How to avoid keyword cannibalization

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If you’ve been running a successful website for at least a year, you are likely to face a problem called keyword cannibalization. It involves creating multiple pages that target the same keyword.

For many websites, such a problem is unavoidable. If you are creating blog posts and other articles in one niche, you are bound to use the same keywords several times.

However, Google and other search engines may frown upon such pages. Some may even view them as content duplication. Meanwhile, optimizing several pages for the same keyword has you competing against yourself. This could hinder your rankings and undermine your SEO efforts.

Let’s discuss the most common issues with keyword cannibalization and how you can avoid it.

What is keyword cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization is creating various pieces of content for your website, which rank for the same search query in Google or other search engines. This could happen because the topics you are discussing are similar or when you optimize the content for the same keyword or phrase.

When you optimize different pieces of content for the same keyword or keyphrase, they become competitors. As a result, these blog posts or articles are ruining each other’s chances of ranking high on SERPs.

Generally, Google may show one or two pages from the same website as results for the same query. For authority websites, it may decide to show three. In any case, keyword cannibalization can hurt your race for the top spots of Google search while making the search engine unhappy with your efforts.

Short keyword cannibalization definition: publishing several pieces of content, which target the same keywords or keyphrases.

Why is keyword cannibalization a problem for SEO?

When numerous pages from your website rank for the same keyword, Google may have trouble identifying which of them is the most relevant. While crawling your website, the search engine will need to choose the page most valuable for the user’s query.

So what can be bad about Google choosing one page over another if it still puts it on the SERPs? Here are only a few ways keyword cannibalization can undermine your search engine optimization efforts.

  • Lower conversion rate – while achieving a high conversion rate on one page, you are losing it on the other. Meanwhile, you are spending time, money, and efforts on making several pages appear appealing instead of just focusing on the one that works the best.
  • Poor content quality – when you are creating multiple pages that target the same keyword, you may be losing the content quality mark. This could result in duplicate content, which Google can penalize. Meanwhile, you are spreading your efforts too thin by spending time on recreating content you already have. It’s always better to update an old article that targets a certain keyword instead of creating a brand new one.
  • Decreased internal linking effect – by creating several different pages that target the same subject, you are losing the value of internal anchor text.
  • Poor external link efforts – high-quality content attracts backlinks. However, if you have several pages with the same content, the backlinks are split between the two, leading to poorer organic search rankings.
  • Worse authority – with multiple pages on the same subject turns you into your own competitor. As a result, you’ll have a much harder time establishing yourself as an authority in the niche. Numerous pages with similar content could show Google that you may have thin content.
  • Lower ranking – eventually keyword cannibalization can cause a more desirable page to rank lower than a less desirable page on your website. With time, rankings for both pages will decrease.

Besides hindering your SEO efforts, keyword cannibalization can affect your marketing budget, forcing you to split your efforts between pages without getting sufficient results for any of them.

It’s always bad: Keyword cannibalization myth

Keyword cannibalization isn’t always bad. Sometimes, you don’t have to worry about it. In case you are ranking in first and second positions for the same keywords, cannibalization isn’t an issue for you.

However, these positions should be holding for a long time. If not, then cannibalization may be ruining your ranking efforts.

How do you identify keyword cannibalization?

What happens if you aren’t aware of keyboard cannibalization issues? When you are building your SEO campaign, checking for repeat keywords is part of your marketing effort analysis. It’s not hard to find keyword cannibalization on your website.

How to check for keyword cannibalization: Method #1

Ahrefs is offering a simple way to identify keyword cannibalization issues on your website:

  • Find all the keywords your website ranks for by using Ahrefs Site Explorer
  • Go to the Organic Keywords report and export all keywords to CSV
  • Import the information into Keyword Cannibalization Finder Tool
  • Navigate the results to see which pages are competing for the same keyword.

How to find keyword cannibalization: Method #2

Use one of the keyword search tools to find your website’s organic keyword list.

  • Export this list to a spreadsheet.
  • Filter the results to alphabetize the keyword column

By doing that, you’ll see if any of the webpages are targeting the same keyword, thus leading to keyword cannibalization.

Keywords may be duplicated across webpages, in subdomains, in blog posts, and other articles, causing them to compete against each other furiously. Discovering the issue timely can help you save time and effort. If you can start battling keyword cannibalization quickly, you can improve your marketing campaign tremendously.

How to eliminate keyword cannibalization

When you face keyword cannibalization, it’s vital to deal with it as soon as possible. Here are a few ways of fixing keywords cannibalization.

1.Remove keywords from the less desirable page

Figure out which page you want to optimize for the certain keyword and remove these keywords from other pages. This may not solve the problem entirely since search engines examine many other signals to rank the page. However, it’s likely to give the desired page more chances at achieving higher rankings.

Simply search the text for the cannibalized keywords and remove or replace them with other target keywords. Do it until the most authoritative page is optimized for the most desirable keywords.

2.Adjust internal links

Once you have the list of pages that are victims of keyword cannibalization, look for links that have the keyword in question as the anchor text for internal links. Keyword-rich anchor text is one of the signals that affect website rankings.

To identify your internal linking structure and find the undesirable links, take advantage of Google Search Console. By clicking “links”, you gain access to the internal links on your website as well as anchor text.

Remove links that lead the visitor to the less desirable page altogether or point them to the authoritative one.

3.Combine pages

Depending on the content you have on the pages that suffer from keyword cannibalization, you may want to merge them. Instead of having these pages competing against each other, you can turn them into one highly authoritative page.

This works if both pages contain high-quality content, which looks well when combined. If you don’t want to lose top content pieces, leave them intact.

Don’t forget to redirect visitors from the pages you eliminate to the new combined page. Otherwise, your website will have a tougher time climbing high on Google search results.

4.Delete a page

If the quality of content on the page that competes with another one isn’t stellar, consider deleting it altogether. You are unlikely to lose any value by doing that. Meanwhile, the other page will benefit tremendously. Don’t forget to redirect the user to the new page.

5.Employ no-follow

If the page in question is highly useful for your visitors, and you don’t want to remove it, non-index it. This way Google won’t see it when crawling your website so you don’t have to worry about the page competing for the rankings.

While the no-follow method is an excellent way to keep your page, it’s a less efficient one than merging and redirecting.

How to avoid keyword cannibalization

Once you’ve dealt with your keyword cannibalization issues, you have to make sure it never arises again. To avoid the problem in the future, consider the following:

Before writing a piece of content to target a certain keyword, make sure to search your website for similar articles. It’s as easy as that. Such a search only takes seconds. Meanwhile, it can save you hours of fixing cannibalization problems.

Dealing with keywords cannibalization: The takeaway

Keyword cannibalization can hinder your SEO efforts and ruin your hard-earned rankings. If you’ve had your website for a few years, you may be facing this unpleasant problem.

Dealing with keyword cannibalization is easy as long as you catch it timely. By exercising cannibalization prevention, you can make sure your best pages receive top rankings.

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