Keyword cannibalization is the usage of the same or similar terms by multiple web pages in their content, meta tags (such as title tags and meta descriptions), headings, and other on-page elements. Search engines like Google could find it difficult to decide which website is the most relevant and deserving of a higher position when this occurs.
The problem with keyword cannibalization is that it can lead to several negative outcomes:
- Confused Ranking Signals: When search engines encounter multiple pages targeting the same keyword, they may have difficulty understanding which page should be prioritised for that particular keyword. As a result, the ranking potential of those pages may be diluted or reduced.
- Fragmented Authority: Keyword cannibalization can split the backlink authority and user engagement across multiple pages instead of consolidating them into a single, authoritative page. This fragmentation weakens the overall ranking potential of the website.
- Inconsistent User Experience: If different pages on your website are competing for the same keyword, users may encounter similar content or repetitive information when navigating through your site. This can lead to a confusing user experience and potentially discourage visitors from exploring further.
Main types of cannibalizations
- Overlapping Theme Cannibalization: This type of cannibalization occurs when multiple pages on a website target the same or highly similar keywords and cover similar topics. It often happens unintentionally when content creators or SEO practitioners create separate pages without considering the potential overlap in keyword targeting and content focus. This can confuse search engines and make it challenging for them to determine which page should rank for specific keywords.
- Authority Injection Cannibalization: This form of cannibalization arises when internal linking is not optimised properly. It happens when a page with high authority and strong backlinks links to another page that is competing for the same or similar keywords. The high-authority page inadvertently passes its ranking potential to the competing page, leading to cannibalization. This can occur when internal links are placed haphazardly or when the anchor text used in the internal links is not well optimised.
- Poor Internal Linking Cannibalization: In this case, cannibalization occurs due to inadequate or inefficient internal linking. When there is inconsistent or insufficient internal linking between related pages, it becomes challenging for search engines to understand the hierarchy and relationship between the pages. As a result, the ranking potential may be dispersed, and pages may compete against each other instead of collectively contributing to the overall website’s authority.
- Non-Contextual Optimisation Cannibalization: This type of cannibalization occurs when multiple pages on a website are optimised for the same or similar keywords without considering their contextual relevance. Each page should have a unique focus and purpose, targeting specific aspects or subtopics related to the broader theme of the website. When pages lack contextual optimisation and differentiation, they can cannibalise each other’s rankings.
How to identify different types of keyword cannibalization
To identify different types of cannibalization on your website, you can follow these steps:
Conduct a Comprehensive Keyword Analysis:
Start by using SEO tools to perform a thorough keyword analysis for your website. Look for overlapping keywords and search terms across multiple pages. Identify pages that target the same or similar keywords, as they might be indicative of cannibalization.
Analyse Content Similarity:
Review the content of pages that are targeting the same or similar keywords. Look for content overlap, similarities, or identical content on different pages. Pages with closely related content might be cannibalising each other’s rankings.
Examine Organic Search Rankings:
Check the organic search rankings of the pages in question. If you find that multiple pages are ranking for the same keywords, they might be cannibalising each other’s positions in search engine results.
Review Organic Traffic and Conversion Data:
Analyse the organic traffic and conversion data for the affected pages. If you notice that multiple pages with similar content are receiving lower traffic or conversions, it could be a sign of cannibalization.
Check Internal Linking Structure:
Evaluate your website’s internal linking structure. Look for cases where pages with similar content or keyword targeting are heavily linked to each other. Improper internal linking can lead to cannibalization.
Monitor Backlink Profile:
Examine the backlink profile of the pages involved in potential cannibalization. If you notice that high-authority external links are pointing to multiple pages that compete for the same keywords, it could contribute to cannibalization.
Utilise Google Search Console:
Google Search Console can provide valuable insights into your website’s performance in search results. Use it to identify pages with similar keywords and their respective performance metrics.
Look for Duplicate Content Issues:
Check for duplicate content on your website, especially if multiple pages are targeting the same keywords. Duplicate content can lead to cannibalization and negatively impact rankings.
