Needless to say, there are many SEO-centric misconceptions flooding the market but only a few marketers and experts actually realize the same and include remedial measures into the mix. While talking about the most common SEO mistakes is a topic for another day, we will now discuss a bit about the most overlooked SEO misconception that concerns keywords and their usage.
Understanding the Misconception surrounding Keyword Cannibalization
Marketers tend to feel that having more pages with the targeted keyword can help them rank better for the same. They feel that if Google gets to see different pages of the same brand with targeted keywords stuffed within, it becomes easier to trumpet the niche and get hold of elevated SERP rankings.
However, this is a misconception and here is why we must steer clear of the same:
Firstly, targeted the same term across different pages has an adverse effect on the overall SEO initiatives. This is because Google identifies each page as a competitor to the other and ascertain each for different ranking positions. Put simply, this would mean that the business, in a way, is competing with itself and not others.
Adding a Landing Page right before the Cannibalized pages can help mitigate the issues
Initial Cannibalization Impressions
Here is an SEO misstep that stands for lower CTR for each page besides leading to diminished domain authority. Most importantly, even the conversion rates suffer quite significantly as the attention is being distributed to different pages and the concerned firm isn’t getting the traction it deserves.
The Truth about Keyword Cannibalization
The term ‘Cannibalization’ is used if and when companies compete with their own pages which in turn split the CTR, link validity, and content results. Most importantly, the conversions are bound to get distributed if the issue of keyword cannibalization isn’t sorted at the earliest. However, this actually comes across as an issue only because it becomes hard for Google to get to the depth of the most relevant piece of content. This will now be demonstrated using a relevant use case study:
As visible, here are the three recently displayed results for someone searching for some good content on broken link building. While companies do offer decent posts regarding the same, none of them are as good as an industry resource. This is where keyword cannibalization is hurting companies as they are stuffing the same set of keywords across different pages which is then diluting the quality and isn’t yielding the desired set of results.
Most importantly, as the searches suffer, the mediocre posts, despite being in plenty, fail to generate the requisite number of backlinks. The best piece of advice which firms who have mistakenly stepped into the cannibalization territory can use is to pair all the pages into one which would then be hefty and offer the required amount of information to the concerned user.
However, there are certain instances when keyword cannibalization isn’t even an issue for the websites in general. That said, this is possible only if you are holding the highest possible SERP rankings for a particular keyword and that too for a longer period of time. Therefore, if you are planning to start blogging, precisely for building a brand identity or selling products, you need to steer clear of the threats posed by keyword cannibalization. However, if two of your blog pages are already at the top, like Bodybuilding.com, precisely for the given keyword, you can stop worrying for a fair bit.
As mentioned in the given screenshot, the firm doesn’t even look to fix this issue.
The reason is the fact that the website is looking to hold the topmost position which are yielding decent CTRs. However, in the process of staying at the top, two links as compared to one are minimizing the number of competitor clicks as according to tried and tested search patterns, individuals generally do not scroll beyond a few options.
This is a wrong strategy as mentioned in the given screenshot. At the metadata level, the first URL includes the Ankle and Chelsea boot premise which is already mentioned in the next links. The best idea to tackle this issue is to have a dedicated mother page for boots and then segregate the same as per ankle or Chelsea boosts, according to preferences.
This looks like a more valid approach as the meta tag precisely concentrates on All Types of Winter Boosts rather than eating the credibility of other, more targeted pages.
Enlisting the Ill-Effects of Keyword Cannibalization
Now that we have seen practical use cases of this predominant threat to business performance, it is appropriate to take a closer look at the existing issues that can show up at any point of time:
• Diminishing Domain Authority
Every business looks to get hold of an authoritative page in order to look credible to the audience. However, keyword cannibalization doesn’t allow only one authoritative page to exist as the CTRs are divided moderately across all the relevant pages. While this might be good if the keywords aren’t competitive enough and the website already holds the top most position for the given search, there might still be an issue if a low quality page is placed higher than the more resourceful one.
• Dilution of Anchor text and Links
We all work for backlinks but cannibalization makes sure that only one source isn’t available as the info is now being split instead of being presented in a consolidated manner.
