Keyword strategies are not created equal. Some can do more harm than good. These include keyword cannibalization, or using too many similar keywords throughout the content of your site.
Here are five effective strategies to avoid committing this search engine optimization (SEO) offense.
5 SEO Tips to Kill Keyword Cannibalization
Contrary to popular belief, keyword cannibalization is not against any search engine guidelines. In fact, the likes of Google do not care about it. Instead, they do what they do best: rank and show the pages that perfectly answer a query.
So why should you worry about it? According to Digital Authority Partners:
- Search engines could end up ranking the less-relevant pages for your targeted keyword.
- It dilutes backlinks because you spread them across similar types of content.
- Keyword cannibalization can decrease click-through rates (CTRs) for every page.
- When users encounter similar-sounding pages, their online experience can diminish.
- If you have a huge website with hundreds of pages, keyword cannibalization is a significant waste of your crawl budget.
All these factors can negatively impact your search engine ranking and overall SEO efforts. The good news is that fixing them is not as complicated as you would like to believe.
1. Know If You Indeed Have a Keyword Cannibalization Issue
Many marketers mistakenly believe that keyword cannibalization happens as soon as two pages share similar keywords. Think about “shoes for sale” or “discount shoes.”
In reality, the issue may not be cannibalization if:
- The pages have different types of user intent. Even if these pages have similar keywords, they can still differ in the end by their long-tail and related key terms and phrases. For instance, “shoes for sale” may be transactional and include words such as “buy shoes for sale.” “Discount shoes” may be navigational, as in “Nike discount shoes.”
- Two articles are ranking for the same keywords and then some. In other words, your copies appear for several keyword types or intent. You do not have a problem if the articles remain targeted with excellent CTRs and conversions.
2. Conduct a Comprehensive Content Analysis
A quick, filtered Google search using the search operator “site” can help you determine whether you are already dealing with keyword cannibalization. Simply go to Google’s search bar and type “[target keyword] site:[your domain],” for example, “discount shoes site:shoestore.com.”
Usually, the results show:
- Two or more pages use the targeted keyword in specific places, such as their URLs, meta descriptions, and titles.
- The pages contain similar content or even talk about the same topic.
- They share almost the same internal links.
But this manual method works only if you have a small website. As your pages grow, you should perform extensive content analysis.
Many SEO platforms can already do that for you, complete with numerical data and graphs to illustrate the issue. However, you can better understand the depth of the problem by working with a digital marketing team that can evaluate these pages effectively.
3. Consolidate the Pages
Let us say that your content analysis confirms your suspicion. How do you resolve it?
One of the tried-and-tested strategies for keyword cannibalization is consolidating the pages. It works because you can now drive all the traffic, strengthen the relevance, and supercharge your domain authority into one article.
Consolidating pages to avoid keyword cannibalization can be a tricky business, especially when you have several to deal with. Consider these tips to help you:
- Audit each page, including traffic and rank. Prioritize the one that tops these two categories.
- Combine the information. Better yet, get rid of the outdated data and add recent ones. This way, you can make your content more helpful and follow search engine guidelines.
- Link related pages together, helping the search engine connect topics that contain similar keywords.
- Use the 301 redirects to deliver traffic and guide the bots to the updated page. You can also create new content and upload it to one of the existing URLs.
To further streamline your content hierarchy, you can delete any redundant pages. However, do this only when you know that they do not contribute to your overall SEO plan. For example, they do not provide significant traffic or do not rank on the first three pages.
4. Pivot One of the Pages
Another way to tackle keyword cannibalization is to modify the intent, angle, or structure of other pages. For example:
- Convert the article with the highest traffic and ranking. Then, you can add articles with similar keywords as references or sources to this article.
- Provide a deeper dive into the topic by creating an in-depth article or a series of posts.
- Focus on one page and optimize it for long-tail keywords that can better describe the content. You can add these phrases in the headlines, titles, and body text.
- Optimize the pages for voice search queries.
Topic clustering can be a godsend for keyword cannibalization and, ultimately, SEO campaigns. Through carefully organized website organization and content structure:
- It ensures search engine crawlers understand the exact meaning and context of your words.
- It is easier for your readers to find what they need on a page.
- Search engine crawlers can better associate content with relevant topics.
5. Continuously Keep Track of Your Keyword Performance
Many keyword cannibalization cases are unintentional, but that does not mean that this problem is worth tolerating.
You need to catch it before it gets worse, and a solid way to do that is through regular monitoring of your keyword performance.
- Run weekly and monthly reports on each of your targeted keywords and compare their rank, impressions, clicks, CTRs, etc. If they fluctuate often, you might have keyword cannibalization right there. This is because search engines struggle to determine how to rank your articles.
- Set up alerts when your keywords drop in rank. Use Google Search Console or Insights to receive information on market trends, keywords your audience uses, and whether your pages appear on these queries.
- Know your competitor’s content marketing record. How do their copies rank compared to yours in a targeted keyword? Analyze the pages. What do they talk about? What is the intent? Who is their target audience? If they place higher than you, check if you have similar pages you can consolidate to beat them.
Keyword cannibalization is not a fatal sin as far as search engines are concerned. But it is no excuse to ignore it because it hurts your rankings and traffic in the long term.
These five strategies should help you identify and solve the problem. If the issue is so complex, though, work with a qualified SEO agency. It has the right tools and resources to maximize your website’s potential.