Analyse User Behaviour:
Understand how users interact with the pages in question. Are they landing on one page but quickly bouncing back to another similar page? Analysing user behaviour can help you identify cannibalization issues.
How to fix keyword cannibalization:
Fixing cannibalization on your website involves taking specific actions to resolve the issues that are causing multiple pages to compete for the same keywords. Here are the steps to address and fix cannibalization:
- Downgrade the coding by Changing the Title and Then Boosting with Links:
- If you have multiple pages with similar content targeting the same keyword, consider downgrading the theming of certain pages by adjusting their titles to target less competitive or less important keywords.
- Then, strengthen the preferred page (the one you want to rank higher) by building high-quality backlinks to it. These backlinks will signal its importance and authority to search engines.
- Merge 301 Pages or Merge Two Pages Into One:
- Identify pages that are very similar or have overlapping content.
- Merge these pages using 301 redirects to redirect traffic and authority from the non-preferred page to the preferred one.
- This consolidation helps avoid cannibalization and consolidates the ranking potential onto a single page.
- 301 Older Content to Your Chosen “Doorway” Page:
- If you have older content that overlaps with newer, more relevant content, consider redirecting the older pages to the newer, more valuable “doorway” page.
- The “doorway” page should be the most comprehensive and up-to-date version of the content.
- Link to the Page That You Want to Be the “Doorway”:
- Ensure that your internal and external links point to the preferred “doorway” page.
- By strategically linking to the preferred page, you can strengthen its authority and improve its chances of ranking higher in search results.
- Noindex/Archive Content That Is Competing:
- For content that doesn’t provide significant value or overlaps too much with other pages, consider using the “noindex” meta tag to instruct search engines not to index it.
- Alternatively, you can archive the content or remove it from the sitemap to prevent it from competing with more valuable pages.
- Create Hub Pages:
- Hub pages act as central resources that link to related subpages or articles on a specific topic.
- By creating a hub page and linking to relevant subpages, you establish a clear hierarchy, reduce cannibalization, and enhance your site’s organisation.
Benefits of solving Keyword cannibalization
Resolving keyword cannibalization issues is crucial for improving your website’s SEO and organic traffic. Here’s how it helps search engines better understand the unique value and relevance of each page:
- Improved Content Focus: By consolidating or differentiating content on your website, you provide clear signals to search engines about the primary focus of each page. When content is well-structured and focused, search engines can more easily determine the relevance of each page to specific search queries.
- Enhanced User Experience: When you address keyword cannibalization, you ensure that users are directed to the most relevant and valuable content for their search intent. This improves the user experience as visitors find the information they are looking for more efficiently, reducing bounce rates and increasing engagement metrics.
- Stronger Ranking Signals: By eliminating duplicate or overlapping content, you avoid sending conflicting ranking signals to search engines. Pages that were once competing against each other can now collectively contribute to the overall authority of your website.
- Clearer Information Architecture: Fixing cannibalization often involves optimising your website’s internal linking and site structure. This helps search engines understand the hierarchy and relationships between different pages, making it easier for them to crawl and index your site.
- Better CTR and SERP Performance: When each page has unique and optimised meta titles and descriptions, they stand out more in search engine results pages (SERPs). This can lead to higher click-through rates (CTR), as users are more likely to click on the most relevant and engaging results.
- Focused Keyword Targeting: By mapping specific keywords to individual pages, you avoid keyword overlap and ensure that each page targets different aspects of your overall content strategy. This strategy also allows you to capture a wider range of search queries.
- Positive User Signals: As search engines analyse user behaviour, resolving cannibalization can lead to positive user signals, such as longer dwell times and more time spent on the website. These signals can influence search engines to rank your content higher.
For improving the user experience and SEO performance of your website, keyword cannibalization must be resolved. You may aid search engines in comprehending the special worth and importance of each page on your website by addressing overlapping content, improving internal linking, and giving them clearer signals. Your prospects of getting higher ranks, garnering organic visitors, and eventually boosting the success of your online presence are subsequently increased. By putting the tips in this manual into practise, you’ll be able to resolve cannibalization problems and improve your website’s exposure and user interaction with search engine results.