Keywords are king when it comes to attracting users and increasing your search engine rankings. As a result, search engine optimization (SEO) has grown into a multi-million dollar business with a host of experts offering advice on the best way to move up the search engine results page (SERP) and claim the coveted ranked number one. Most SEO practical tips boil down to a few solid suggestions: do your market research to find out which keywords are relevant to your target audience, and create content that’s timely and relevant. Something that doesn’t appear in SEO rounds as often is keyword cannibalization. While this nasty-sounding problem won’t sink your website, it can cause your pages and posts to rank lower than they should and, if left unchecked, could damage your site’s overall reputation. Here’s what you need to know to find, evaluate, and eliminate keyword cannibalization.
What is keyword cannibalization in SEO?
Keyword cannibalization occurs when two or more pages on your website end up competing for the same keyword. Let’s say your business sells roof tiles. Your blog content will likely include posts on how to extend the life of shingles through proper care and maintenance; With the right combination of authority and practical knowledge, this type of content can attract the attention of your target audience and lead them to buy tiles on your site. when your home requires repair or replacement. To make sure you’re reaching the right audience, do a keyword search and find that “roofing tile prices” rank extremely high. Then create multiple pages that take advantage of this keyword: one piece could deal with the most expensive types of shingles, another with less expensive options, and a third with the costs of possible repairs if the shingles are damaged. The problem? By using the same keyword for each page, you are essentially stealing search engine rankings. Here’s why: From a search engine perspective, each of these pages is its own separate entity with its own authority and page ranking, meaning your pages are fighting for SEO attention. Also, these similar but different pages will split your click-through rate (CTR) across multiple links, which in turn will reduce the value of each page. As a result, these three pages could rank sixth, seventh and eighth in the SERPs, while a single page could rank second or even first.
How to detect keyword cannibalization
The easiest way to detect keyword cannibalization is to create a spreadsheet that contains the keywords for whatever content you create. Before making a new post, check your spreadsheet and see if you’ve already used the same keyword. If so, consider modifying your content to focus on another keyword or make sure that the content you are creating is substantially different from previous posts. You can also check for keyword cannibalization with a quick online search for the most relevant keywords. If you see multiple pages on your site listed close to each other in the SERPs for the same keyword, you have a cannibalization problem. Additionally, keyword cannibalization verification tools can help ensure that potential overlap is not lost; it’s best to get to know it as soon as possible and modify your content before it drops in search rankings for more specific posts from your competitors.
How to remove keyword cannibalization
So what happens if you discover keyword cannibalization on your site? First, take a look at the content on each page. Whenever possible, combine information from both pages into a single post to improve search rankings and increase authority. In the case of our shingle business, for example, it pays to combine the “most expensive” and “least expensive” shingle pages into a single publication that addresses the keyword “roofing shingle prices.” If there are particular aspects of low-cost or high-priced shingles that could help customers make a decision, create new posts with new keywords and link to the original post. In other cases, you may find that older posts on your site still rank high through the use of specific keywords, but are no longer relevant to your company’s product line or service offering. Here, it’s a good idea to embed any useful data from older posts into newer content and then remove the original, which in turn allows search engines to rank your post more relevant. Is it worth pointing out? As with anything in SEO, there are exceptions to the keyword cannibalization rule. For example, if you have two posts with the same keyword that are highly rated, and your ranking position is not fluctuating, you don’t need to combine them. However, if your competitor’s pages start to rank higher, or if your higher-ranked page stops delivering sustained click-through rates, this could indicate a need for action.
Keyword cannibalization checking tools
While maintaining a spreadsheet of page URLs, metadata, and keyword usage can help reduce the risk of unintentional cannibalization, this becomes prohibitively complex as sites expand. Consider an e-commerce site that sells multiple types of winter jackets – With a product page for each jacket, category pages for each type of jacket, and blog posts on jacket care, storage, and repair, it’s easy to Keywords overlap and SERP suffers. Keyword cannibalization verification tools can help streamline this process and reduce the risk of missing a potential keyword problem. Some popular options include:
The Keylogs Cannibalization Checker offers a free trial – just log in with a Google account that’s connected to your website (s) and the Checker does the rest. You’ll get results on any page on your site that competes for the same ranked keyword along with strategies to solve the problem. Is it worth pointing out? The free tier of this tool only tracks three keywords on one site. Multi-site paid plans and unlimited keyword tracking required.
SEMrush is a popular set of SEO monitoring and tracking tools. With a paid plan, site owners have access to a cannibalization report within SEMrush’s position tracking tool, which provides a cannibalization score for entered keywords. A score of 100% means that cannibalization has not been detected; lower scores indicate potential problems and will specify both affected keywords and cannibal pages.
Using the performance report section of Google Search Console, you can see the queries that have driven your site impressions and Google search clicks. Drill down into these queries with the “pages” tab to see a list of URLs that rank for specific queries and keywords; If you see more than one URL for your site listed for the same keyword, you may have a cannibalization problem.
SEOScout’s Cannibalization Checker offers an alternative to managing keyword spreadsheets. Simply create an account for a 7-day free trial, enter your site’s domain, and the tool will create a report detailing duplicate keyword rankings, allowing you to quickly track and remove cannibalistic content.
Moz’s Keyword Explorer allows you to find ranking keywords, determine page ranking positions, and make decisions about which pages to keep and which to change or remove. Moz also makes it easy to download CSV spreadsheet files which can then be analyzed offline for duplicate keyword lists.
Stay on top of keyword cannibalization
For site owners and administrators, cannibal keyword content is problematic – ranking multiple URLs for the same keyword can negatively affect page authority, frustrate potential customers, and lower SERPs. Solve keyword cannibalization by finding the use of duplicate keywords, then combine or remove content as needed to ensure your most relevant content gets the highest SERP placement in popular search engines.