Using a specific term on multiple pages can backfire in SEO. Here you can learn about keyword cannibalization and what to do about it.

How many pages on your website are ranking for the same keywords? Isn’t that good? Maybe you are casting a wider net, more total impressions from users, etc.

Unfortunately, it may not work that way. What ends up happening is that you are forcing your pages to compete with each other. Resulting in each page having a lower CTR, lower Authority, and lower Conversion Rates.

The technical name for all of this is keyword cannibalization.

What Is Keyword Cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization is when you split your results between two or more pages that should be just one page; they are eating each other’s lunch.

Google isn’t impressed by this, and they give you no points for covering the same topic twice. You’re asking google to choose between your two pages.

Accidental Keyword Cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization can mess up all the hard work you put into SEO. Maybe until now, you never knew there was such a thing as keyword cannibalization and how much it may be affecting your website.

Accidentally Diminishing Your Authority

Instead of having one highly authoritative page, you’re splitting your CTR among multiple moderately-relevant pages. It’s better to have one high-authority page instead of two medium-authority pages. Think about the click-through odds as you scroll down the Google results list. Additionally, the two medium-authority pages are competing with each other for other SEO metrics including clicks, impressions, and page views.

Related: What is Domain Authority?

Accidentally Diluting Your Links & Anchor Text

Backlinks that could have gone to one consolidated source of information are now being split between two (or more) pages. Your backlinks are messy. Links that could be directed to one source are spread between two, or more pages, decreasing page authority across each ranking page. Would you rather read this one article with all the information in it, or would you rather have to bounce around a few pages to get all the info?

Forgetting That Google May Devalue The Better Page

Let’s say you have two pages ranking for the same keyword, but all the other SEO metrics are different. One may have a great click-through-rate, but the other might not. The more pages that rank for the same keyword, the more competition you are creating for high ranking positions. By limiting the number of pages from your website ranking for a specific keyword, the page you want users to see will have a higher chance of appearing towards the top of search results.

Not Realizing That It Looks Bad

We recognize thin content when we see it; the signs can be pretty obvious. If you have two pages about the same thing, that tells the average browser and Google that your content is probably stretched thin. A page’s word count is important when aiming for a high ranking position in organic search results. If you’re pages have limited content, you will have a lower keyword density than the competition and a potentially higher bounce rate.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to H1, H2 and H3 Tags

How To Identify Keyword Cannibalization

We know what to look for, but how do we apply that new information?

We will be creating a ‘keyword matrix’, which is just a spreadsheet that lists all of your site’s most important URLs and their associated keywords.

Another method might be possible if you use a ‘keyword mapping tool’ from a program or service.

Once you’ve input the URLs and keywords, look for any duplicate entries. You can use the ‘Find’ function to make this faster. Highlight entries that are duplicate keywords and fix those pages.

For bonus points, create a column for metadata keywords, as those can cannibalize too. Follow the same process, find duplicates and eliminate them.

How To Fix Keyword Cannibalization

We know what it is, we found it, but still, what do we DO about it?

More often than not, the issue is simply one of organization. With time and spreadsheets, you can effectively reduce keyword cannibalization across your website with little to no hassle. Let’s break down the process of reducing and avoiding keyword cannibalization into 5 tips, because people love odd-numbered amounts of tips!

1. Restructure

The most authoritative page is going to be your landing page. Landing pages are customized to a specific campaign or offer and guide visitors towards a single call to action. In short, landing pages are designed for conversion. Next, you can include links to unique variations that branch out from the target keyword.

For example, if you have a page about t-shirts, the landing page would be about t-shirts in general and include links to the different types of t-shirts. It is important to use descriptive words when linking to related pages to help users differentiate between pages.

2. Create

Maybe you don’t have this perfect high authority page like the previous example; what then? You might not have a landing page that consolidates.

So you just make one! Create a new landing page to serve as your ‘authoritative source page’, and then do the linking. This page should contain more information than all of the pages linking to it.

3. Consolidate

If your pages aren’t unique, consider combining them into one.

You can roll your two underperforming pages into one more authoritative source. Doing this can often solve multiple issues at once.

You’ll need to analyze the pages to see which performs best.

The key metrics you should analyze when consolidating pages are:

  • Conversion Rate
  • Bounce Rate
  • Time on Page
  • Clicks
  • CTR
  • Ranking Position
  • Impressions

You want to try and combine the best aspects of both pages so that you get the ‘significant traffic’ on one page and ‘better conversions’ from the other page, all on one super-page. Win-win.

4. Search

So none of these solutions fit your issues yet? Maybe you need to find new keywords.

Time to make sure you have good keywords for your page’s content. You may find it helpful to look at our article about Keyword Research.

Seeing things in a spreadsheet will help you spot opportunities. Keyword & rank, The page URL, title tags & meta description, Word count, Organic traffic, Bounce rate, Conversions, are all important in different ways.

From there, you can determine which pages need work on their keywords.

In most cases, you can use a keyword research tool to find the most relevant keywords for all of the pages you want to keep.

5. Redirects

A good old 301 redirect might be the solution if you already have multiple pages ranking for the same terms.

Using 301s allows you to consolidate your cannibalized content by directing all traffic those pages would get to a single dedicated page. Doing this will increase the authority of your primary page and reduce any chance of triggering a 404 error.

If you simply change or delete a page without doing anything else, you will run into issues. You need to put in place a redirect to stop any visits to that page, reaching a dead end on your site.

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect that takes users and search engines to a new URL. Use this when it’s a permanent change, and brush up on how they work before going all-in. By using a 301 redirect, search engines like Google will also take notice and transfer the original links authority accordingly.

Summary

Keyword cannibalization occurs when content is spread out across too many pages on the same website forcing search engines like Google to pick which page should appear higher in search results. When beginning to optimize your website, it is important to remember that Google’s algorithm is the first thing we are trying to impress.

The good news is that fixing keyword cannibalization issues across your website can be pretty quick and once fixed you can expect quick results. If you still need help with keyword cannibalization or want to learn more about effective SEO tactics, contact HeyTony, your Hamilton SEO Experts!

Originally published . Last updated .

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