What is Keyword Cannibalization? How to Identify & Fix it? Apr 09, 2022 |   keyword cannibalization

One of the most underestimated SEO approaches is keyword cannibalization. In fact, certain SEOs suggest that it does not exist, which adds to the misunderstanding and creates even more myths. However, keyword cannibalization is a problem for several websites, and it can seriously harm your rankings.

It’s just that it’s probably not what you think it is. And, with that in mind, let’s clear the air and help you understand what it is, what it isn’t, and how you can identify and resolve issues that may be restricting your website from reaching its maximum potential.

What is Keyword Cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization occurs when you have multiple blog posts or news stories on your website that can rank in Google for the very same search term. Because they are too similar in the topic or because you improved them for the same search term. When you optimize posts or news stories for related search queries, they reduce each other’s chances of ranking. In most cases, Google will only show one or two results from the same domain in the search engine results for a given query. You might get 3 if you have a high authority domain.

Is Keyword Cannibalization Bad for SEO?

Yes, keyword cannibalization is terrible for SEO as when multiple pages competing for the same search term, the power you’ve earned is divided and each page becomes less viewable on Google. As an SEO, your purpose is to make your website as visible as possible for the keywords you’ve chosen. You’ve buggered up if you have two landing pages fighting each other on page 2 of results rather than a single one on page 1. Fortunately, it is not a difficult problem to resolve. I’ll show you how to detect keyword cannibalization using a set of basic tools.

How to Identify Keyword Cannibalization?

Don’t be concerned if you suspect your website may be suffering from keyword cannibalization. By following a few simple steps, you can quickly identify and fix them.

Here are some methods for detecting keyword cannibalization.

Search Through Your Website

Looking up search queries related to your industry is a simple method to look for keyword cannibalization. For example, if you own a company that provides digital marketing services and regularly posts content on marketing and SEO topics, conduct a Google search using some of the keywords you regularly use. These could be “SEO techniques” or “beginner marketing tips.” This type of search returns all web pages that are ranked for this keyword. Search to see if two or more of your articles are lining up for the same spot.

Using Third-Party Tools

You can either use keyword research tools, such as SuiteJar, to help you simplify things or get more thorough data for good keyword planning. This can help you identify keyword cannibalization more quickly and save you time, funds, and effort in removing competing pages from your website.

Site Search Exclusive to Google

To make it convenient to find keyword cannibalization, simply type the name of your website before entering the search term. We are taking the example of Yoast SEO. Here’s how it appears in the Google search engine:

How to Fix Keyword Cannibalization?

Once you’ve determined that there are keyword cannibalization issues on your site, it’s time to address them.

But, first and foremost, you must recognize that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to this and that the route you take to resolve the issues is highly dependent on your particular circumstances.

Simply put, the solution to one cannibalization problem is unlikely to be the same as the solution to another. When the time comes, there are common fixes to which you can refer. These include…

Cannibalized Pages Must Be Removed and Redirected

If you discover that your site has dozens of pages targeting the same intention, but you only need to keep this live, the best way to solve the problem is usually to implement 301 redirects.

Once you’ve determined which pages are cannibalizing the most (consider internal links pointing to the webpage, organic accessibility across other terms, and historical traffic as signals), immediately delete the others and 301 redirect their Hyperlinks to the page that is left.

This is usually the most simple method of resolving cannibalization issues. Make sure to update any inbound links that refer to the deleted pages, but apart from that, the deleted URLs should fall out of Google’s index over the course of a few weeks.

Canonicalization

You may not always be able to eliminate the cannibalized pages and keep only one. This could be a dedicated PPC home page, a fantastic piece of content from a user-experience standpoint, CMS restrictions resulting in page duplication, or something else entirely.

However, if this is the case, it is recommended to use canonicalization to help you sort out the issues.

This allows you to select one page as the main one, denoting that it should rank on the Search engine results page, as well as making sure that ranking inputs, such as link equity, are related to the canonical page. Hardly any of the pages will have to be removed, and users will still be able to access them all.

Noindex

If you are unable to remove and redirect the troublesome pages for whatever reason, incorporating rel=”noindex” tags (or an HTTP Response Header) on all but the webpage you have selected as your main page can often be just as impactful.

