Keyword Cannibalism and 5 Ways To Avoid It

This is me.

Author: Tim Strawbridge

Date Created: Dec 30, 2023

  • keywords,
  • search engine optimization,
  • seo,
  • seo tips,
  • seo mistakes
keywords laptop on desk - keyword cannibalism

Most people don't like the word cannibalism and we don't either. In digital marketing, it exists, however not in the same way. So what exactly are we talking about with keyword cannibalism? Let's take a look at a real example of keyword cannibalism, why it's not good for your ads and search engine optimization, and look at what we can do to fix it. 

What is Keyword Cannibalism

Keyword cannibalism occurs when a website targets the same keyword across multiple pages. This internal competition can confuse search engines and hinder the effectiveness of your SEO efforts. It's like sending conflicting signals to search engine algorithms and leaves them confused about which page to prioritize for a particular keyword.

How Do I Know If I Suffer from Keyword Cannibalism?

There are a few checks you can perform if you have access to a search ranking tool or Google Search Console. Detecting keyword cannibalism usually involves analyzing your website's content and search performance to identify instances where multiple pages are competing for the same or similar keywords. We use Google Search Console to tell us which search queries are entered for which pages. This gives us a general idea of where to start.

Here are some tips to start with:

  1. Use a keyword ranking tool such as Ahrefs or SEMRush
  2. Use Google Search Engine Console to view the real query data
  3. Look to see if the different pages on your website are ranking for the same keywords.

If you do find multiple pages ranked for the same keyword, be sure to analyze the searcher's intent. What are they looking for, why are they there, and which keyword got them to the page? If one page is informational another page is commercial and the other is transactional, then it probably doesn't matter because the intent is different. If the intent is the same, then there's a problem.

Here's an example of using Google Search Console:

keyword search via google search console
keyword search via google search console

Our searches have been for "content development services". Next, we need to find out how many pages are displayed to searchers.

keyword cannibalism
Using Google Search Console to find the pages that use the same keyword

You can see from the above image that the only page that is ranking for the keyword "content development services" is the home page.

Strategies For Preventing Keyword Cannibalism

If you're in marketing or a small business owner, this is almost always an afterthought, but it's important to at least consult with a professional on how you can prevent ranking loss on your website. No business owner wants to hear about losing 10 positions in search engine ranking. However, it happens more than what most like to admit. Luckily for you, we've curated a list of things you can do to prevent your website from suffering from keyword cannibalization.

1. Merge Content 

Old content can be one of the instigators and may be eating up the same keywords that other pages should be ranking for. One way to handle this is by merging content. It's not recommended in all cases but is effective if done correctly. After merging content, be sure to make use of 301 redirects so the original search engine crawl data isn't lost.

2. Page Optimization

You can optimize pages by rewriting content to provide distinct keywords. Doing this will certainly help against your web pages from suffering from keyword cannibalization. Start at the meta tags and work your way down. Here are a couple of things to remember: ⬇️

  1. Do the meta tags have the proper keywords?
  2. Do the URLs have keywords?
  3. Do the images have keywords in the image name?
  4. Do the images have keywords in the alt descriptive text?

3. Restructure Internal Links 

Internal links are great for helping search engines establish a high-order priority within your website. The search engine will determine what content will rank on which pages. When a crawler comes across a page, it scans the links and determines the order of importance for the linked pages. If you link a page with more authority on a content page, search engines may rank the linked content higher than the page you're writing content for. 

4. Using Canonical Tags

Implement canonical tags to specify the preferred version of a page when duplicate or similar content exists. This helps search engines understand which page should be prioritized. The canonical tag can be found usually in an SEO plugin or can be inserted manually in the header of a webpage.

<link rel="canonical" href="" />

5. Create New Pages

You can create new landing pages with consolidated content that will serve as the "holy grail" for your optimized keywords and content. This should be done only after there's been a thorough analysis of the content and a determination of which pages will provide the new content. This strategy would be a part of a pillared content strategy that any related content could link to.

As part of a content strategy, the importance of keeping a tight grip on the relevance of the content is far superior to any of the ways we've indicated above. By aligning the content to the users search intent plays a key role in preventing unwanted pages from eating up your keywords. By implementing these page optimization strategies, you can create a more cohesive and effective SEO strategy that minimizes the impact of keyword cannibalism. Consistent monitoring, adjustments, and a holistic approach to page optimization contribute to improved search engine rankings and overall website performance.

If you're interested in learning more about keyword cannibalization or need guidance on how to optimize your website for the best performance and search engine gains, you can reach out to Tim Strawbridge at 815-491-0786.

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