You want your site to attract visitors and rank well for your targeted keywords, so you add those keywords to multiple pages. The more pages that rank for a keyword, the better, right? It turns out that that is not actually the case. If a site is ranking more than one page for the same keyword, chances are, keyword cannibalization is at play.
Keyword cannibalization is a common problem, and it can happen on any site. As the name cannibalization would suggest, this is not something that you want to occur on your website.
Let’s explore exactly what keyword cannibalization is and what you can do to find it and fix it.
What is keyword cannibalization?
Keyword cannibalization is when you have a keyword targeted on multiple different pages. This can happen when content is created that is too similar to other content on a website. This becomes a problem, especially with old content when new content competes for the same keywords. Keyword cannibalization is fixable, but it is important to be able to identify the problem and take steps to avoid it from happening.
Negative effects of keyword cannibalization
Unfortunately, keyword cannibalization can be tricky to spot, and you may not know that it is an issue unless you look for it. This problem is vital to address as it can negatively impact your ranking and digital marketing efforts.
So what can happen to a site with keyword cannibalization?
1. Google may misidentify the more relevant page
Imagine your website has a perfectly crafted page that explains a concept and includes relevant keywords and calls to action. This page can perform very well and get conversions. Now imagine that you create another page that targets the same keywords, but this isn’t the page you want visitors directed to.
With keyword cannibalization, Google gets confused about which page to show users when they are both targeting the same keywords and are about similar content. Google can show the wrong page to users, which can hurt the better page’s performance and overall conversion. In this scenario, you are essentially competing with yourself for clicks.
2. Link equity is diminished
External backlinks can be a great way to rank higher and help your SEO efforts. If your pages are ranking for the same terms, you are effectively splitting those backlinks between two different pages which can hurt any SEO efforts. Similarly, the same thing can happen for internal links. Internal links can be directing users to different pages that have basically the same content. It would is better to have a single page for the content where all links point to.
3. Conversion rate and CTR split up among multiple pages
Rather than having one quality page designed to provide relevant information, if you have multiple pages ranking for the same terms, you run the risk of splitting clicks and potential conversions between those two pages. This could increase the bounce rate or decrease the amount of time spent on a page, which will negatively impact rankings.
How to avoid keyword cannibalization
The easiest way that you can avoid any instances of cannibalization is to keep track of existing content and make a plan for future content. In a spreadsheet, track all of your URLs and their relevant keywords. Take time to understand any old content and make sure when you create new pages; they are not targeting the same keywords. Any time you create new content, cross-reference your spreadsheet and see if the new content contains any duplicate keywords.
How to identify and fix keyword cannibalization
It is important to regularly audit your site to ensure that it remains optimized. While auditing, it’s a great way to check for any instances of cannibalization. The best part is that you can complete this process without using subscription tools. You can use a matrix much like the spreadsheet for avoiding keyword cannibalization.
First, work to create a matrix either in Excel or google sheets that lists all of your site’s URLs. Include a column for all corresponding keywords each page targets. Once you have a comprehensive list of all keywords, filter through the words, and identify keywords that are targeted on more than one page.
While this process is very manually, there are also some useful subscription tools you can use such as SEMrush or Ahrefs keyword searches. When you have completed auditing the keywords on your site, you can work to fix any identified problems.
There are numerous ways that you can go about fixing the issue. Each method depends on the situation and what you want to accomplish with each page.
1. Merge similar content into one page
If you have two pieces of content that are very similar, the best option is to merge the content into one. Once you combine the content into one piece, use a 301 redirect to the new merged piece to ensure you keep any link equity the individual pieces had.
2. Reoptimize content
If the content is different and valuable enough, you want to keep both pages. Reoptimizing the pages is the best option here. Work to identify new and different keywords for one of the pages and work to incorporate them so that the page is optimized for new terms. Make sure you remove all instances of the old, duplicate keyword from places like the title tags, meta description and any anchor text from internal links.
3. Canonicalize your URLs
If you have multiple pages and want to keep them both because they each are helpful and have good backlink profiles and link equity, you can use a canonical tag. A canonical tag is a tag that you can add to a page that tells search engines that a particular page is the primary or preferred version of your content. This tag can help you prevent duplicate content by telling the search engine which version of the content you want to be displayed in the search engine results.
4. Use a 301 redirect
The last method is to use a 301 redirect. Choose the best page out of the affected pages, and 301 redirect all links to a single page. This ensures that any link equity from the other pages will be passed to the main page that you want the search engines to display.
There are a lot of factors to consider when looking at keyword cannibalization. Luckily, there are ways to fix the problem and get your digital marketing efforts back up and running. By following best practices and ensuring that you organize your content strategy, you can easily avoid any cannibalization issues.
You don’t have to do it alone! There are professionals to help you execute and implement a plan to fix keyword cannibalization. Contact WebFX today for a free quote and site analysis to see what we can do to help!