Most digital marketing teams rely on keyword optimization to rank their content higher in search results. The idea is more keywords = better optimization.
Because of this, it can be tempting to use the same keywords on multiple pages to increase your chances of ranking.
However, this strategy can backfire if your posts compete for the same keyword.
Think about it: If you’re looking for “the best running shoes” and see two articles from the same company with these keywords in the title, you’ll be pretty confused about what to click on.
Not only is this confusing for readers, but it’s also bad for SEO.
Keep reading to learn what keyword cannibalism is, why it’s bad for SEO, how to find keyword cannibalization, and how to fix the issue.
What Is Keyword Cannibalization?
If multiple pages on your website are optimized for the same search query, you’re essentially competing with yourself—which can result in all pages rankly poorly. When this happens, we call it keyword cannibalization.
Never heard of it before? Here are some examples below.
What Are Examples of Keyword Cannibalization?
Say, I’m new to digital marketing and want to learn more about link building. So, I search “link building” on Google, and here are the results:
At the top of the search results, I come across two posts from the same website, covering almost the same subject matter. Which one should I click?
And, I won’t say I’m perfect, either. Here’s an example from my blog.
My two posts compete for the same search query, “SEO writing” and creating a keyword cannibalization situation.
This confuses the readers and search engine algorithms, making it difficult for your content to rank and get the audience’s attention.
How Do I Find Cannibalized Keywords?
If you believe your website may have some keyword cannibalization, don’t worry. You can easily find and fix them by following a few simple steps.
Here are some techniques you can try to find keyword cannibalization.
Search Through Your Website
A straightforward way to search for keyword cannibalization is to look up search queries relevant to your industry.
For example, if you’re a company offering digital marketing services and frequently upload content on marketing and SEO topics, do a Google search with some of the keywords you use often.
These could look like “SEO strategies” or “marketing tips for beginners.”
Such a search pulls up all web pages ranked for this query. Check to see if two or more of your posts are competing for a spot.
Google-specific Site Search
To make finding keyword cannibalization easier, type the name of your site before entering the search query. Here’s what it looks like in Google search engine:
Using External Tools
You can also use keyword research tools like Ubersuggest to simplify things and get comprehensive data for better keyword planning. This can help you find keyword cannibalization faster and reduce the time, money, and effort required to weed out competing pages from your site.
Tips to Prevent Keyword Cannibalization
Finding and fixing keyword cannibalization is possible, but sometimes it’s better to prevent the issue than spend time and money fixing it.
Here are some expert-recommended strategies to prevent keyword cannibalization and improve your digital marketing plan.
1. Create a Targeted Keyword Strategy
If you’ve been working in digital marketing for a while, you know keyword strategy matters.
The good news? One of the best ways to prevent keyword cannibalization is to hone your targeted keyword strategy, so there’s no competition and problematic overlap.
In a nutshell, this means optimizing different pages to target different keywords and search queries.
So instead of having five pages competing for the search query “SEO tips,” you can optimize each page for a similar but separate query like “digital marketing strategy,” “marketing techniques,” “SEO for beginners,” and so on.
This way, you can stay on topic while offering different content for various search queries relevant to your industry.
Here are some free and paid tools you can use for keyword research and planning:
2. Track Keyword Rankings and Performance
Having a keyword strategy isn’t enough. Once you have identified the keywords you want to work with, you also need to track their performance over time.
Consistently tracking keyword analytics will help you understand which keywords are ranking, which ones have too much competition, which may be caught up in cannibalization, and which ones need a boost.
You can track keyword rankings, performance, and other analytics directly through your website analytics tool, or you can use external tools like Google Analytics, Ubersuggest, SErush, Ahrefs, Moz, SEO monitor, and others.
Keep track of this data and use it to tweak your keyword strategy to avoid keyword cannibalism or fix it when it happens (more on that below).
3. Focus on Topics First, Keywords Come Second
Sometimes keyword cannibalization happens because marketing teams become more focused on optimizing keywords than creating content around relevant topics.
If you’re running behind keywords, there’s a chance you’ll neglect the topics and content quality, which will eventually slow your progress towards meeting your marketing goals.
So instead of pouring all your resources into keyword research, make it a part of your marketing strategy to focus on topics as well.
Find what topics your audience is interested in and direct your resources toward serving those interests. Let the keywords come second.