Going down this path means that all pages on the website can still exist, but all but one will be de-indexed, fixing the cannibalization issues. However, canonicalization should be preferred over noindex because ranking signals are contributed to the canonical, whereas they would not be otherwise.

Re-optimizing pages

Frequently, you will discover that you have apparently caused metadata cannibalization merely by not optimizing for search term variations. Assume you run an ecommerce website and sell a product in various colors. It is popular to see different products on unique URLs with much the same title tag, H1 tag, and no definite differentiation between the variants other than the image. In this case, you can re-optimize the webpage to target specific variations and avoid cannibalization.

Rework on Internal Linking Structure

In some cases, reworking your internal linking structure can help to solve cannibalization issues, particularly if you use related keywords anchor text that points to multiple pages. Reworking internal links to make sure that they point to the correct page (rather than a cannibalized version) can help to clean up problems. However, it is rarely sufficient to completely resolve the problem. To see better results, combine this strategy with cleaning up pages that compete for intent.

Merging & Consolidating pages

When you have two (or even more) relatively weak pages that are cannibalizing each other due to competing on purpose, it makes perfect sense to integrate and consolidate these into a separate page. Essentially, you’re making one stronger page out of several weaker ones.

When you don’t have a clear main page, this is generally the best method to take because one piece of content is a standout, has links pointing to it, or is already obtaining traffic when you can’t determine a primary page.

It may also imply that you need to add new content to enhance the last page and that 301 redirects are in the spot for any pages that are removed or URLs that are modified to ensure that any page rank signals are passed over.

Developing New Intention-Focused Content

One popular cannibalization issue encountered by ecommerce sites is that an individual product page ranks for keywords related to their product range. When this occurs because no ‘range’ specific category exists, the solution is as simple as creating one. When there isn’t a webpage that resembles the intent, you’ll see a ranking for ‘the next best thing,’ so you go ahead and build one. You should then notice that the problem has vanished as a result of your ability to satisfy this intent.

How to Prevent Keyword Cannibalization?

It is possible to detect and fix keyword cannibalization, but it is sometimes preferable to prevent the problem rather than spend lots of money and time fixing it.

How?

Here are a few expert-recommended methods for avoiding keyword cannibalization and improving your digital marketing strategy.

Make a Keyword Strategy That is Specific

If you’ve been dealing in digital marketing for a while, you’re aware that keyword strategy is important. The good news is… One of the most effective ways to avoid keyword cannibalization is to fine-tune your targeted keyword strategy so that there is no competition or troublesome overlap. In a nutshell, this involves optimizing different pages for various relevant keywords queries.

Keep track of your keyword rankings and performance.

Having a keyword strategy is totally inadequate. Once you’ve decided on the keywords you want to deal with, you must monitor their performance over time.

Tracking keyword analytics on a regular basis will help you recognize which keywords are ranking, which have more competition, which may be wrapped up in cannibalization, and which require a boost.

You can monitor keyword rankings, effectiveness, and other metrics directly through your website analytics tool, or you can use third-party tools such as Google Analytics, SEMrush, Ubersuggest, Ahrefs, SuiteJar, Moz, SEO monitor, and others.

Priority should be given to topics, keywords can come second.

Keyword cannibalization occurs when marketing departments become more centered on keyword optimization rather than content creation around important subjects. If you’re behind on search terms, there’s a chance you’ll overlook topics and content quality, slowing your progress toward reaching your marketing objectives.

Rather than devoting all of your resources to keyword research, make it a part of your advertising strategy to also focus on topics. Determine what topics your target audience is interested in and guide your resources to meet those needs. Allow the keywords to come second.

Conduct regular content audits.

Okay, so you’ve developed solid keyword research, set up tools to monitor performance, and focused more on audience interest topics. So, what now? You must now conduct frequent content audits to ensure that what you’re posting is still relevant to your readers’ preferences and marketing objectives.

Final Thoughts

Keyword cannibalization isn’t a big deal, at least not in the sense that most people think of it. Google is not “confused” by multiple pages about the same topic or aiming at the same keywords. It understands what’s on those pages and assigns them a ranking based on that knowledge.

Is this to say that Google will always rank the page that you want it to rank? Obviously not. However, this does not imply that it is “ranking on the incorrect page” or that drastic measures are required to “solve” the problem. Many popular “solutions” to keyword cannibalization are damaging.


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