SEO Articles

Keyword cannibalisation – what it is and why you need to avoid it

A lot of effort goes into Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and it has one main goal – to make it easier for Google to crawl and understand your site. You want to make sure that your site ranks high in searches and stays that way in order to reap the benefits of higher organic traffic and links. Theoretically, this can happen with a clear layout, solid linking, and great schema data. But having a poor keyword strategy could hamper your site’s growth potential and even SEO experts can sometimes fall prey to keyword cannibalisation. In our latest blog we define what keyword cannibalisation is, why you need to avoid it, and how to fix it.

What is keyword cannibalisation?

Keyword cannibalisation is when your site uses the same focussed keywords on multiple pages. When this happens, Google and other search engines are forced to determine which page contains the most relevant content when they crawl your website. This leads to confusion, which may result in search engines choosing the less ideal page to rank for the keyword.

For example, if your business is selling sports items and you have two pages on your website using the same focussed keyword “swimwear”, that’s cannibalisation because it makes it very difficult for Google to choose which page is the most relevant. Of course long-tail keywords can make it easier to differentiate your content but it’s a good idea to avoid any form of keyword conflict.

In a nutshell, keyword cannibalisation weakens your page authority as it “eats” your own ranking, thus “cannibalising” it. Optimising for just one keyword across your website means your pages are effectively competing with each other, instead of competing against your competitors’ domain for superiority in the ranking.

Why do you need to avoid it?

Here’s what happens when you’re ranking twice for the same keyword in two different pages, and why you need to avoid keyword cannibalisation.

1. Google might miss the more relevant page

While Google does its best to understand what each of your pages is all about, having a lot of pages targeting the same terms can lead Google to choose the wrong page with lesser importance – so your audience ends up missing out on the more relevant page.

2. Your conversion rate will suffer

Not all pages will convert equally well. One page will naturally have a higher conversion rate than the other and if Google is sending your visitors to different pages, your opportunity to convert is diluted. It’s very challenging to direct them to the page that has the most relevant content, the one that is optimised for your desired conversion action. But if you can ensure that new leads are directed to the optimal page because that’s the only page that featured your chosen keyword/s, then your audience will be more satisfied, therefore, increasing your likely conversions.

3. It damages the quality and authority of your pages

When your pages are competing with each other, they fight for page views making them just moderately relevant instead of having one highly relevant page. This shows Google that your content is stretched thin and may not really be relevant to the target keyword at all, thereby damaging the quality and authority of your pages.

4. It dilutes backlinks

If you use the same target keyword in multiple pages (thereby committing cannibalisation), you’re splitting the power of backlinks instead of building lots of them in just one great source. The same might happen to your internal links where people can be led in several directions for what is supposed to be the same information.

How can you fix it?

If at this point, you have identified that keyword cannibalisation is happening on your site, congratulations! Now, you just have to improve your strategy around how you assign keywords. Here are some ways you can fix this issue.

1. Update and merge your content

One of the best ways to tell Google that you now have a better version worthy of your potential visitors’ eyeballs is by updating your content. So, if you have two pages using the same keywords in their content, choose the more relevant one, merge whatever is worth merging from the other, and create just one whole piece. Create a new meta title and description for better results.

2. Delete the old version

Once you have created one new whole piece of amazing content, just throw the old version away. If it’s not worth sharing with your audience, don’t bother saving it. But make sure to 301 redirect the URL to another relevant post before you delete it so that you don’t lose any potential clicks from anchor content linking to it.

3. Update all internal links

Update all your internal links to match the anchor text to the target keyword of the page they are pointing to. You would never want to link a target keyword from one page to another that isn’t targeted for that keyword. Once you’ve fixed this issue, it will be easier for you to avoid keyword cannibalisation.

Our recommendation

Having tonnes of content on your website might make it difficult for you to identify keyword cannibalisation. And even if you do, merging and updating your content, and everything else that comes with it in order to revive or maintain your search ranking can be a whole lot to cope up with – but it’s worth the effort.

One of the unexpected upsides of the COVID-19 pandemic for many businesses is that people are spending a heap more time searching the net, so it’s never been more important to ensure your content is relevant. Yes, it can be hard work but if you don’t have the time (or the inclination) to clean up your keywords yourself, we have a team of experts standing by who can do the work for you. Check out some of our works here or contact us for a chat – we’d love to help you identify and fix any keyword cannibalisation that’s happening on your site.


Broadcast SEO

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.