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How to identify and manage keyword cannibalisation

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Keyword cannibalisation is a common SEO mistake that can seriously harm your website in terms of page rankings, visitors and ultimately conversions. 

If you’ve never heard of keyword cannibalisation before, don’t worry if you’re confused. SEO in itself is an expert discipline with many angles to consider.

But by the same token, any problem with your SEO strategy can’t be ignored as the health of your website and therefore your business may be at stake. 

When it comes to keyword cannibalisation specifically, this involves targeting the same keywords too many times within different areas of your website.

So here are our top tips on identifying, fixing and preventing keyword cannibalisation to boost the health of your website today. 

What Is Keyword Cannibalisation? 

Keyword cannibalisation is when you are targeting the same main keywords within multiple pages of your website.

What this does is put each of your pages in competition with each other, rather than your website competing against other websites as should actually be the case.

Example: Here at Imaginaire we offer multiple services related to marketing such as web design, PPC, SEO and social media marketing. 

There are quite a few pages on our website, with each page targeted towards a different service. This also means each page will feature different keywords related to that service. Our blogs also work much the same.

But what would happen if a few pages, or even multiple pages all targeted the exact same keywords? For instance, if ‘web design Dubai’ didn’t just feature as the main keyword on own its dedicated page, but every page?

Search engines would get confused and users would too. 

Why Is Keyword Cannibalisation Bad? 

In theory, trying to target the same keywords on multiple pages of your website might seem like a good idea. 

But put yourself in Google’s shoes for a second. Its robots have to crawl and sort the data on your website so that when users type in related queries, it knows which results to show them. Keyword cannibalisation makes that impossible because it’s just not clear which of your pages is the most relevant for that particular keyword. 

Instead what search engines (and users) crave is clear communication. Every page should therefore have a direct focus and not compete for exactly the same search terms as another page belonging to that domain. 

Why Does Keyword Cannibalisation Happen?

Poor website structure – Every page on your website should be there for a reason. If your website has too many pages that overlap another page in terms of function or focus, then keyword cannibalisation is more likely. Part of redesigning a website considers if a better site structure can fix this issue, by removing unnecessary pages and consolidating similar pages. 

Lack of a content strategy – Within your landing pages and blogs, the primary keyword of the page should only be targeted once. While keyword variations can be acceptable, if there’s no distinction between the SEO focus of multiple pages, search engines will get confused. 

Failing to expand your SEO strategy – Having an SEO strategy means you know which pages are targeting which keywords. Also, you can look for keyword variations and even low hanging fruit to expand your reach without harming your existing content. 

Duplicate content – Copying and pasting content from one page to another on your website might seem like it saves time and money. But fixing the issues this causes (i.e. keyword cannibalisation) is the exact opposite. 

Identifying Keyword Cannibalisation

If your CMS has any SEO plug-ins such as Yoast, you will often be alerted to possible keyword cannibalisation the moment you enter the main keyword of the page. 

An SEO strategy involving a keyword matrix created on a spreadsheet can also avoid targeting the exact same keywords on different pages. The document will list the keyword, any keyword variations and which pages have already targeted these keywords previously.

Depending on the size of the website, you can also perform manual checks for keyword cannibalisation. As we noted above, if the Imaginaire website targeted ‘web design Dubai’ on every single page, this would be pretty obvious. You can also apply this same technique to your own website regardless of the niche. 

Finally, if you have a consistent person or team taking care of your SEO content, they themselves will get a feel for when keywords have already been targeted. To remedy the issue, they can suggest keyword variations for new content or can update previous content to improve its page rankings, rather than trying to target the same keywords in new content causing keyword cannibalisation. 

Fixing Keyword Cannibalisation

With any SEO strategy, we want to compete against other websites for keywords but not ourselves. 

So when it comes to fixing keyword cannibalisation, this is the goal to keep in mind.

Once we’ve used the above methods to identify offending pages on your website, the choices involve deleting pages, consolidating pages, or adapting the on-page content to target similar but not the same keywords.

All of the page metadata should also be unique to that page, which can be another cannibalisation issue to look out for. 

Preventing Keyword Cannibalisation

Having both a solid page structure and content strategy is how to avoid keyword cannibalisation. 

This can be as simple as having a list of keywords relevant to your business, products and services, and designating which pages will target each set of keywords. 

Before creating any pages or content in the future, there needs to be a manual check of the website and any linked SEO software to ensure those keywords haven’t already been targeted. 

Otherwise, that page’s traffic may be reduced, or your new page may not do as well because Google recognises the existing page as the more authoritative source. 

Imaginaire – Fix Keyword Cannibalisation With Our SEO Services 

Need help with any aspect of your SEO strategy, including multiple pages targeting the same keywords?

Keyword cannibalisation is one of many complex topics in SEO. But rather than stay baffled, we want to help you fix any issues preventing your website from reaching your target customers. 

Based in Dubai, our SEO experts here at Imaginaire are only a call or a click away!  

To discuss your SEO requirements or any of our other services please drop us a message or give us a call on 0115 697 1367

Rachael is a content executive with Imaginaire. With hands-on experience with all things marketing, she has the knowledge and know-how to explain and advise almost any topic you can think of!

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