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What is Keyword Cannibalisation?

What is Keyword Cannibalisation?

Keyword cannibalisation is an SEO issue that’s perhaps not as well-known as it should be – and something that could be undermining your website’s success without raising any immediate red flags.

We’ve seen it happen, more times than we’d like to admit. So, what do we say? It’s high time we demystify this hidden hazard.

In the spirit of camaraderie, we want to guide you through the thicket of keyword cannibalisation. We’ll illuminate its corners, unravel its knots, and most importantly, arm you with the tools to banish it from your SEO strategy. So, grab a cuppa (we’re partial to a good old Yorkshire brew in our London office), get comfortable, and let’s get started.

In This Article

Matt Robinson

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What is Keyword Cannibalisation?

Keyword cannibalisation sounds extremely dramatic, like something out of a B-grade horror movie where your keywords turn into ravenous creatures and start eating each other. Well, fortunately, it’s not quite that apocalyptic, but it’s a situation that can have some rather unwelcome effects on your website’s SEO performance.

At its core, keyword cannibalisation happens when there are multiple pages on your website all targeting the same keyword. Now, you might be thinking, “But isn’t that a good thing? More chances for me to rank, right?” Well, not quite.

Picture this. You’re hosting a party, and you invite all your friends, but instead of telling them to come to your home, you give out three different addresses. The result? Your guests are spread thin, and none of your parties is as good as one that has all your friends in attendance. It would be a bit of a letdown, right?

That’s precisely what happens there is more than one page targeting the same keyword. Each page is essentially competing with itself for the attention of search engines. They’re sending mixed signals to Google, causing confusion over which page is the most relevant for the targeted keyword. Instead of supporting each other, the pages end up fighting with one another for PageRank, subsequently diluting the overall strength of your site.

Having said that, keyword cannibalisation is not a total SEO disaster. It’s a common problem that can be fixed, and this article will help guide you through the process.

Why Keyword Cannibalisation is a Problem

Firstly, the fundamental problem with keyword cannibalisation is that it’s akin to having your own web pages compete against each other. Remember the squabbling siblings we talked about? Well, imagine if they’re both trying to get your attention to show off the same new trick. Instead of having one strong candidate to show to the world, you’re left juggling between two equally needy pages, and that’s not the best look for any of us.

Firstly, the fundamental problem with keyword cannibalisation is that your web pages are competing against each other, Instead of having one strong candidate to show to the world, you’re left juggling between two equally needy pages, and that’s not the best look for any of us.

Keyword cannibalisation also affects the user experience. If a visitor to your website comes across multiple pages with similar content it can become confusing to them. Confusing website visitors is a major UX faux par because, if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s that a confused user is not likely to stick around for long.

Finally, and probably most importantly of all, keyword cannibalisation makes it harder to analyse website data and make informed decisions to optimise your strategy.

Whenever there’s more than one webpage targeting the same keyword, it becomes a struggle to figure out which strategies are working and which ones aren’t.

While this all might sound a bit doom-and-gloom, remember, every problem has a solution. In the next section, you’ll learn how to identify if you’re dealing with keyword cannibalisation, and more importantly, how to fix it.

How to Identify Keyword Cannibalisation

Identifying keyword cannibalisation can feel a bit like solving a mystery, but don’t worry, you won’t need a magnifying glass or a deerstalker hat for this investigation. Just a keen eye and some digital know-how.

So, where do we begin? The first step is to look at your own website. Put yourself in the shoes of a visitor. If you’re seeing multiple pages that seem to discuss the same topic or answer the same question, you may be dealing with keyword cannibalisation. It’s a bit like finding the same product displayed in different aisles in a supermarket, quite puzzling, isn’t it?

Next, tap into the power of SEO tools. Google Search Console, for instance, is your friendly neighbourhood helper. This free tool can show you which keywords your pages are ranking for. If you see that multiple URLs from your site are ranking for the same keyword, then there’s a high chance that you’re cannibalising your own keywords.

The good news is, you don’t have to tackle this process alone. We’re big believers in the power of collaboration here. Consider looping in your content and SEO teams (if you’re lucky to have them). With more eyes on the case, you can effectively dissect your keyword strategy and pinpoint any potential cannibalisation.

Keep in mind, though, that not all instances of multiple pages ranking for the same keyword are problematic. Sometimes, it’s intentional and beneficial. But it’s when these pages start undermining each other, that’s when you’ll want to take action.

Strategies to Avoid Keyword Cannibalisation

It’s been quite the journey, hasn’t it, folks? By now, you know what keyword cannibalisation is and how to spot it. But, knowledge, as they say, is only as good as the action it inspires. So, let’s talk about how we can keep this sneaky SEO gremlin at bay, shall we?

First things first, it all starts with a robust keyword strategy. Think of it as a blueprint for a building – it lays out where everything should go and how all parts come together to form a cohesive whole. The same should be true for your keyword strategy. Each page on your website should have a unique focus keyword that reflects its content. Sure, some overlap is inevitable, but by ensuring each page has its own primary keyword, you’re helping search engines understand what each page is about.

