- What is Keyword Cannibalization?
- Is Cannibalization Bad for SEO?
- How to Check Your Website for Keyword Cannibalization?
- How to Fix Cannibalization Issues? 5 Tips
- How to Avoid Cannibalization in the Future?
- Keyword Cannibalization in SEO - The Takeaway
What is Keyword Cannibalization?In a nutshell, keyword cannibalization happens when there are two (or more) pages within the same domain that are optimized for the same exact keyword. For example. Let’s say there’s an e-commerce store offering women’s clothes such as summer dresses. As you may guess, the subpage with the mentioned products should be optimized for phrases like “summer dresses”. This keyword has a big search volume and is popular among users which means that people google it a lot. Apart from the product category, the above-mentioned online store runs a blog where you can find an entry titled “Summer dresses – how to choose the perfect model for your body shape?”. This entry is optimized for the same keyword as the product category - this is what we call keyword cannibalization in SEO.
- Keyword-oriented blog entries optimized for the same phrases as product or service category pages.
- Different subpages (e.g., product/service category pages, home page, “about us” page, etc.) optimized for the same keyword.
- Blog posts and tag or category group pages (this may involve not only keyword cannibalization but also internal content duplication which may be penalized by Google).
- Numerous pages devoted to a similar and recurring topic (e.g., industry-specific blogs, similar products with different color versions).
- Online stores that offer a narrow product range (e.g., a business selling printed sweatshirts).
- Incorrect internal linking (applying the same anchors on different subpages).
Is Cannibalization Bad for SEO?Keyword cannibalization has a huge impact on SEO. As mentioned above, it can result in extreme ranking fluctuations. Therefore, it’s vital to consult technical SEO specialists before implementing any website modifications. During our adventure with SEO, we have encountered numerous situations where clients were ranked high in the search results, but decided to expand different subpages on their website. Although saturating the page with quality content is usually seen as a good practice, it’s crucial to match proper keywords to individual subpages so that Google can easily analyze them and assign specific keywords to them. Moreover, it’s worth mentioning that incorrect internal linking can also cause keyword cannibalization, therefore, it’s crucial to devise a careful strategy to make sure that you don’t use the very same anchor for several pages. Apart from your overall position in the search results, keyword cannibalization may also affect:
- The conversion rate – if a given keyword is assigned to more than one subpage and seems accurate at first, it may simply confuse users, increase your bounce rate, and consequently, decrease your conversion rate.
- Content quality – it’s difficult to create equally valuable content discussing the same topic on numerous pages. If the entire text or its fragments are duplicated across various subpages, it may decrease the overall quality of your website content.
- External linking – proper backlink building is the cornerstone of every SEO strategy. If different external domains use the same anchor to link to a few subpages within your website, the link juice is passed on per each subpage, which means that instead of improving the position of a specific subpage and its keyword, links will continue to confuse Google and won’t bring you any tangible benefits.
- Your “crawl budget” – each page has a defined indexing budget, which is the number of times the search engine crawls the site in a given period of time. When many pages are optimized for the same keyword, it triggers crawling and subsequent indexation of unnecessary subpages. Even though this may not be an issue when talking about small websites, it can significantly harm large pages and online stores.
How to Check Your Website for Keyword Cannibalization?There are a few methods you can use to check your website for keyword cannibalization.
Content AuditIf your website isn’t particularly sizable, you can conduct a content audit to quickly spot any elements that cause cannibalization.
Site:domain.comIt’s the quickest and the simplest way to check your website for keyword cannibalization. All you need to do is to enter the phrase “site:yourwebsite.com + keyword” into the search bar, and you’ll see all the subpages within your website assigned to this specific keyword. However, it’s advisable to be careful when using this solution, because when Google isn’t able to find a matching piece of content, it returns pages vaguely.
Google Search ConsoleIf you want to check your website for keyword cannibalization for specific keywords, you can use the performance tab in Google Search Console and filter for phrases you want to analyze. Then, go through subpages that are shown for a selected keyword, check them for keyword cannibalization, and modify your content accordingly to solve the problem. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIoZAx8upmY[/embed]
How to Fix Cannibalization Issues? 5 TipsWhat should you do when you find out that SEO keyword cannibalization is an issue on your website? There are a few possible solutions:
Use Canonical LinksInstead of duplicating the same keyword on many pages, use several synonyms and create internal links redirecting to the pillar (canonical) page. To put you in the picture, let’s go back to the example discussed before. The “summer dresses” product category should be marked as more important than blog articles devoted to the selection of summer dresses. To inform Google which subpage should be displayed first for this specific phrase, tag its link as canonical, modify the blog entry title and provide a link to the category page in the blog post. This way, you can notify Google about your priorities.
Use RedirectsThis method won’t solve all cannibalization issues, but it works well in some cases. Thanks to it, you can merge many low-value, duplicate pages into one that seems more valuable for both users and search engine robots. Moreover, redirects are also a great way to pass on the entire link juice.
Create New Intent-Focused ContentThink about the reasons people enter a specific phrase into Google. There are four main search intents, including:
Optimize Your Content for Long Tail KeywordsDon’t focus on short, generic phrases! Instead, go for long tail keywords that can prevent your website from future SEO cannibalization. Let’s go back to the example with summer dresses. Why shouldn’t you title the blog entry as “How to find a summer dress” and optimize it for related long tail keywords?
Use the Noindex TagIf you don’t want to delete subpages with keyword cannibalization, use redirects, or canonical tags, you can always apply the noindex attribute. As the name itself suggests, thanks to it your subpage won’t be indexed by Google, and it won’t take any power away from other pages. That's how you can protect your website from the negative impact of SEO keyword cannibalization. The noindex tag may be a good idea when a given subpage is displayed for the same keywords as another piece of content on your website, yet it’s functional for users (e.g., it contains blog tags or categories). In this case, the attribute prevents keyword cannibalization and internal content duplication.
How to Avoid Cannibalization in the Future?Although there are possible solutions to the problem, it’s always better to save the redirects or canonical links for the last resort. It's much better to learn how to avoid cannibalization. How to create content that has a positive impact on the SEO process and doesn’t cause cannibalization?
- Make a list of keywords crucial for your business and try to assign selected phrases to specific subpages on your website.
- Try to come up with subpage titles and content that are somehow related but don’t use the same keywords. For example, if you run an online store with suitcases and one of your product categories is “travel suitcases”, remember not to title your blog entries like this: “Travel suitcases – how to choose wisely?”. Instead, change the word order or apply synonyms and create a long tail keyword that won’t cause cannibalization: “How important for your business are travel suitcases?”. While mentioning specific models in your blog articles, provide links to relevant categories or products from your offer. Remember to be natural - your article should be more than a list of links.
- Keep in mind that diversifying your content can bring you various benefits - texts optimized for various long tail keywords may reach users with different search intents, and at different stages of the customer journey. It’s worth taking advantage of this opportunity to increase your brand recognition, and position yourself as an expert in the field.