Any content writer and/or marketer worth his salt knows the importance keywords play in ranking their pages higher on Search Engine Result pages(SERPs) of Google and other search Engines. Keyword optimization, which is the use of relevant keywords, when properly done can play a vital role in driving qualified traffic to your website from search engines.
However, most content strategists think the more keywords, the better the ranking. Some even assume if more pages rank for the exact keywords, their chances of online visibility increase.
But the above-mentioned keyword strategy can backfire, leaving your website with declining SEO metrics. It confuses your readers and search engine crawlers alike.
You can avoid these problems by hiring professional and reliable agencies like Authority Magnet.
What is Keyword Cannibalization?
Often websites own multiple blogs and articles that rank for the same target keyword. It sounds like a clever idea to curate more pages against one primary keyword.
However, this SEO strategy can backfire, creating negative impressions on your website’s holistic optimization performance.
When web host posts several blogs for one target phrase, they force their pages to compete against the other. That’s how the pages receive lower click-through rates.
Besides the declining CTR, the website loses its domain authority as the potential visitors may need clarification on which page holds more credibility. These strategies cause inconveniences, and therefore, the visitors may bounce away.
In a nutshell, not only does a website get a lower ranking or may not rank at all. Also, such search engine optimizing techniques can reduce your conversion rates too.
Such an SEO anomaly is known as keyword cannibalization.
When you devote too many articles to similar keywords or concepts, you split the SEO benefits between two or more pages of the same website. This type of SEO misstep doesn’t allow search engines to gauge the importance of a page.
When you cannibalize keywords across blogs, Google is confused about which blog to rank higher. Such a keyword strategy doesn’t improve your website authority or enhance the quality of your content that aims to satisfy the search queries.
Using such a keyword-optimization strategy, you’re asking Google to assess and weigh the worth of your blogs and pick the one that matches your user’s search intent suitably.
Keyword cannibalization can occur because of the following reasons:
- Publishing new webpage versions of the old article without deleting the previous one.
- Redirecting customers to the same product page from different articles on the website.
- Optimizing similar content for the same keyword.
- Writing content on similar topics with the exact same keywords.
Examples of Keyword Cannibalization
To better understand how this can affect your SEO effort, consider an example.
Suppose you’re a content writer who curates articles on SEO. For your website, you’ve written one article on link building and another on the importance of internal linking.
Now, either of the articles may showcase a different angle of a content’s link-building procedure. However, if you target similar keywords like ‘internal linking in SEO ‘ or ‘benefit of internal linking’ that cater to the same search intent, Google would find it difficult to determine which page is more valuable for you or relevant to the user’s search query.
Website owners can avoid such problems by choosing keywords with diverse search intent, thus increasing their chances of gaining better visibility and credibility among users.
For instance, if you specialize in travelogues or hotels, you can use two keywords like ‘Best hotels in Mallorca, Italy’ and ‘Amenities Provided by <Your Hotel Name>’. These have different intents. One of them is more informational and the other transactional. More on that later.
How Does Keyword Cannibalization Affect SEO?
The use of wrong or similar keywords in your content can affect your overall website performance. More importantly, multiple pages targeting similar keywords go directly against Google’s ranking guidelines(regarded as a black hat SEO tactic) and are flagged as inappropriate by search engines.
With the launch of the Panda algorithm update in 2011, Google penalized sites having duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations(source: Search Engine Journal). As per the Panda algorithm update, repeatedly positioning the same keyword lowers your quality score, leading to no ranking in some cases.
Some ways how keyword consolidation affects SEO are:
1. Lowers Page Authority
When you split the subject into two articles, you turn your web pages one against the other, jeopardizing the pages’ authority.
In this scenario, the search engine bots can’t decide which web page serves the search intent better. Similarly, the searchers reading the content are left wondering for more because neither provides users with complete information.
As a result, web page visitors leave the website and don’t click on either of the page links on the results page.
Note: Google prefers websites that prioritize user experience and lowers the ranks of pages that don’t fulfill this criterion.
2. Weakens The Linking Profile And Anchor Texts
One merged web page has a better chance of gaining more backlinks. If you write two or more articles targeting the same keyword, backlink opportunities are split between them.
For instance, instead of one high-performing article acquiring 20 backlinks, keyword cannibalization may cause these links to be shared among other content pieces.
Moreover, this may dilute the power of anchor texts. Simply because, in this case, the anchor texts redirect consumers to different pages, affecting the page authority.
3. Exploiting The Crawl Budget
The number of pages a search engine can navigate and index is called the crawl budget. When multiple articles target the same topic, the search engine bot crawls and indexes them needlessly.
That way, you’re squandering the crawl budget, which may result in other pages on your website not getting indexed. Not getting indexed would mean your page wouldn’t be displayed in the Search Engine Result pages(SERPs). You wouldn’t want that to happen, right?
Note: Such a situation can adversely affect large e-commerce sites with a broad audience base. Small and medium-sized business websites may not spot the difference.
4. Reduction in Conversion Rate
If you’ve two or more web pages targeting similar keywords or phrases, only one will finally attract potential clients, while the other may lag in the competition.
Instead of investing SEO efforts in creating one high-performing web article, multiple web pages get divided attention from the audience. That’s how you’re losing audiences to the other low-performing page.
This reduction in conversion rate can affect your revenue growth and eventually lower your organization’s digital presence.
5. Confuses Google’s Bots
According to SEO experts, keywords enable search engine bots to read and assess the text to understand the content’s context. Likewise, they put it against the searcher’s intent and evaluate if it’s the best match.
What happens when all your keywords are similar?
In that case, Google bots get confused about which one to rank higher.
