. This is an efficient way to solve keyword cannibalisation and strengthen the internal linking of a website.

For most business owners, keyword cannibalisation is often inevitable. Within a niche or business, it can be straightforward and will come naturally to write and post content about the same thing over and over, especially if it is a passion of the business owner.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but something to be wary of in terms of search engine optimisation.

As well as resolving any existing duplicate content problems, it’s crucial also to double-check any new articles when planning, to prevent content creation competing with existing pages.

New content creation should be filling the gaps on a website, not targeting the current keywords. 

About the author

Breanna Golub is the content strategist at Syndey based Digital Marketing agency Safari Digital SEO Agency

Breanna Golub

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