Keyword Cannibalisation and Search Engine Optimisation: Maximising Your SEO Strategy
In the ever-evolving world of SEO, staying ahead of the competition is crucial. One common issue that arises is keyword cannibalisation, which can undermine your SEO efforts if not managed effectively.
In this article, we’ll explore the concept of keyword cannibalisation and its impact on SEO, along with practical examples and strategies to overcome this challenge.
Understanding Keyword Cannibalisation
Keyword cannibalisation occurs when multiple pages on a website compete for the same keyword or set of keywords in search engine rankings. Instead of one page ranking highly for a particular keyword, multiple pages end up diluting the visibility and effectiveness of the website’s content. This can confuse search engines, hinder user experience, and ultimately harm organic search traffic.
The Consequences of Keyword Cannibalisation
There are a number of problems created by keyword cannibalisation. These include:
- Confused Search Engines: When search engines encounter multiple pages targeting the same keyword, they struggle to determine which page is the most relevant. Consequently, the search engine might choose a page that is less relevant or of lower quality, resulting in poor rankings overall.
- Diluted Authority: When multiple pages compete for the same keywords, it splits the incoming links, social signals, and other ranking factors across these pages. As a result, the authority of the website as a whole is weakened, making it harder to achieve higher rankings.
- Inconsistent User Experience: Keyword cannibalisation can lead to a confusing user experience. If a user finds multiple pages with similar content but slight variations in the search results, it becomes difficult to identify which page is the best fit for their query. This inconsistency may frustrate users and increase bounce rates.
Examples of Keyword Cannibalisation
Let’s consider an example to better understand keyword cannibalisation. Suppose you have an e-commerce website that sells various types of running shoes. If you unintentionally optimise multiple pages for the keyword “best running shoes,” you might end up cannibalising the keyword.
In this scenario, if you have a dedicated page for “best running shoes,” but your blog section also features articles targeting the same keyword, it creates unnecessary competition. As a result, search engines might rank the blog post higher than the dedicated page, leading to missed opportunities to attract potential customers.
If you have loads of blog posts about running shoes (a common issue with blogs, and one of the reasons we’re not so keen on them at Go Up, they tend to become breeding grounds for keyword cannibalisation!) then this problem is often compounded.
Strategies to Overcome Keyword Cannibalisation
There are a number of ways to combat keyword cannibalisation. These include:
- Keyword Research and Mapping: Conduct thorough keyword research to identify the most valuable and relevant keywords for each page on your website. Create a keyword map that ensures each page has a unique primary keyword, eliminating potential conflicts.
- Content Consolidation: If you have multiple pages targeting the same keyword, consider consolidating the content into a single, comprehensive page. This way, you can leverage the combined strength of the individual pages to boost the authority of the consolidated page. This is often required when your site has a large blog that’s been churning out content over a number of years. You’ll end up having lots of pages targeting essentially the same keywords. Work out which one is performing the best, and use this as your master page. If there’s any very useful information on your other similar blog posts that isn’t already contained in your master post, then port that information over to it. Then, consider turning it into a guide instead of a blog post (blog posts are time stamped by Google in the SERPs, meaning that older blog posts are unlikely to rank well as Google prefers to promote blog posts written within that last year or so!)
- Internal Linking Optimisation: Implement effective internal linking strategies to guide search engines and users to the most relevant page. Use keyword-rich anchor text and link from less important pages to more authoritative ones. By way of an example, in this page, we talk a lot about “SEO”. There is a world in which this creates competing content with our home page (which is the page we want to rank well for “SEO” related keywords. We want this page to rank for “Keyword cannibalisation” related keywords, not “SEO” related keywords). A nice way to help is to put an internal link on the word SEO to the home page, which helps tell Google that the home page is the page we want to rank for that keyword.
- Page Differentiation: Ensure that each page has a distinct focus and unique content. Provide value to users by offering different perspectives or additional information related to a particular keyword.
- Canonical Tags: Implement canonical tags to indicate the preferred version of a page to search engines. This helps consolidate ranking signals and avoid keyword cannibalisation issues.
Keyword cannibalisation can hinder your SEO efforts and limit your website’s visibility in search engine rankings. By understanding the consequences and implementing effective strategies, you can overcome this challenge and maximise the potential of your SEO efforts. Conduct thorough keyword research, consolidate content when necessary, optimise internal linking, differentiate pages, and utilise canonical tags to ensure a robust SEO strategy that drives organic traffic and improves user experience.
This is particularly important for websites with lots of pages, or with, say, a large blog section. The issue has been compounded in the wake of AI generators such as ChatGPT, wherein vast volumes of content can be churned out very quickly, often with little human quality control. This means that competing content becomes the norm on a site. Stay vigilant!