There is a high chance that Google may lower the rank of articles with high-converting potential.
You may miss the opportunity to broaden your audience base.
How to Identify Keyword Cannibalization?
Before SEO cannibalization hurts your ranking impact, follow this guide to identify and audit keyword anomalies:
1. Get a Keyword Research Report
Use keyword research tools like Semrush’s Position Tracking facilities to monitor the Google ranking results. With that report, a content writer can eventually identify possible cases of keyword cannibalization.
Gain free and essential content insight from their cannibalization report.
Other external tools like Ubersuggest speeds up and simplify the process to produce necessary data for better keyword planning. These tools are a few cost-effective methods to weed out competitive pages.
2. Search Your Website
It’s among the most straightforward methods a website host can use to identify possible keyword problems. To do that, look up all the keywords relevant to your industry.
For instance, you write blogs about boutique hotels around the world. Run a Google search using frequently used keywords like ’boutique hotels in Paris’ or ‘must-visit by-the-beach boutique hotels’.
In the SERP, check if your articles appear and how many are competing for a mutual search query in the SERP.
3. Google Search Console
GSC is a crucial tool helping website owners to spot keyword cannibalization on their websites. Once you log into your Search Console account, apply a keyword as the filter Query.
Navigate to the Pages section and check how many links appear against the keyword mentioned.
If more than one URL receives a considerable CTR, it’s a sign of keyword cannibalization.
Also, you can manually analyze the pages to check if they’ve overlapping keywords and cater to similar user search intent.
How to Fix Keyword Cannibalization?
The solution for keyword cannibalization is to pick the right webpage with high-performing potential for every keyword. Ensure that the search engine bots know which pages to index and which to avoid.
Some strategies you can apply to fix keyword capitalization are:
Whether it’s an old landing page or a similar FAQ page, redirect loops can take your audience to the right web page without wasting their time. To begin the fixing process, identify the URLs with overlapping search intent.
Single out the URL based on its SEO potential and finalize it for the audience to get redirected here.
It’s always advantageous to redirect your audience to an older web page, especially if it has a better Page Authority(PA) score.
On implementing 301 redirects from redundant pages to quality content, Google bots give more points before indexing. Also, they generally take a few weeks to remove them from the Google index.
2. Canonical Tags
Sometimes, you must keep an extra pathway to the product page or the duplicate pages with PPC potentials. Use canonical tags for this purpose.
The canonical tags inform Google bots that the preferred article is ready for indexing. It ensures that the page ranking feature lies at one position while the rest can follow suit.
3. Content Creation
Use research tools to get a complete competitive keyword analysis. Free and external tools like Moz, Ahrefs, and Semrush’s Keyword Explorer, can give insights into the variable keywords your competitors use in your niche.
For instance, if you’re writing about strawberry sponge cake and caramel cakes, it’s unwise to use ‘sponge cakes’ or ‘cakes’ as the target keyword. Instead, be more specific and use strawberry sponge cakes as your primary phrase.
Next, optimize the content with all kinds of on-page SEO elements.
4. Noindex Tags
Use noindex tags to stop your search engine bots from indexing redundant pages. It’s an HTML code that educates the crawlers on which pages they cannot index.
It can be your last option to prevent duplicate pages from appearing in the search results. That way, it doesn’t compete with your other pages for a specific SERP position.
5. Better Linking profile And Content Optimization
Keyword cannibalization occurs when you’ve one authoritative page that overshadows another subcategory page, targeting similar keywords.
For instance, you’ve written a high-performing travel guide linking to keywords like ‘best sites to visit in Dublin.’ Also, you’ve another article with the same primary keyword but no major linking profiles.
In this scenario, the search engine will inevitably rank the travel guide for ‘best sites to visit in Dublin.’ It’s because Google will find the article highly relevant.
To resolve this situation, use the cannibalized key phrase as the anchor text and link it to the article that lists the best sites to visit in Dublin.
A descriptive anchor text and relevant internal linking always help optimize the article for better ranking.
Frequently Asked Questions
A few common questions about keyword cannibalization are:
Follow the below strategies to fix keyword cannibalization:
• Use 301 redirect
• Replace compromised keywords with new ones
• Consolidate your content into one piece
• Re-optimize your website
• Create new landing pages
Targeting the same keyword, improper linking, and lack of redirect loops are some causes of keyword cannibalization.
Keyword cannibalization is bad for your website’s overall SEO performance. That’s because your webpages receive divided SEO attention, and you eventually lose chances of conversion.
Multiple pages rank for the same keyword when keyword cannibalization occurs. Since the pages will rank lower in SERP it can harm your website’s performance for organic visibility.
With the following steps, you can adapt to keyword difficulty:
• Determine your backlink needs and accordingly choose keywords
• Understand your domain and URL rating
• Get an insight into your competitor’s keyword usage
• Refer to the user’s search intent and check how your keywords match
Yes, keywords affect the SEO performance of your content. That’s because the right keywords tell Google about the context of your article. It enables the search engine to determine what content to display.
Refer to the following steps to improve keyword performance in your content:
• Replace your primary keywords with latent semantic index keywords
• Learn what keyword variations your competitors use
• Select keywords that match your industry needs and service requirements
Earlier, content strategists believed keyword stuffing and cannibalizations, could boost their SERP ranking. However, times have changed, and advanced optimization algorithms downgrade websites that practice such black-hat SEO tactics.
Moreover, it downgrades the ranking potential of your webpage because they start competing against each other.
Instead, it’s sustainable and preferable to focus on one target keyword per topic and optimize content with keywords of varied search volumes. Contact Authority Magnet today and seek their content writing services for healthy SEO performance.