What is Keyword Cannibalisation?

by Becky Cable ON Aug 30, 2019

Slightly less macabre than first appears, thankfully.

Keyword Cannibalisation is what you get when more than one page is designed to rank for one particular keyword, you end up competing with yourself.

This results in lower Google rankings for the collection of pages as a whole, than if you had one page targeting the phrase or group, hence the name - cannibalisation.

One example would be if you had a website that sold phones, and you had two pages that targeted the keyword "mobile phones". This might be two pages that discuss and offer the same information and content - in which case, they should be made into one page where all the information can be found in just the one place.

It may also be that these pages could be targeting "iPhones" and "Android phones", in which case the copy should be edited to reflect that these are two different sets of products, offering different things.

Why is ranking twice worse than just ranking once?

If the pages that are cannibalising each other can be targeted to two different keywords, the fact they both rank is great.

But if you're ranking twice for the same keyword with two different pages, here's what happens:

1. You damage the authority and quality of your pages

Your pages are competing with each other. Each is fighting the other for page views, and both are only moderately relevant, instead of becoming one highly relevant page. Keyword cannibalisation also tells Google that your content stretched thin, and may not actually be relevant to the target keyword at all.

2. Google could devalue the more relevant page

Google does it's best to understand what each page of a website is about, but if you've got several pages targeting the same terms, there's a high chance it might decide the wrong page is more important and devalue the others.

3. Diluted Backlinks

Instead of building lots of links to one great source of information, you're splitting that power between multiple pages. Your internal links will also, presumably, be directing people in several directions for what is essentially the same information.

4. Your Conversion Rate suffers

It's unlikely that all pages will convert equally well. One will have a higher conversion rate, but new visitors aren't all being directed to that page, they're being split across several. Make sure new leads land on the most relevant pages possible - the ones that are optimised for your desired conversion action.

This will also prevent bounce rate, as users are more satisfied with the page they've found, increasing the page ranking.

How to find and fix your Cannibal pages

Keep tabs on your site and make sure you aren't cannibalising your own content.

A simple way to do this is to create a spreadsheet that lists each of your URLs and their corresponding focus keywords.

Any good keyword strategy should start with thorough research, and continue down a road of careful planning - picking focus keywords, low competition figures where possible, and making sure that titles, metas, alt tags and content are all well-optimised for those terms.

Once you've created a spreadsheet of URLs and target keywords, check to see whether it contains duplicate entries in the keyword column; if so, it's time to consolidate content where needed, and find new keywords for pages that don't suit consolidation.

If you are merging two or more pages into one, make sure to correctly implement 301 redirects from the old pages to the new page to ensure you don’t lose out on any backlink power to the original content.

The Cannibalisation Conclusion

With Google's trend towards ranking pages that satisfy a broader user intent, cannibalisation is more common now than it ever was, and can cause major problems.

Thankfully, it's a really easy issue to fix.

Regular site audits are crucial to the SEO health of any website, but so are careful keyword and content strategies.

Here at Unumbox we offer a copywriting service, so if you feel your website is in need of a content re-vamp, get in touch!

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