SEO is a powerful tool for any website, but it can also be a major challenge to master. Some problems arise from Google’s ever-evolving and others from our own missteps. Some mistakes even arise as a consequence of stopping certain SEO malpractices.
One such issue is keyword cannibalism, which arose from the days when search engine optimization was about stuffing your website with as many keywords as possible. Nowadays, keyword cannibalism is a major issue that can get your website penalized by Google and cost you ranking positions in the SERPs.
In this article, we’re going to look at what keyword cannibalism is and how to avoid it. We’ll also discuss the different ways to diagnose and fix a keyword cannibalization issue.
What Is Keyword Cannibalism?
In the early days of SEO, webmasters would stuff their websites with as many relevant keywords as possible. As a result, they often used the same keyword multiple times on one page. When such practices were eliminated by the evolving Google search algorithm, an unfortunate consequence of that was that you could only use a keyword once per page.
This resulted in keyword cannibalism, or the use of similar keywords and phrases simultaneously in an effort to rank for that keyword.
Keyword cannibalism is when a website has multiple pages competing for the same keyword. This often happens when webmasters have several pieces of content with the same or similarly targeted keywords. As a result, those pages are competing amongst each other in the search engine results page (SERP) when someone searches for that keyword.
Why does Keyword cannibalization matter?
When multiple pages are competing for the same keyword, it can result in a split of search engine traffic and dilute page ranking. Having two pages on your site that target the same keywords will cause them to compete against each other, resulting in one or both of the pages being pushed down further in the SERPs. This means that any authority your domain has in the search engine is being drained, as it’s splintered across multiple pages.
Search engines like Google pick up on keyword cannibalization and usually only rank one page for a given query – the page they deem to be most relevant. This means that it’s possible that none of your pages will show up in the SERPs, so you’ll be missing out on potential traffic and conversions.
SEO service companies have a checklist of of some of the ways this can happen, which include:
1. Using the same keywords in the titles and metadata of multiple pages
2. Having two or more pages with similar content
3. Having multiple product pages for a single item
4. Linking internally to different versions of the same URL
5. Creating URLs that are too similar, such as having “/page1” and “/page-one”
Identifying keyword cannibalization
Finding out if your pages are cannibalizing each other can be tricky, but fortunately there are tools that can help. For example, Google Search Console will flag pages with overlapping content, and Yoast’s SEO plugin can detect when two or more pages are targeting the same keywords. Here are some ways to identify keyword cannibalization
Comparing keyword rankings:
A good way to determine if two pages are competing for the same keyword is to compare their rankings in search engines. If one page consistently ranks higher than another, then it’s likely that the other page is not being optimized correctly or is suffering from keyword cannibalization.
For example, if you have two pages targeting the keyword “sports shoes”, but one page consistently ranks higher than the other in search engine results, then it is likely that there is keyword cannibalization occurring.
To compare rankings, you can use a tool such as Google Search Console to get keyword rankings for all of your pages. You can also track rankings manually by searching for the keyword in different search engines and seeing which page is higher in the results.
You can also compare the performance of different pages to see which one is performing better. This could be done by looking at metrics such as bounce rate, conversion rate, or time on page. You may find that one page is outperforming the other in terms of these metrics and might indicate keyword cannibalization.
For example, if two pages are targeting the same keyword, you may find that one page has a much higher bounce rate than the other. This could be an indication that users are not finding the content they expect on this page and should be addressed by improving its relevance for its target keyword.
There are a metrics that you can compare to identify potential keyword cannibalization issues:
Engagement: Compare bounce rate, time on page, and conversions. If one page has significantly lower engagement metrics than the other, this could indicate that users are not finding what they’re looking for.
Traffic: Compare monthly organic search traffic to determine if one page is getting a much higher share of the traffic than the other. This can be an indication of keyword cannibalization.
Link sources: Look at what websites are linking to each page. If one page has a much higher share of links, this could indicate that it is the preferred version for search engines.
If you suspect keyword cannibalization, you can audit the content of your pages to see if it’s being duplicated. Look for similar phrases and words in the titles, descriptions, headings and body copy of the pages. If there are too many common phrases or keywords present, then this could be an indication of keyword cannibalization.
For example, if you have two pages that cover the same topic but have different titles, you may want to consider combining them into one page. Or if you have two pages with similar titles and descriptions, it’s probably best to combine them into one page as well.
Another way to identify keyword cannibalization is by analyzing the backlinks pointing to each page. If you find that a single page has many more backlinks than the other pages that cover the same topic, then it’s likely to be receiving most of the search engine traffic for that keyword. This can indicate that there’s keyword cannibalization taking place as other pages are not getting enough traffic.
How to avoid cannibalization?
There are a few steps you can take to avoid keyword cannibalization and make sure your different pages get the visibility they deserve.
First, it’s important to identify all the pages that cover the same topic and analyze their titles, descriptions, and content. If there are multiple pages with similar titles or descriptions, then try to make them more distinctive.
You can also look for ways to differentiate the content on each page by adding additional information or targeted keywords. This will help search engines understand better what each page is about, so that they don’t show multiple pages with similar content in the search results.
In addition, try to focus your efforts on optimizing each page’s meta data, such as its title and description. These are key elements that search engines look at when ranking webpages in their search results. By making sure your titles and descriptions are comprehensive and keyword-specific, you can help ensure that all pages of related content get the visibility they deserve.
Finally, deploying structured data markup can also be extremely helpful in optimizing your webpages. Structured data allows you to provide search engines with additional context about each page, which can make it easier for them to understand what the content is about and how it should be showcased in their search results. This extra layer of detail can go a long way in helping ensure that all pages of related content get the visibility they deserve.
Hopefully this article has provided you with a better understanding of how to properly optimize your webpages for search engine visibility. By taking the time to create keyword-rich content that is well-structured and optimized with the correct on-page elements, you can help give each page of your website the best chance at getting discovered by potential customers.
If you need further help with your SEO efforts, hiring an SEO agency in Kolkata can be a great way to help your business get the most out of its search engine visibility. With their expertise, you can rest easy knowing that your website is in the best shape possible for achieving top rankings in the SERPs.
Author Bio –
Author Name: Khurshid Alam
Author Bio –
Khurshid Alam is the founder and director of Pixel Street. A top SEO company in Kolkata. He has over 8 years of experience in the industry and has worked with some of the world’s leading brands including ITC, The Hindu Group, Glocal Healthcare, etc.