We do not need to tell you about the importance of SEO for your digital business.
SEO has gone beyond all the basic simple steps and now SEO experts are leaving no stone unturned to make sure that every web page is search engine optimized.
One of the most important ways to enhance SEO for a website is to identify the keywords in your niche and use them accordingly. This will increase your search engine page rankings when Google indexes your website.
After you have successfully identified your keywords, what a lot of SEO experts do is that they target one keyword and use it on a lot of web pages.
The common notion is that the more your pages you stuff with your keywords, the higher chances you have to get better SERPs. That is where most people go wrong.
Today we will discuss all keyword cannibalization. Before that, let us first know the concept of keyword cannibalization.
What is Keyword Cannibalization?
When you use one particular keyword in more than one web page just to achieve higher ranking for that keyword, you become your own competitor.
That is why all the web pages that contain that keyword lose authority, the click-through rate is also known as (CTR) goes down and even the conversion rates go down for that web page.
In simple words, keyword cannibalization means you are splitting the CTR, links and the conversion rate between two or more web pages which should have either been merged together or should have had different target keywords.
This can be explained with an example as follows –
If you are selling online jewelry and your target keyword is ‘silver jewelry’. If you have two web pages that have the same keyword, it might happen that both the pages will have similar content and information.
Instead of doing this, you should merge these two pages together and club all the content in one page.
You might think that it is a good idea if you rank into nearby search results. But it is better to have a 3rd ranking once, rather than ranking twice in 7th and 8th position.
If your ultimate plan is to have separate ranking pages, it is better you do that for a different set of keywords.
Keyword Cannibalization and SEO: What You Need to Know
You have understood the concept of keyword cannibalization and you know it is harmful to your website.
But do you know how it affects your website?
Before we go further, let us have a look at why you should not be doing keyword cannibalization.
1. The authority of both the web pages is damaged and you are responsible for it:
When you use the same particular keyword for two or more web pages, your web pages become each other’s competitors; each page is fighting against the other to have more page views. So what happens is both the pages become only moderately relevant.
You could have avoided the situation and clubbed both these pages together to have one highly relevant page.
When you do keyword cannibalization, Google identifies your website like the one that stretches its content and makes it thin. So your web pages might not rank at all.
2. Even the more relevant page will lose its value:
Google is continuously striving to read and understand each web page of every website that exists.
But when it will find that there are two web pages that have similar content and have the same set of keywords, it will not value any of the pages and your web page that was actually more relevant, will not be of any importance anymore.
3. The content quality is poor:
That is very obvious. Having one particular keyword would mean that the content of both pages will be quite similar.
Readers will actually have to visit both the web pages to find out that they have very similar content. They will be irritated for sure, this will also hamper your credibility in your industry.
4. External links will be diluted:
For example, your website has two or more pages where you have written about one particular topic, like hats.
Apart from this, you also have multiple other external sites which link back to these pages about hats. It would make such a mess.
It would be so much better if all those external sites could link back to just one page on your website on the topic of hats.
5. Even the internal links and anchor text will be diluted:
When you have several web pages targeting the same keyword, you won’t be able to make the best use or even understand the value of internal links and anchor text.
Anchor texts and internal links actually help you understand which keyword or topic is the most relevant. But having several pages for one topic will not be able to help you understand that.
How to Identify Keyword Cannibalization?
Since you know now that keyword cannibalization is fatal for your website’s SEO, you should do everything to avoid it.
How you are going to avoid it, we will discuss that in the next segment. But before solving the issue, you should know how to identify the issue first.
1. Use Ahref’s Site Explorer to export all your keywords
For starters, you first have to export all the keywords that your website ranks for with the help of Ahref’s site Site Explorer.
The procedure is simple. You can use the Organic Keywords report on the tool and then download to save the CSV in your system.
2. From the downloaded CSV, import the data into the Keyword Cannibalization Finder tool:
After you have downloaded the CSV, the next thing you have to do is open your copy of Google Sheets and from there, go to the sheet called ‘Ahrefs KW Export’.
