So, your business is working on optimizing your content for search, but you’re starting to notice that multiple pages of your website are ranking on a search engine results page (SERP) for the same keywords and search intent. That may sound great — more impressions = more clicks, right? — but in actuality…it’s not exactly what it seems.
Why? When multiple pages on your website are ranking for the same keyword, you’re falling victim to keyword — or content — cannibalization. This practice of creating different pieces of content with the same focus affects your website’s ranking and performance. In order to properly optimize your site, it’s important to understand what keyword cannibalization is, the impact it can have, how to identify it, and ways you can avoid it in the future.
What Is Keyword Cannibalization?
Keyword cannibalization is the process of targeting the same keyword(s) or search intent across multiple pages of your own website, which takes away from one page’s ability to rank and perform well in search results.
For example, say your website sells ski equipment and you write a blog about the best downhill ski gear. If you target the “affordable ski equipment in Michigan” search query in your blog, the content may start ranking alongside your downhill skiing product page which also targets that keyphrase, even though your blog is less relevant to the search query. Google doesn’t understand which web page to prioritize in search results, however, which means you’re competing with yourself for clicks. This is just one common way keyword cannibalization prevents itself, and why the content you create shouldn’t reinvent the wheel.
The Impact of Keyword Cannibalization on Your Content
Not only does keyword cannibalization cause your business to compete with itself, it deters visitors from your website completely. When users see the same information in different search results or on multiple pages, they become unsure of which link to click and view your site as crowded and disorganized.
Rather than try to figure out which area of your website will provide them with the information they’re looking for, users will often opt for abandoning your business entirely. A user’s decision to get answers elsewhere lowers your page’s click-through rate (CTR) and conversion rate, which is why paying attention to cannibalized content on your site is so important.
How to Check for Keyword Cannibalization in Your Content
One of the easiest ways to check your website’s content for cannibalization is by doing a Google search. When typing in a few keywords or a specific query your business is ranking for, you should be able to view which of your web pages are coming up for those terms on Google’s results page.
If multiple pages are found to be ranking for the same or similar keywords, your next step would be to determine which page has more value. There are a few ways to handle this. One of the more cost-effective ways of doing so is through Google Search Console. Running a report and filtering by different queries or pages will help identify the overlap. Utilizing third-party tools such as Moz, SEMrush, Ahrefs, etc. all can be of value to see which page might be more valuable from a popularity or authority perspective.
Once you learn which of your pages are more valuable, you can move forward with condensing content so only one page on a given topic appears in search results. This can be done by eliminating unnecessary cannibalized content or revising pages to focus on a new search intent and keywords.
Preventing Keyword Cannibalization on Your Website
As you continue on your journey of optimizing your website’s content for search, it’s helpful to understand how to avoid keyword cannibalization in the future. The first step toward avoiding cannibalization is recognizing that new content isn’t always the answer.
Rather than develop a new blog on downhill skiing equipment — and fall victim to keyword cannibalization — because its content is outdated, opt for updating the existing page to reflect product changes and industry updates. You can also avoid cannibalization through internal linking, which entails briefly mentioning a topic you have already written about on another page and linking to that content so users can easily access it.
When you do draft a new piece of content, get in the habit of asking yourself: What is the specific purpose of this piece of content, and has its topic been covered on my website before? As you’re writing, ensure that you’re sticking to the content focus you have already determined. Continuing with the ski equipment example, if your piece is about ski lodges in Michigan, don’t start talking about Michigan’s ski hills — an entirely different topic that can be covered in another blog.
Ultimately, your goal in creating content should be to direct users to the most relevant content related to their search. When multiple pages cover the same topic, you’re not meeting the customer’s needs — and you’re definitely not helping yourself either.
Looking for more insight into keyword cannibalization and how to avoid it? Our team at BlackTruck Media + Marketing is well-versed in content strategy and happy to help. Send us a message and we’ll get back to you with how we can make your website better for search.