There are a lot of misconceptions about keyword cannibalisation. Some SEOs claim that it doesn’t exist which only adds to the confusion and creates more myths. In reality keyword cannibalisation is an issue for many websites and it CAN hold back your rankings.
It is just that it is probably not what you’re thinking it is.
In this blog, we’re going to help you understand what it is, what it’s not, and how you can get the help you need to fix it.
What is Keyword Cannibalisation in SEO?
You may have thought that this term means that having more than one page on your site that targets the same keyword equals cannibalisation. Both pages performing poorly due to the other being in existence.
This just isn’t true.
Two or more pages optimised for the same keyword can BOTH still rank, and rank well.
Keyword Cannibalisation is when you have multiple pages competing for the same keyword, making it difficult for search engines to determine which page to rank higher.
How can Keyword Cannibalisation affect your Rankings?
Keyword Cannibalisation is about Intent.
The issue could more accurately be called ‘keyword intent cannibalisation’.
Take Apple’s MacBook Pro pages for example. Apple.com has two different pages ranking organically for this term and they rank #1 and #2. You’re probably not surprised by that necessarily but if you thought keyword cannibalisation worked by optimising for the same term on multiple pages, we should probably get a different ranking here, shouldn’t we?
Actually, we wouldn’t. The intent of the two pages is completely different. The first is the page you will be directed to when researching the product, trying to decide to buy, and making comparisons. The second page is where you will land when you’ve made a decision and are ready to purchase. The first is informational, the second, transactional.
With the difference in intent being obvious these pages can exist and rank quite happily without confusion for search engines or customers.
It could be helpful to think of it this way. Optimising multiple pages for the same keyword with the same INTENT puts your own pages in competition with each other.
Google’s John Mueller was once asked about ranking and keyword cannibalisation on Reddit and here is his answer.
We just rank the content as we get it. If you have a bunch of pages with roughly the same content, it’s going to compete with each other, kinda like a bunch of kids wanting to be first in line, and ultimately someone else slips in ahead of them :). Personally, I prefer fewer, stronger pages over lots of weaker ones – don’t water your site’s value down.
— John Mueller, Google
With your pages competing with each other for the same word, it can result in your rankings for both pages being lower due to dilution of the content. It can also result in the page you would prefer ranking to be lower than the other page.
How Can I Identify Keyword Cannibalisation?
It’s possible you have keyword cannibalisation happening on your site without even realising it. New content has been created and added without considering what already exists.
This doesn’t mean the new content is better or worse than the previous content. It simply makes it harder for a search engine’s algorithm to choose between the pages as to which should rank higher than the other.
Sometimes there will be stronger ranking signals pointing to one over the other but when there isn’t, neither page will rank as well as they could have. Classic keyword cannibalisation.
There are multiple ways to see if you are cannibalising your content and keywords:
Create A Spreadsheet
Creating a spreadsheet of your pages can help identify what keywords you have ranking, and you are targeting for each page. This is helpful if you do not have many pages on your website. List all of your pages in one column and your focus keyword in another and search for duplicates.
Use Your Keyword Map
Keyword Maps are a great way to determine if you have multiple pages targeting the same keyword. If you don’t have a keyword map created, we have a step-by-step guide on how you can create your own keyword map using free tools!
Adding the URL to the heading above each individual keyword group means you can see if you are cannibalising your keywords.
After you have sorted which keywords are duplicates and potentially are being cannibalised, take a look at the keyword in your search engine to see where you are ranking.
Keyword Cannibalisation may not be an issue for you, however, if you are currently ranking in the top 2 positions for the keyword and continue to hold those positions, then you do not need to worry about Keyword Cannibalisation.
How Can I Solve Keyword Cannibalisation?
Cleaning up any pages on your site that might have this issue really needs to be a part of your wider SEO strategy. To help solve keyword cannibalisation, you can also:
Merge the 2 pages together
Consolidating your content is a really easy way to solve keyword cannibalisation. Add the content from the lower ranking page onto the higher-ranking page, either taking all of the content, the most important parts or rewriting the content to add. Then un-publish or remove the lower ranking page and don’t forget to set up a redirect.
Rework the Content
If the two pages have very similar content but do have different focuses, you can rewrite the content to refocus it on different topics and different keywords. Use your keyword map from earlier and find similar keywords that can fit your existing page or do further keyword research into new keywords. From here, you are able to rewrite the content so it is different to the similar page.
At TheOnlineCo. we have experts in SEO who can help you optimise your website to get the rankings you’re looking for. Contact us to find out more.