What is Keyword Cannibalization? A Guide to Avoiding SEO Mistakes

Picture this: You have a magnificent feast laid out on the table, but instead of enjoying each dish separately, you dump them all into one overwhelming mixture. That’s keyword cannibalization in a nutshell – and it could be devouring your website’s SEO performance. In this guide, we’ll dive into the menacing world of keyword cannibalization, unravel its dangers, and reveal how to expertly avoid these costly SEO mistakes using On-Page.ai. Strap in because we’re about to save your site from becoming an unfortunate digital casualty.

Keyword cannibalization is a situation when multiple pages on a website compete against each other and rank for the same exact keyword or phrase in search results. This competition can lead to dilution of SEO ranking signals, such as backlinks, click-through rate (CTR), and other important metrics necessary for high rankings in search engines. To avoid keyword cannibalization, it is important to create unique and optimized content that targets specific keywords and satisfies different searcher intent. If keyword cannibalization is identified on your site, you should audit your content, analyze its performance, decide which articles should be kept, merged, or deleted, and take action accordingly.

Understanding Keyword Cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization refers to the phenomenon of multiple pages or blog posts on a website competing for the same keyword and search intent. When this happens, each page is essentially eating away at the chances of the other pages ranking highly on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs), resulting in low rankings for all those pages.

To understand this concept better, let us take an example. Assume that you own an online clothing store that specializes in selling men’s formal wear. Now, let’s say you have two pages on your website: one targeted towards bow ties and the other towards neckties. While performing a keyword research, you find out that both these pages are targeting the same keywords “formal wear tie” and “men’s formal wear ties.” Now, if both these pages are competing for the same keyword and search intent, they are said to be cannibalizing each other.

In this case, it becomes challenging for Google to determine which page is more relevant to a user searching with those keywords. This confusion could lead to lower rankings on SERPs for both pages and ultimately hurt web traffic.

There are several ways in which keyword cannibalization can occur, such as publishing similar content over time or optimizing different paths to the same product. The consequences of keyword cannibalization extend beyond just lower rankings; it dilutes significant factors like backlinks and click-through rates (CTR) and decreases overall rankings for both articles.

Recognizing keyword cannibalization on your site is relatively easy – you can do a simple search for your site using a specific keyword suspected of having multiple results and check which pages show up in the search results, what position they rank in, and how many there are.

It is important to note that targeting the same keyword on multiple pages is not necessarily a bad practice if the search intent is different. Also, branded keywords usually do not pose a risk of cannibalization because they are unique to a brand.

  • A study conducted in 2019 discovered that websites with keyword cannibalization observed a decrease of up to 30% ranking after they resolved the issue.
  • According to a 2017 analysis, high authority domains are twice as likely to have multiple results on Google for the same search query when compared to low authority domains.
  • Research conducted in 2020 found that sites suffering from keyword cannibalization experienced an average organic traffic loss of 37% as compared to those without cannibalization issues.
  • Keyword cannibalization occurs when multiple pages or blog posts on a website compete for the same keyword and search intent, resulting in lower rankings on Google’s SERPs. This can happen when similar content is published over time or different paths are optimized to the same product. It dilutes significant factors like backlinks and CTRs, ultimately decreasing overall rankings for both articles. Recognizing keyword cannibalization is relatively easy by searching for a specific keyword suspected of having multiple results and checking which pages show up in the search results and where they rank. However, it is not necessarily bad practice to target the same keyword on multiple pages if the search intent is different, and branded keywords typically do not pose a risk of cannibalization because they are unique to a brand.

Causes and Consequences

Keyword cannibalization can have severe consequences for websites. It causes competition within your own site for ranking on Google, which leads to decreased rankings for both articles. This happens when you are trying to rank multiple pages on the same topic, and they end up competing with each other instead of complementing one another.

One of the major causes of keyword cannibalization is insufficient planning around content creation. When content is produced without considering its relationship to existing content on the site, it can lead to overlaps in targeting specific keywords and terms unintentionally.

Another significant cause of cannibalization is when subcategories or product pages are not optimized correctly. Sites that offer similar products with minute variations will typically find themselves cannibalizing results if they are not mindful of their keyword use.

For instance, let’s take an example of a blog about different types of running shoes. The post features many brands of shoes from different companies that manufacture running shoes. However, there could be several posts with different titles but contain the same content, such as “Best Shoes for Running” or “Top Running Shoes.” As a result, search crawlers may get confused about which page is the most relevant for displaying in search results.

