Keyword cannibalisation is not a very prominent topic in most SEO circles but it can be quite detrimental to your website ranking and performance in many ways. Let’s look at what keyword cannibalisation is, the problem it poses to your site’s ranking and performance, and how you can avoid and fix it.
Keyword cannibalisation is the consequence of targeting the same keyword on multiple pages of your website. The problem usually starts when the overall information architecture of your site leads you to target a single phrase or term on different pages of the site. The result is several pages of the same website with the same keyword on the titles, header tags, and in the content.
Keyword cannibalisation may be done unintentionally but in most cases, it arises from the misconception that the more pages we have targeting a specific keyword, the better we’ll rank for that keyword. We do it in the hope that Google will pick up the keyword on several pages of the site and rank the home page higher. Sadly, this is never the case. In fact, using the same keyword on different pages does more harm than good to all your SEO efforts.
So What’s the Problem With Keyword Cannibalisation?
Keyword cannibalisation does more harm than good. All the pages on your website that have the same keywords in titles, header tags, and content will actually be competing against each other in search engine results pages. You’ll actually be competing against yourself and the rest of your competitors. And even if you were lucky to rank several pages, they’ll all have lower click-through rates, diminished authority, and lower conversion rates.
In most cases, some or all of the pages sharing the same keyword may not rank at all or if they do, rank lower than if you had targeted the keyword in just one page. Keep in mind Google hardly lists two or more pages from the same site for the same query in its top 10 results on the first page. The exception is when the user is searching for a specific website. This is because Google’s objective is to provide the best results for its users and would rather show ten results from ten different sources than show multiple pages from a single website.
When Google crawlers visit your website, they want to be sure that the page provides information relevant to the search query. If you are going to show the crawlers different pages as responses to the same query, your site appears confused and the crawlers may even pick and rank the wrong page. For example, they end up ranking your blog post instead of the main products categories page, which has a better chance of generating conversions or leads.
Keyword cannibalisation will also cost you the following SEO benefits:
- Keyword cannibalisation kills your conversion rates. It doesn’t make sense to waste time and resources on multiple pages with the same objective if only one page has a good conversion rate. It would be wiser to focus all your efforts on just a single page for each keyword and harness the same traffic in one place for higher conversion rates.
- Keyword cannibalisation ruins the quality of your content. When you target multiple pages with the same keyword, you are actually telling search engines that all the pages have the same content. Your website risks being seen as having duplicate, low quality content meant to trick search engines. You lower site’s authority and reduce chances of getting referrals and links.
- With different pages on your site covering the same topic or subject, you miss out on the SEO value and benefits of having internal anchor texts on a single page.
- You’ll also be sharing the value of external links on different pages of your site rather than focus them into one page and rank better. External links have great SEO value to a page when they target one phrase or keyword.
How to Avoid and Fix Keyword Cannibalisation
How you avoid and fix keyword cannibalisation is simply a matter of organisation. In some cases, you may need to create new landing pages or even use 301 directs in more severe cases.
Here are a few practical ways to avoid or sole keyword cannibalisation:
Give your website a good structure
The best way to avoid keyword cannibalisation is by identifying your most authoritative page and making it the key landing page with links to other pages of your site that focus on the same keyword. For example, you can have the main page targeting “Melbourne Winery Tours” as the source page and link other pages with more specific variations of the keyword back to it, eg. “Essential Items to Bring for a Winery Tour”. With such a structure you don’t run the risk of duplicating the same keyword on different pages.
You can also combine pages with similar content
If you have different pages with content that’s not unique enough to exist as multiple pages targeting the same keyword, you could simply consolidate them into a single page. You’ll basically be taking two or more underperforming pages and transforming them into a single authoritative source. You’ll also be taking care of the problem of thin content in the process. If you don’t have a page that combines all your products or services on one page, you may consider creating a new landing that will serve as the authoritative source page.
Look for new keywords for each page
You may be having a website with content-rich but highly diverse pages but with a poorly organised keyword strategy hence the keyword duplicate issue. All you need to do in this case is find new keywords that accurately describe the content on each page.
When to go for 301 redirects
We don’t generally recommend using many 301 redirects but they may become necessary if your site suffers from keyword cannibalisation. 301 redirects allow you to consolidate content that has already been cannibalised simply by linking the less relevant pages to one authoritative page. Don’t go overboard with 310 redirects and only use this method on pages that have similar content or those targeting the same keyword.
The best way to avoid keyword cannibalisation is by ensuring that each page in your website provides something unique to both your readers and the search engine crawlers. When each page serves a different purpose, you are not likely to have multiple pages with the same phrases on titles and heading tags. The content will also be unique, which is what good SEO is all about.