Select the cell A1 on that sheet. Next, go to File and select Import. And then you upload the CSV export of the Organic Keywords report there.
You will find a pop-up and you have to select the option ‘replace data at selected cell’. Select that option and leave everything else as they are.
Then click ‘Import data’. Then move to the ‘Results’ tab to check the results. That’s all you have to do.
You will find that it will only pull through the words or phrases which are present in more than one page in the search engine page results. This is how you will know that your website is facing keyword cannibalization issues.
The results if this tool is generally quite accurate, but even then they are not 100% foolproof.
How to Solve Keyword Cannibalization?
Now you know what is keyword cannibalization and how it affects your website and your business overall. You also know how true check if your website is facing keyword cannibalization issues.
What is the next obvious step?
You will be looking for solutions now as to how to solve keyword cannibalization. There are lots of things you can do and none of them are difficult or beyond your reach.
So if your website is detected with keyword cannibalization, here is what all you can do to solve it.
1. Deoptimize the pages:
One of the most common ways to create cannibalization is when there is the same or similar content on more than one web page of their website.
Now Google has a web crawler that crawls through various web pages and tries to understand your page.
When it finds that there are two pages with similar content, it gets confused. It also wants to avoid bad SEO from ranking on the first page.
So, the easy solution you can have for your content cannibalization problem is you should check your SEO title tags.
You know that SEO title is the strongest way to determine the relevance of web pages and content. So the first thing to do is to check these title tags.
You can then check your heading tags and keyword density and ensure that you have created a page that has unique content and even unique headlines.
But that is not all. Even off-site optimization is important to shape the content of a page. Say, for example, you have 2 pages, one about ‘hats’ and the other one about ‘red hats’.
If you use too many anchor texts from the ‘hats’ content to the ‘red hat’ page, you will end up giving a signal to Google that your hat page wants to have a higher rank for the red hat page as well.
Instead of doing this, you can build more links that should target various permutations and combinations of long tail keywords like ‘hats that are red’.
2. Remove the page and create 301’s
After you have done the best you can to deoptimize a page, you can then actually sit and think whether the two pages are addressing the same concept or not.
Google always looks for relevance to the topic. If more than one page on your website is addressing the same topic, you will want to remove the rest of them.
When you are removing pages, you can create a 301 and make that redirect from the old page to your new and unique page. Then fix all the internal links and make sure they point to the new page.
This will make sure that your website does not have a 404 error page and that your link juice will flow naturally.
If the content on the page that you redirected is good, you can use that information and add it to the new page that is getting all the redirects.
For example, you have a page of ‘Best shoes of 2018’ which is cannibalizing with another page that says ‘Best shoes of 2018 under Rs. 2000’.
What you can do is you can take the content from the under Rs. 2000 page and add it to the first one. You can even create a subheading in the first article and add that content. This is how you can still rank for the specific keywords.
3. Reorganize the architecture of the site:
You might think that just fixing the duplicate title tags is sufficient, but your website would need more than that.
Your website will need to be restructured in terms of content if you find that your website is affected by keyword cannibalization.
One of the most effective ways in which you can organize your website in terms of its content architecture is that you have to first have a clear idea in your mind about how an organized architecture looks like.
For this, take the pages and target the keywords that you already have and regroup them if and when needed.
As a result of this, you might be left with some gaps that you have to fill with new topics and new content. You can obviously find many tools online to reorganize the architecture of your website or you can simply do it by using spreadsheets.
While keyword cannibalization is a serious issue and a threat to the health of your website and its rankings, solving it is not that difficult.
Previously a lot of websites used to intentionally do keyword cannibalization just to rank higher with different web pages with the same content. But after all the updates to Google’s core algorithm, its policies have become quite stricter now.
If you find that your website has keyword cannibalization, it might not always be intentional. In such cases, immediately do the steps that have been mentioned in the article to make sure all the content in your website is unique.