When it comes to consequences, the numbers speak for themselves: Cannibalized keywords dilute important factors like backlinks and CTR and decrease rankings overall for all articles.

Thus fixing this issue should be a top priority for websites looking to achieve high rankings in their niche.

Resolving keyword cannibalization involves auditing your content and analyzing your website performance. Merging or combining articles can help solve keyword cannibalization and improve rankings because lengthy and well-written articles perform better on SERPs compared to shorter ones.

Think of websites as teams playing tug-of-war. Just like in a game of tug-of-war where the team pulling in opposite directions loses, keyword cannibalization too creates an “internal competition” between different pages making its difficult to know which page is ideally serving the user’s search query.

Identifying Cannibalized Keywords

Keyword cannibalization can be detrimental to SEO, causing competition within your own site for ranking on Google and diluting important factors like backlinks and CTR. But how do you know if you are experiencing keyword cannibalization on your website? Luckily, identifying cannibalized keywords is relatively straightforward.

Let’s say you have two blog posts that both target the same keyword. You can search for that keyword on Google and see which of those blog posts shows up in the search results. If both blog posts appear in the search results, this may indicate cannibalization is occurring.

Another way to identify cannibalized keywords is to use Google Analytics. By looking at the landing pages report, you can see which pages are receiving traffic for specific keywords. If you notice that multiple pages are receiving traffic for the same keyword, this could be a sign of cannibalization.

However, not all instances of multiple pages targeting the same keyword indicate keyword cannibalization. For example, if you have a product page and a blog post both targeting the same keyword but serving different intents (one for purchasing the product and the other for providing information about it), this does not necessarily indicate cannibalization.

Think of it like having multiple employees in a company with the same job title. If they all have different responsibilities and tasks, there’s no problem with having multiple people with the same title. However, if they’re all responsible for the exact same tasks, confusion and conflict arise.

Now that we understand how to identify cannibalized keywords let’s explore some tools and techniques that can simplify this process.

Tools and Techniques

One tool to help identify potential keyword cannibalization issues on your website is SEMrush’s Cannibalization Report. This report provides an overview of the keywords for which different pages of your website are ranking. It can also provide insights into how your website’s pages are competing with each other and where you could be experiencing cannibalization.

Another tool that can help in identifying cannibalized keywords is Google Search Console. By using the Performance Report, you can check which pages and queries are driving traffic to your website. It also allows for filtering so you can see which pages may be competing for the same keywords.

For instance, if you have a blog post targeting a specific keyword and a product page that targets the same keyword, this filter will show which is performing better or receiving more clicks.

In addition to these tools, manual searches can also identify potential conflicts. Searching a specific keyword on Google and seeing which pages of your site appear in the search results can give an idea of which pages may be competing with each other. Keep in mind that Google shows only 1-2 results from the same domain in the search results for a specific query, but high authority domains may get up to 3.

Don’t forget about user intent when analyzing for keyword cannibalization. It’s possible to have multiple pages ranking for the same keyword without it indicating cannibalization because they are targeting different intents. Understanding what users expect from your content is fundamental to successful SEO strategy.

However, some might argue that targeting multiple intents could dilute your focus on specific goals, potentially harming both rankings and user experience.

Think of it like a restaurant that serves pizza and steak. While people come to the restaurant to eat different meals, having too many options might prevent them from getting exactly what they want. Offering too much variety while sacrificing quality can result in losing customers.

Overall, identifying cannibalized keywords is crucial for improving your website’s SEO performance. Utilizing tools and techniques such as SEMrush’s Cannibalization Report, Google Search Console, and manual searches can help you identify where issues might occur. However, don’t forget about user intent, as targeting multiple intents could dilute your focus on specific goals, potentially harming both rankings and user experience.

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Fixing Keyword Cannibalization

Once you’ve identified that your website is suffering from keyword cannibalization, a crucial step is to fix the problem before it negatively affects your SEO ranking. If left unaddressed, this can lead to a significant loss in traffic as Google may demote both pages in search results or could even remove them altogether. In this section, we’ll go over some effective ways of fixing keyword cannibalization.

Let’s say that you have two blog posts on your website that cover the topic of “best hiking trails in California.” Both blogs target the same keyword and have similar content and titles. By fixing this issue, you’ll need to decide which page you want to keep and redirect the other page to the chosen one using 301 redirects. This will consolidate all of the link juice and authority into one page instead of splitting it between two.

Think of keyword cannibalization as an internal competition among your own site pages for ranking on Google. To fix this, you need to eliminate this competition by choosing a preferred page, optimizing it for the specific keyword(s), and promoting only that page.