• Devaluation of Relevant Content
Individuals searching for content on Google would realize that keywords are the main search categories for users looking to get a query answered. Keyword cannibalization, however, kills of this practice as there are times when even Google is confused regarding search relevance. This is when certain overrated pages show up at the top whereas website pages with great quality content fall back in terms of SERP rankings.
• Ill-Usage of the Crawl Budget
It needs to be understood that crawl budget is the sum allocated to the search engine spider in regard to crawling the concerned website within a given timeframe. However, as the crawls are initiated on the basis of keywords, similar pages with same keywords added to them can adversely affect this initiative which eventually wastes the allocated budget.
• Degraded Page Quality
Although Google is quite intelligent and can still pinpoint relevant content for the user, keyword cannibalization might be an indicator that the existing page content, even on the relevant pages, are stretched thin. Moreover, in this case, the content might just not match with the keywords on display.
• Dwindling Conversion Rates
Needless to say, there will always be one page that will convert better as compared to others. However, if the brand would have been careful and consolidated the content, there would have been a cumulative increase in conversion rates.
Identifying the Loophole
The most probable technique for identifying keyword cannibalization is to create a spread sheet for enlisting the important website URLs followed by the associated keywords. Moreover, a keyword mapping resource can also be used. Once this process is initiated, it becomes easier to look for any kind of keyword-centric duplicate entry, especially in regard to the core pages. If and when identified, you have successfully detected the appearance of website keyword cannibalization.
Just for a tip: Even web page metatags need to be checked for duplicate keywords. Moreover, if you have any form of ranking tool at your disposal, it is necessary to double check for content and unexplained keyword addition to the wrong page.
Fixing Keyword Cannibalization
Once we have determined the root cause of the problem, it is appropriate to fix the same with a host of possible solution:
This might sound as a strange term but actually has a lot of potential, in regard to fixing keyword cannibalization. You can start by de-optimizing the web page that is silently killing off your authority by featuring as an unwanted entity at the top. However, de-optimization might take multiple forms as one can de-optimize the entire content steam by precisely removing the relevant keyword references.
Another approach could be to change internal links, precisely the anchors that are keyword-induced. Not just the internal links but the outbound links can also be changed for precise de-optimization. Any form of undesirable keyword linking should be immediately dealt with, using the Ahrefs’ anchor report.
There might be two pages that have relevant bits of information. Moreover, with each offering a lot of knowledge, it isn’t prudent enough to delete either of them as a good page might have quite a few high quality inbound links. The best idea would therefore be to merge the existing pages in the form of a master resource. This step would preserve the entire link juice associated with both the pages.
Consolidation will make sure all the backlinks are preserved and redirected towards the master resource
Start using Canonicals
While the previously mentioned techniques were mostly remedial in nature, a great preventative measure would involve using canonical keyword representations instead of the same version. Keyword variations are necessary and can be linked back to the mother keyword sans any cannibalization issues. This way, even Google would be able to keep your willingness to add relevant ideas in mind. Google would then believe that you are willing to offer great content to the users instead of targeting the exact same keyword for gaining traction.
In case time is a major constraint and you aren’t getting the required space for de-optimizing the pages, another piece of advice would be to use 301 redirects which work similarly to the call-forwarding mechanism. This is where all the link juice, website popularity, and other resources can be sent over to the best version of the keyword or the page with most relevant bits of information. This will make sure that the user looking for a concerned piece of content will automatically land onto the most appropriate version of the same.
Other forms of Cannibalization
Although we are currently discussing about keyword cannibalization in detail, we would also like to state the besides Internal cannibalization, there are other forms of the same, including Sematic Flux interference and even subdomain conflict. However, we would be addressing each one of them separately in the next discussions besides offering solutions for the same.
That said, a certain degree of Cannibalization is encountered almost everywhere and this is what is hampering the growth of most online businesses. While we did mention a few strategies to combat the same, there are quite a few easy ideas like No-indexing the hampering page or Deleting the page, in case it doesn’t have any inbound link added to the same.
Needless to say, keyword cannibalization is one detrimental aspect that might be negatively impacting your existing SEO and other digital marketing strategies. However, the best way to be sure is to conduct a side-wide search besides making a copy in the form of a usable template. That said, we will soon put forth a post regarding the more technical side of keyword cannibalization where we can discuss the more potent techniques for identifying the same with precision.