It is easy to think that the more pages target a keyword, the better it will rank. After all, if you have many pages talking about a niche, isn’t Google more likely to consider you a relevant source on the topic? While it seems like targeting specific terms across different pages is a good SEO strategy, it is counterproductive. You could cause more harm than good to your website if you do this.
Multiple pages ranking for the same keyword means you are competing against yourself. When you target the same keyword across various pages, each of them gets a lower click-through rate, which means lower authority and conversion rates for you. SEOs call this keyword cannibalization.
What Happens in Keyword Cannibalization?
Keyword cannibalization splits the CTR, links, and even conversions between various pages. When this happens, you do not improve your website’s authoritativeness since Google cannot gauge the depth of your knowledge across pages.
What happens is that you ask Google to decide on individual pages’ authoritativeness and choose ones that match your target keywords. For instance, if you sell various types of water containers and you do not use any other keywords aside from “water bottle,” Google will interpret it as all your pages being about water bottles, even if you have sports water bottles, glass bottles, jugs, and more.
Why Protect Yourself against Keyword Cannibalization
If your website suffers from keyword cannibalization, you might not even be aware that anything is wrong. For example, if you have one page which ranks highly for one of your targeted keywords, you might be happy that it is on the first page of the SERPs.
However, you might not realize that it could rank higher and convert better if it does not share traffic with other pages on your site. Keyword cannibalization causes several issues—we take a closer look at them below.
1. It Diminishes Page Authority
When you have several slightly relevant pages instead of one highly authoritative page, you split your CTR. Instead of competing with other websites for page views and rankings, you turn your pages into competitors. When Google considers you as an unauthoritative source, it will push your website further down the rankings.
2. Google Might Devalue the More Informative Page
Another possibility would be that Google misreads which page is more valuable. For example, suppose you have several articles on healthcare SEO. In that case, the page discussing specific strategies will be more valuable to medical facilities than the page discussing healthcare SEO basics.
However, if you only use “healthcare SEO” as your keyword, Google might not understand that outlining strategies provide more value.
3. You Dilute the Effect of Your Links
Instead of having one source of information, targeting the same keywords means you will have two or more pages for backlinks related to the topic. Your anchor text and internal links lead visitors to different pages instead of a single authoritative page. Inevitably, some of your pages convert better than the rest. This happens whether your page targets the same keywords or not. However, this is more apparent when you use the same keywords throughout. You lose potential leads when they reach the less relevant pages.
4. It Consumes the Crawl Budget
Search engine spiders allocate a limited number of crawls for a website in a given period. If you have multiple pages talking about the same keyword, it results in unnecessary repetitions of crawling and indexing. If you have a smaller site, you don’t need to worry about your crawl budget. However, a large e-commerce site or a site with many product pages will notice the difference.
Identifying Keyword Cannibalization
You can identify keyword cannibalization quickly using a keyword matrix. This tool lists the important keywords and URLs on your site. You can create a keyword matrix on a spreadsheet. For example, if you sell soy candles, you would want to have a blog about your product. Your keyword matrix would probably look like this:
While this could work for a hobby site or a small enterprise, manually creating a keyword matrix would get tiring for an organization with a larger website. If you have a large website, you can use a keyword mapping tool. SEMRush, Ahrefs, and other keyword tools usually let you create a keyword matrix from the data they gather about your site. Tools like these also let you identify which pages target the same keywords.
Fixing Keyword Cannibalization
Solving cannibalization depends on identifying the root issues. Usually, reorganizing a website is one way of dealing with this problem, but you might have to implement other remedies. Here are some remedies for cannibalization.
The quickest way to fix this is to take the most authoritative page and turn it into a landing page that links the various other targeted keywords. For example, the page targeting “soy candles” in the example above can be the canonical page, with pages about different types of soy candles linking to it.
New or Consolidated Content Pages
If you don’t have a page that can serve as the canonical page, you can create one. Make a page that compiles all of these links if you haven’t done so. You could also combine pages into one, especially if they’re targeting the same keyword. Combining underperforming pages will make your content more valuable and create an authoritative source.
Identify Other Keywords to Target
If you have a diverse set of pages with informative content, you probably only need a keyword strategy. Finding new keywords will probably address issues in cannibalization, especially if you have content-rich pages.
Keyword cannibalization is common, especially among web administrators who are only starting to implement a content strategy. If your website is cannibalizing its target keywords, there are fortunately many remedies for it. From identifying other keywords to creating new pages, you have various choices to help you reorganize your website.
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