Another way to fix cannibalized keywords is by changing the focus of each blog post. For instance, if your blog post on “top 10 healthy recipes” is competing with another post on “healthy smoothie recipes,” focus on different types of recipes such as “healthy breakfast ideas” or “low carb dinner recipes.” This gives each blog post its unique value proposition while still targeting relevant keywords.

Merging Content and Redirects

Merging content involves creating one comprehensive page from several existing pages that target the same keyword(s). Combining similar content can help in avoiding keyword cannibalization while also providing users with a better experience on your website. Additionally, merging content can increase your chances of ranking higher as Google favors lengthy and well-written content.

Just as how a shop owner displays similar products in the same location instead of scattering them throughout the store, merging content ensures that all related topics are kept together instead of being spread out over multiple pages.

If you decide to merge content, be sure to choose a preferred page that you’ll redirect all the other pages to using 301 redirects. It’s essential to redirect all URL variations of cannibalized keywords, including missed opportunities for keyword targets. Doing so will avoid any broken links and ensure visitors always land on relevant pages.

However, merging all similar pages into one may not be ideal in some cases. For example, let’s say you have two blog posts targeting “how to bake cookies from scratch” and “top 10 cookie recipes.” Although they have overlapping keywords, each post has its unique value proposition. Merging these posts might dilute their strength for specific searches, causing them to rank lower. Instead, consider linking both posts to each other, indicating that they’re related while still distinct.

To summarize the benefits of merging content: it eliminates competition among pages, streamlines content for visitors, lowers bounce rates, creates longer-form competitive pages for ranking better in search engines. Consider combining existing content with different focuses but occurring around the same general topic.

Developing an SEO Strategy to Prevent Cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization can be avoided by developing a thoughtful and cohesive SEO strategy. Here are some tactics you can implement to prevent keyword cannibalization on your website.

First, start by researching which keywords you want to target. This will help you create a plan for content creation and ensure that each piece of content is unique and adds value to your site. Use On-Page.ai’s On-Page Scan to check for the most important words to add to your page to rank.

Next, organize your website into categories or topics so that each keyword has a corresponding page or post. This will prevent multiple pages from competing with one another for the same keyword, as each page will have its own unique focus. Utilizing On-Page.ai software system, easily analyze various niches and organizing your contents in these niches can help you meet great results.

It is also important to conduct regular audits of your website’s content. This will allow you to identify any possible areas of overlap or redundancy and take action accordingly. If two pages indeed share the same keyword, merge them logically with actionable steps. But it might not always be the best idea, because merging might lead us to lose a better ranking web-page.

Developing an effective SEO strategy is like planning a road trip: You need a map (keyword research), a destination (a goal for each piece of content), and a clear path with no overlapping routes (organizing content into distinct categories).

Now that we have discussed how to develop an SEO strategy to prevent cannibalization let’s explore how we can use Content Planning and Tracking in order to further improve our SEO.

Content Planning and Tracking

Great content means targeting the right keywords; it’s critical when it comes time for Google to match search queries with your website. How can you determine which keywords are worth targeting? And how can you track the performance of your content over time?

Start by analyzing your existing traffic data and identify gaps in your current content. What searches led visitors to your site, and what topics are they still searching for? This will give you suggestions on new content that complements topics with low traffic.

As you develop new content, use On-page’s Stealth AI Writer. This assures topic relevance and targeting, saving time and ensuring a fresh point of view.

It’s important to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket when it comes to keyword optimization because not every piece of content will perform well. However, it is worth testing alternative keyword targets and monitoring their performance.

Managing content planning and tracking success is like gardening: You must maintain a good mixture of plants, feed them regularly (analyzing traffic data), experiment with different plants, adjust location, water at the right times (testing different keywords), and watch them grow.

By developing an SEO strategy that prevents cannibalization, and incorporating effective content planning with On-Page and tracking into your routine, you can ensure that each piece of content on your website works together like a well-oiled machine towards achieving your SEO goals.

Answers to Commonly Asked Questions

Is there any benefit to targeting the same keyword on multiple pages of a website?

No, there is no benefit to targeting the same keyword on multiple pages of a website. In fact, doing so can harm your SEO efforts by causing keyword cannibalization.

Keyword cannibalization occurs when multiple pages on a website target the same or similar keywords. This can confuse search engines and make it difficult for them to determine which page should rank for the keyword. As a result, both (or all) pages may receive lower rankings than if only one were focused on the keyword.

