An Introduction to Keyword Cannibalisation

SEO Content , Article , SEO

Have you heard of keyword cannibalisation?

Unless you know what you are doing, stacking keywords on your website could be doing more harm than good. Most people haven’t even heard of it, but keyword cannibalisation could mean that you are fighting against your own pages and damaging your website’s SEO.

Read on to learn all about keyword cannibalisation, and how to avoid it.

What is Keyword Cannibalisation?

It’s where various articles/blog posts on your site rank for the same query on Google. The name keyword cannibalisation comes from the fact that you’re “cannibalising” your results.

You split content, links, and conversions between several pages when it should be only one. It occurs most often because topics are too similar. Or you might have optimized them for the same keyword or phrase. If you optimize posts for similar search phrases, they’ll eat away at each other’s ranking.

The belief that many marketers have is that several pages relevant to certain terms are good to have. It would boost rankings. Google would notice the website’s expertise and rank it higher because of this. But that’s not how it works.

You’re not showing Google the depth and broadness of your knowledge. And it won’t improve how Google views your authority on a topic or an industry either.

Why IS Keyword Cannibalisation Bad?

There are several reasons this is bad for your SEO. We’ll go through a few of them here below.

You Diminish Your Authority

You’re splitting your content into several pages that are only a little relevant. You don’t have one page that has a high, in-depth authoritative knowledge. You turned your pages into the competition, and you’re fighting yourself for SERP ranks.

You’ve Diluted Your Anchor Text & Links

You’re splitting backlinks across 2 (or more) pages. They’re better served on a single, consolidated piece of content.
The same with internal links and your anchor text. You’re leading people across several pages instead of one, authoritative, related piece.

Your More Relevant Pages Might Have Less Value

One of the main ways Google understands your page content is through keywords. If all the keywords are the same, Google will try to find the page that fits the best. Add in the possibility that your content is too similar, then Google can choose the wrong pages.

You’re Hurting Your Conversion Rate

Even if your pages are similar, one is going to end up converting better than the others. You should divert users and make this the most authoritative page on the topic.

When you’re directing users to less relevant and less useful pages, you’ll turn users off. This will result in fewer conversions and this means money down the drain.

How Do You Avoid Keyword Cannibalisation?

Several pages optimized for the same keyword alone isn’t keyword cannibalisation. It only becomes this when those pages have the same intent.

Keyword cannibalisation almost always happens on accident. Usually, it’s when you release new content without considering your older archived pieces. When this happens, you end up competing against yourself. When more than 2 pages have the same intent, Google doesn’t know which to rank, or which is more useful to users.

On the odd occasion, a piece will have stronger ranking signals than the others, but this isn’t common. What happens is all the posts end up not ranking as well as they should have. They’re cannibalising each other’s ability to perform in the rankings.

How Do You Spot Keyword Cannibalisation?

In order to spot keyword cannibalisation, you need to audit your site. Here are a few ways to spot it:

You Notice Your Ranking Position Fluctuating

This fluctuation in rankings usually happens in tandem with changing URLs. You may notice that your position in the rankings for set keywords keeps fluctuating. Often this will be excessive.

When URLs are changing and you have keyword cannibalisation, it sends conflicting signals. This means the ranking can’t settle. You don’t control the backlinks to your site, so you may find that your organic hits on your competing pages vary from week to week.

You Struggle to Increase a Specific Keyword Ranking

You might feel like you should see your ranking increase, but it seems like your website is stuck. Especially in cases where you secured great links and the content was excellent. It’s frustrating, but it’s a very common sign of keyword cannibalisation.

What’s happening is that the authority of your pages has split across 2 or more instead of that 1 great page. Neither page is ranking as high as it could and bringing the other down.

One of the biggest ranking factors is your link quality. When link authority splits over several URLs, it’s confusing. It sends off a bunch of conflicting signals. So if your rank isn’t going up, it’s time to check for cannibalisation.

How Do You Fix Keyword Cannibalisation?

Good news! With a bit of effort on your part, it’s not the end of the world and you can fix it. Here are a few ways to sort out your cannibalisation issues.

Merge Content

If you have 2 or more articles that are almost the same and bringing in the same audience then combine them. Rewrite the posts into one, longer, in-depth post that’ll knock your audience’s socks off.

You get a 2-for-1 deal with this cannibalisation solving method. This will also help boost your rankings. Google is a huge fan of well-written, lengthy, juicy content it can sink its teeth into.

So, you’re adapting 1 article and deleting the rest. But don’t make the mistake of pressing the delete button. Redirect the post you’re removing to the one you’re keeping!

Get Better at Internal Linking

To help Google work out which article is the most valuable content-wise, get better internal links. You should link from posts that aren’t as important, to ones that are your best or most important in your opinion.

Google can then follow the links to work out which one you want to pop up highest in the searches. A solid internal link structure could solve some issues with keyword cannibalisation.

Set Up New Landing Pages

You could also cause issues if you don’t have a landing page that puts all your product pages in once place. If this is the case, you should create a unique landing page to act as an authoritative source page. Then link all your product/service pages from there.

What Are Some Tools To Help You Check?

Yes, there are tools that will help you out. We’ve listed a few in this section to help get you started.

Position Tracking Tool by SEMrush

One popular tool for finding keyword cannibalisation is the Position Tracking tool in SEMrush. With the Business or Guru plan, you’ll be able to access a tab called “cannibalization”. This is where you want to start so you can find issues with your site.

You can look at each keyword that flags to see where your URLs rank. It’ll also show you the position they’re in as it prioritises opportunities. These positions consider ranking, search volume, and traffic estimation.

You can also use this tool to study your URL fluctuations to pinpoint any cannibalism. To see a keyword’s history as well, you expand the arrow next to the search term outwards.

These features help identify cannibalisation at top-level. It’ll work out where it began, and what exact pages are cannibalising each other.

Google Search Console

Another great tool for keyword cannibalisation is Google Search Console. Go to the performance report to see a list of queries that your site earned clicks and impressions from.

Click on one using the “pages” tab, and you’ll see a list of the URLs that rank for it and their stats. If you see more than one URL ranking for it, this needs further investigation. It could be a case of cannibalisation.

It’s important to note that GSC pulls your data together and displays an average. Pay attention to the device, location, etc filters. You can use these to get more accurate data results.

Site: Search Operator

Search “site:[domain] [keyword]” in Google to find Google’s view of your website and how it ranks you. You should be able to take any of your keywords, search it, and know what should be at the top. If something ranks higher than you expect, you likely have keyword cannibalisation.

If this is the case, look over the intent of these pages, then make your changes as above. Roll out these fixes to make sure only one page has a specific intent.

Keyword Cannibalisation Doesn’t Have to Eat You Alive

Keyword Cannibalisation can be a major issue for your SEO, but it doesn’t have to be. The trick to avoiding keyword cannibalisation is clear focus. Every page on your website should have clear intent, and a unique keyword it is built around. This ensures that your pages are never in competition with each other and helps them rank.

If you want to give your SEO a boost contact us today at StudioHawk. Our white hat SEO techniques have a proven track record, and our clients see an average of 300% ROI.