This strategy extends to your long-tail keywords too. For the uninitiated, long-tail keywords are those longer, more specific keyword phrases that visitors are more likely to use when they’re closer to the point-of-purchase or when they’re using voice search. By optimising different pages for different long-tail keywords, you can avoid unintentionally stepping on your own toes.

Then there’s the concept of user intent. It’s not just about the keywords themselves, but about what the user is looking for when they type those keywords into a search engine. Picture yourself on a Saturday night, searching for ‘pizza near me’. You’re likely looking for a pizza place, not a blog about the history of pizza. By aligning your content with the intent behind the keywords, you’re less likely to end up cannibalising your keywords.

Now, there’s one last tool in our strategy toolbox – regular audits. Remember when we said ‘knowledge is power’? Well, knowing what’s on your website, and where, is half the battle. Regularly checking your content and how it’s performing can help you identify any potential cases of keyword cannibalisation before they become a problem. Consider it as your regular health checkup, but for your website.

We won’t sugarcoat it – avoiding keyword cannibalisation requires effort and vigilance. But, believe us, it’s worth it. Up next, we’ll dive into the specific remedies for keyword cannibalisation, for those times when prevention just doesn’t cut it. Stay tuned, you won’t want to miss it!

Solutions and Remedies for Keyword Cannibalisation

One of the most effective ways to combat keyword cannibalisation is through consolidation. Picture this – you’ve got two half-filled jars of the same jam in your fridge. Instead of letting them both take up space, you consolidate, pouring one into the other to create one full jar. The same principle applies here. If you have multiple pages competing for the same keyword, consider combining them into a single, stronger page that can stand tall against the competition.

Now, when consolidating, you might end up with some leftover pages. What to do with them? That’s where 301 redirects come in handy. A 301 redirect is like a digital signpost, saying “this page has moved permanently over there”. It directs any traffic (and search engines) from the old pages to your new consolidated page. This way, you keep the ‘link juice’ and maintain your SEO strength.

But what if your pages are too unique to be merged? That’s when you could use canonical URLs. Picture canonical URLs as you would a spotlight. They shine a light on the page you want search engines to focus on, helping them understand that while other similar pages exist, this is the one to pay attention to.

Finally, you might need to roll up your sleeves and dive into some good old content modification. If you’ve got pages competing for the same keywords, then perhaps it’s time to tweak the content, so they each focus on different, but related keywords. It’s like changing the flavour of your jams slightly, so each has its own unique appeal.

Remember, these solutions aren’t a one-size-fits-all. It’s about figuring out which remedy works best for your unique situation. But hey, that’s what makes SEO such an exciting field, doesn’t it? Up next, we’ll chat about some tools to prevent keyword cannibalisation. Stick around, we’re nearing the end of our journey!

Tools to Prevent Keyword Cannibalisation

We’re in the home stretch now, friends! You’ve been with us on this roller coaster of a journey into the world of keyword cannibalisation, and now it’s time to equip you with some trusty tools to keep this pesky problem at bay. After all, every good hero (or heroine) needs their arsenal, right?

Google’s Keyword Planner: First up, we’ve got our trusty sidekick, Google’s Keyword Planner. This tool, provided for free by Google Ads, allows you to explore different keyword combinations, their search volumes, and how competitive they are. It’s a bit like having a spyglass, showing you a glimpse of what your users are searching for and allowing you to structure your content around these insights.

SEMRush’s Keyword Magic Tool: Next up is SEMRush’s Keyword Magic Tool. Now, if the name itself doesn’t draw you in, its features surely will. With it, you can not only research keywords but also group them based on different topics. Think of it as your own personal librarian, helping you categorise and organise your keywords effectively.

Ahrefs: Then there’s Ahrefs, a comprehensive SEO tool suite that comes with a powerful site audit feature. It’s like having your personal SEO physician, diagnosing potential issues like keyword cannibalisation and providing you with actionable insights.

Screaming Frog: And let’s not forget Screaming Frog, a website crawler that’s fantastic for identifying duplicate content across your site. It’s like having a detective on your team, sniffing out potential instances of keyword cannibalisation.

Moz Pro: Lastly, there’s Moz Pro, another all-in-one SEO toolset. Its Keyword Explorer tool lets you find related keywords, long-tail keywords, and understand the keyword competitiveness. Consider it a kind of Swiss army knife for your SEO needs.

Using these tools can give you a leg up in identifying and combating keyword cannibalisation. But remember, tools are just that – tools. They’re there to assist, not do all the work for you. So roll up your sleeves, get your hands a little dirty, and remember to enjoy the journey.

Final Thoughts

Well, my friends, we’ve reached the end of our little adventure into the world of keyword cannibalisation.

Let’s take a minute to reflect on the ground we’ve covered. We’ve spoke about the concept of keyword cannibalisation, understood its potential harm, learned how to spot it, and armed ourselves with strategies to prevent it. We’ve also discussed the various solutions at our disposal if it does rear its ugly head, and we’ve explored some of the best SEO tools to keep it in check.

Keyword cannibalisation might seem like a daunting task to have to tackle but now you’re armed with the knowledge to fix it.

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