This will help increase audience loyalty, pull in new readers and establish brand authority in the industry.
How do you find what topics your readers are interested in?
Here are some ways to find what your audience wants:
- conduct surveys
- ask for feedback
- hold social media polls
- offer giveaways in exchange for audience opinions
- reach out to loyal long-time readers for ideas
You can also use tools like Quora, Google’s “people also ask” feature, and Reddit to find what people in your target demographic are talking about and what their pain points are.
When you start incorporating these ideas, the quality of your content will likely improve, and your organic reach will increase without relying strictly on keywords.
4. Do Regular Content Audits
Okay, so you’ve outlined a solid keyword strategy, set up tools to track performance and put more effort into audience interest topics. Now what?
Now you need to perform regular content audits to see if what you’re publishing is still in line with your readers’ interests and marketing goals.
Your content audits should ask the following:
- Are your topics still relevant?
- Is the information you’re posting outdated?
- Are the statistics correct?
- Are you prioritizing the right keywords?
- Which topics and keywords best meet your marketing goals?
5. Create Comprehensive Pages
Some topics can seem too complex to cover in a single blog post, so content teams decide to break it down into several sub-posts.
For instance, “how to make money blogging” is a complex topic, so you often find multiple posts addressing different parts of the subject.
A quick Google search with the query “how to make money blogging” immediately pulls up three different results. One talks about blogging for beginners, the second talks about monetizing your blog in 2021, and the third addresses the time concerns of monetizing a blog.
Now, imagine if these were all from your site rather than three separate sites.
As most of these are addressing overlapping concepts, it creates a lot of unnecessary competition. In addition, since most rank for a similar search query, it creates keyword cannibalization.
You can avoid this by creating one single comprehensive page addressing all the relevant subtopics instead of posting a separate blog post for every question the audience could potentially have.
This is better for SEO as it lets you target long-tail keywords, add relevant headers, include multiple search queries on a single page, and avoid competition with yourself.
This could make for a very long blog post, so consider a clickable table of contents so people can easily find the sections they need.
How to Fix Keyword Cannibalization
There are various ways to fix keyword cannibalization. Follow the steps below to find which strategy works best for you.
- Change Content Optimization
If multiple pages are ranking for the same keyword and search query, change the optimization settings. This could mean reducing the keywords, changing the keywords, or restructuring the content.
- Consider Deleting Some Posts
Sometimes merely re-optimizing posts may not be enough to fix keyword cannibalization. In this case, consider deleting some of the overlapping content.
Note: Don’t do this if both posts generate decent organic traffic and bring in business leads.
- Merge Content
If two or more posts of yours are ranking for the same keyword but you don’t want to delete them, consider merging them.
Going with our previous example, this could mean clubbing the “blogging for beginners” and “how long it takes to monetize a blog” posts together to form a single comprehensive guide for monetizing a blog aimed at new writers.
Keyword Cannibalization Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions about keyword cannibalization:
Why is keyword cannibalization bad?
Keyword cannibalization is bad for SEO as it forces two or more of your pages to compete with each other for a higher rank. It can reduce the ranking of both pages, eventually wasting your marketing efforts and resources.
How can I target longtail keywords without cannibalizing keywords?
You can target longtail keywords without cannibalizing keywords by using separate longtail keywords to optimize each post rather than creating multiple content pieces ranking for the same search query.
You can also consider creating one comprehensive guide to act as a landing page instead of many small subtopic pages that compete with each other.
What's the difference between keyword stuffing and keyword cannibalization?
The first step to avoiding keyword cannibalization is to see where it happens. Then, decide what your personal best path is. For example, we recommend creating one comprehensive post rather than publishing multiple posts competing for the same search query. Another option is to work with separate keywords for different posts.
Keyword Cannibalization Conclusion
A few years ago, people believed keyword stuffing and using the same keyword for multiple pages would help rank their content higher. However, this is no longer true.
Now, ranking multiple pages for the same keywords and search queries forces you to compete with yourself and drive down your success.
This can potentially help increase your rank on the search engine results page and eventually help increase your organic reach.
Even if you’ve already experienced keyword cannibalizing, fixing it is relatively easy. Rework your optimization options, delete posts that increase competition but aren’t helping you meet your marketing goals, and focus on merging competing content whenever possible.
Which keyword cannibalization management strategy will you try today?
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