What is Keyword Cannibalization? How to Avoid and Fix it

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Introduction

SEO is  a process of optimizing a website so as to make it rank higher in search engine results pages (SERP). The main aim of SEO is to improve the visibility of a website so that it may attract more traffic from organic or unpaid search results.

SEO is vital  for any website that wants to rank well in search engines and garner more organic traffic. However, it is not an easy task. There are many factors to consider, and one wrong move can lead to disastrous results.

One such factor is keyword cannibalization. In this article, we  will discuss what keyword cannibalization is, why it happens, and how to fix it.

What Is Keyword Cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization occurs when a website uses the same or similar keywords on multiple pages. This confuses search engines, and as a result, the website’s SERP rankings suffer. 

In earlier years,  keyword stuffing was a popular SEO tactic. This involved cramming as many keywords into a page as possible, regardless of whether or not they made sense. As you can imagine, this led to a lot of keyword cannibalization.

Thankfully, Google has come a long way since then, and now penalizes websites that engage in keyword stuffing. However, keyword cannibalization is still a common problem, even for websites that don’t stuff their keywords. This can lead to a number of problems, including:

  • Confusing search engines as to which page is more relevant for a particular keyword.
  • Splitting the link equity between multiple pages, diluting the power of your inbound links.
  • Competition between multiple pages for the same keyword, resulting in lower click-through rates and conversion rates.

Why Does Keyword Cannibalization Happen?

Keyword cannibalization is commonly seen  on ecommerce sites, where there are multiple pages selling similar products. It can also happen with blog posts and articles that target the same keyword.

There can be a number of reasons behind why this occurs:

  • You may have two pages that are very similar and are targeting the same keyword without realizing it.
  • Your site may have changed and grown over time, and you now have multiple pages that are targeting the same keyword unintentionally.
  • You may be deliberately targeting the same keyword with different pages, in an attempt to rank for that keyword in different ways.

The key here is to identify  whether or not you want to rank for the same keyword multiple times. If you don’t, then you need to either consolidate the pages or change the keyword focus of one of them.

If you do want to rank for the same keyword multiple times, then you need to make sure that each page is distinct enough that it doesn’t trigger a keyword cannibalization issue. This means that each page should be targeting a different angle of the same keyword, or targeting different keywords altogether.

Identifying keyword cannibalization

Checking content:

One way to check for keyword cannibalization is to simply crawl your website and look at the content of each page. If you’re targeting the same keyword multiple times, you’ll likely see very similar content on each page.

For example,  let’s say you have a website about travel. You might have one page about “cheap travel” and another about “travel on a budget.” If the content on these pages is very similar, it’s likely that you’re targeting the same keyword with both pages.

Comparing keyword rankings:

To compare keyword rankings, you can use a tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs. Simply enter your website’s URL into the tool and it will show you all the keywords that your site is ranking for. Then, you can compare the keyword rankings of your different pages to see which ones are being cannibalized.

If you notice that multiple pages are being cannibalized, you’ll need to take action to fix the issue. The first step is to figure out why the pages are competing against each other. There are a few possible reasons:

  • You have two pages that are targeting the same keyword.
  • You have pages with similar content – You have pages with overlapping keyword targets.

Once you’ve identified the cause of the problem, you can take steps to fix it.

Comparing metrics

Another way to identify potential keyword cannibalization issues is to compare the metrics of different pages that are targeting the same keyword. If you see that one page has significantly lower traffic or engagement than the other, it’s likely that you’re experiencing keyword cannibalization.

There are a few different metrics you can compare to identify potential keyword cannibalization issues:

  • Traffic: Check to see if one page has significantly more traffic than the other. This could be a sign that one page is ranking higher in search results than the other.
  • Engagement: Compare the engagement metrics of each page, such as time on page and bounce rate. If you see that one page has a much lower engagement rate than the other, it could be a sign that the page is not relevant to the searcher’s query.
  • Conversion rate: If you’re tracking conversions on your website, compare the conversion rate of each page. A lower conversion rate on one page could be a sign that the page is not as relevant as the other.

If you see that one of your pages is outperforming the other in these metrics, it’s a good idea to focus on optimizing that page to rank higher in search results.