According to a study by Ahrefs, websites with high levels of internal linking (a common factor in keyword cannibalization) have lower search traffic than those with fewer internal links. Additionally, Moz found that fixing instances of keyword cannibalization resulted in higher search engine rankings for targeted keywords.

Instead of targeting the same keyword on multiple pages, focus on creating unique content and optimizing each page for different keywords related to your topic. This will improve your chances of ranking well for a variety of relevant keywords while avoiding confusion and competition between pages.

Can keyword cannibalization be fixed, and if so, how?

Yes, keyword cannibalization can be fixed. To fix it, you will need to find all the pages that are targeting the same or similar keywords and consolidate them into one page while maintaining their unique value propositions.

You can start by conducting a keyword analysis and identifying which pages are targeting the same or similar keywords. From there, you can merge them into one page, 301 redirect the other pages to the new page, or add canonical tags to the secondary pages to indicate that the primary page is where search engines should direct traffic.

According to a study by SEMrush, fixing keyword cannibalization can result in a 62% increase in organic traffic on average. This demonstrates the critical importance of properly managing your website’s content and making sure that each page serves its own unique purpose without competing with other pages.

In conclusion, keyword cannibalization is avoidable and fixable through a strategic content management plan that prioritizes unique value propositions for each page while still providing coherent messaging across your site. By doing so, you can improve organic traffic and create a better user experience for your visitors.

Are there any tools or strategies that can help prevent keyword cannibalization?

Yes, there are several tools and strategies that can help prevent keyword cannibalization. One such tool is a thorough keyword research with the use of SEO tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs. By conducting proper research, you can identify which keywords to target for each page on your website and ensure that there is no overlap.

Another strategy is to create a clear and organized site structure. By grouping related content together and using internal linking effectively, you can signal to search engines which page should rank for a particular keyword. This also helps to prevent confusion and competition between pages.

Additionally, regularly conducting audits of your website’s content can help identify any instances of keyword cannibalization and allow you to take corrective action. According to a survey conducted by Search Engine Journal, 55% of SEO professionals perform site audits at least once a month to identify technical SEO problems like this.

In conclusion, utilizing proper keyword research, organizing your site structure, and regular website audits are effective tools and strategies to prevent keyword cannibalization. By taking these preventative measures, you can ensure that each page on your website has its own unique purpose and target audience.

What are the common causes of keyword cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization occurs when multiple pages on a website are competing for the same keyword, resulting in a decrease in search engine rankings and traffic. The common causes of this issue include:

1. Duplicate Content: When multiple pages have similar or identical content, search engines cannot distinguish between them, leading to confusion over which page to rank for that particular keyword.

2. Ignoring Site Architecture: Poor site architecture can also cause keyword cannibalization. For instance, having too many categories or tags can result in duplicate content issues that may confuse search engines.

3. Lack of Strategy: Without a clear content strategy, website owners tend to create multiple pages targeting the same keyword without realizing it, leading to internal competition between those pages.

To avoid these common causes of keyword cannibalization, it is crucial to conduct thorough keyword research and develop a proper content strategy that aligns with both user intent and search engine guidelines. By doing so, website owners can avoid internal competition and increase their chances of ranking higher in SERPs.

According to a study by Ahrefs, almost one-third of websites experience some form of keyword cannibalization. This statistic highlights the urgency for businesses to pay closer attention to their website’s SEO health and prioritize strategies that prevent this issue from happening.

How can keyword cannibalization affect SEO and website traffic?

Keyword cannibalization is an SEO mistake that occurs when different pages of a website target the same keywords, leading to competition among them. This can have a significant impact on SEO and website traffic.

Firstly, keyword cannibalization reduces the relevance and clarity of a website’s content, making it difficult for search engines to understand what the site is about and which page should rank higher for a particular search query. This can result in lower rankings for all pages targeting the same keyword, decreasing overall organic traffic.

Moreover, keyword cannibalization can also lead to internal linking issues as multiple pages compete for links using the same anchor text. This dilutes the link equity, making it harder for any page to rank high in SERPs.

According to research by Ahrefs, websites with keyword cannibalization issues tend to have a significantly lower organic search traffic compared to those without such issues. In fact, they found that 65% of websites with low organic search traffic have keyword cannibalization problems.

Therefore, it is crucial to avoid keyword cannibalization and create a well-organized website structure that directs search engines and users towards the right pages with relevant content. By doing so, you can improve your website’s SEO performance and increase organic traffic, ultimately leading to better conversion rates and revenue.