Check for multiple ranking URLs:

If you see that your website is ranking for the same keyword multiple times, it’s a good indication that you’re experiencing keyword cannibalization. You can use a tool like Google Search Console to see which pages are ranking for a particular keyword.

For example,  if you see that both your home page and product page are ranking for the keyword “widget,” you might want to consider optimizing your home page for a different keyword. 

Analyze your backlink profile:

If you see that most of your backlinks are pointing to one particular page on your site, it’s a good indication that you’re experiencing keyword cannibalization. You can use a tool like Majestic to see which pages have the most backlinks.

For example, if you see that most of your backlinks are pointing to your home page, you might want to consider adding more links to other pages on your site or if you see that most of your backlinks are pointing to one particular page on your site, it’s a good indication that you’re experiencing keyword cannibalization.

How to fix cannibalization issues?

There are a few different ways to fix keyword cannibalization:

Consolidating pages

One way to fix keyword cannibalization is to simply consolidate the pages that are targeting the same keyword. For example, if you have two pages on your site that are both targeting the keyword “dog food,” you would want to consolidate those pages into one.

You can do this by 301 redirecting the page that you want to get rid of to the page that you want to keep. This will tell search engines that the page you’re redirecting to is the canonical (or correct) version of the page, and that they should index that page instead.

Changing your keywords

Another way to fix keyword cannibalization is to simply change the keywords that you’re targeting on each page. This may mean doing some keyword research to find new, less competitive keywords to target.

Or, it may mean changing the way you’re using keywords on your pages. For example, if you have a page that’s targeting the keyword “dog food brands,” you could change it to target “best dog food brands” instead.

This would be a more specific keyword that’s less likely to be cannibalized by other pages on your site.

Merging or eliminating content

In some cases, the best way to fix keyword cannibalization is to simply merge or eliminate content. If you have two pages that are targeting the same keyword, you may be better off merging them into one page.

Or, if you have a page that’s not getting much traffic, you may be better off eliminating it altogether. This will help to focus the power of your site on the pages that are actually performing well.

Noindexing pages

Another option is to use the “noindex” tag on pages that you don’t want to rank in Google. This will tell Google not to index the page, which means it won’t show up in search results.

This is a good option if you have a page that’s cannibalizing traffic from another page. By noindexing the page, you can prevent it from competing with your other pages.

Internal linking structure

Your site’s internal linking structure can also impact your SEO. If you have a page that’s not getting much traffic, you may want to consider linking to it from other pages on your site. This will help to boost its authority and improve its ranking.

This is a good solution  if you have a page that’s not getting much traffic. By linking to it from other pages on your site, you can help to boost its authority and improve its ranking.

If you’re not sure how to do this, you can use a tool like Screaming Frog SEO Spider to crawl your site and find the pages that are linked to the most. From there, you can add links to these pages from other areas of your site.

How to avoid cannibalization?

Cannibalization happens when you have multiple pages on your site that are competing for the same keyword. This can split your traffic and make it harder for you to rank.

To avoid cannibalization, you need to be strategic about the keywords you’re targeting. Make sure that each page on your site is targeting a different keyword, or a different variation of a keyword.

Here are a few tips that will  help you avoid cannibalization:

  1. Do keyword research before creating new content:  This will help you identify which keywords are being used most often, and which ones are less competitive.
  2. Target long-tail keywords: These are phrases that are more specific and less competitive than shorter, more general keywords.
  3. Use keyword research tools to find related keywords:   There are a number of tools available that can help you find related keywords.
  4. Create separate landing pages for each keyword:  This will help to ensure that each keyword is being targeted by its own unique page.
  5. Create a silo structure for your website:   This will help to organize your website in a way that makes it easy for search engines to crawl and index your content.
  6. Use canonical tags to prevent duplicate content issues: This will help to ensure that your content is not being penalized by search engines for duplicate content.

Conclusion

Cannibalization is  a real issue that can have a negative impact on your SEO efforts. However, by taking the steps outlined above, you can avoid this issue and ensure that each of your keywords is being properly targeted.

Remember, if you have any questions about cannibalization or SEO in general, be sure to contact a qualified SEO agency in Kolkata to help you out.

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