Keyword cannibalization is an SEO issue that can cause significant problems for website owners. It occurs when multiple pages on the same website target the same keyword phrase. This issue can cause search engines to become confused and lead to decreased rankings for the website. It is essential to identify and address keyword cannibalism as quickly as possible to ensure that the website can remain competitive in search engine rankings. In this article, we will discuss what keyword cannibalism is, why it is bad for SEO, and how to find and fix this issue.
What is Keyword Cannibalization?
Keyword cannibalization occurs when the exact keyword phrase is used on more than one page of a website. That is different from a site with multiple pages targeting different keyword phrases, which is typical for most websites.
For example, if a website sells running shoes and the main keywords are “running shoes,” “running shoes for women,” and “running shoes for men,” then all three pages are targeting different keyword phrases.
However, if each of those pages also contains the phrase “running shoes,” there is keyword cannibalization. The same goes for other variations such as “running shoe prices” or “best running shoes.”
Why is keyword cannibalization bad for SEO?
Keyword cannibalization causes the following issues for websites,
- Confusing the search engines
When multiple pages on a website target the same keyword phrase, the search engine becomes confused about which page to rank and might choose neither. That can significantly affect the website’s ability to rank for that keyword phrase.
- Diluting the content
If the page has multiple variations of the same keyword phrase, it will dilute many of them, which can lead to the page being too general and not specific enough for the target audience. That can result in the page not being relevant enough to rank for any keyword phrases.
- Losing out on potential traffic
If the page is not receiving any traffic, it is not generating revenue for the website owner. If the page is a sales page, no one buys the product. No one is signing up if the page is used for collecting email subscribers.
- Increased bounce rate
If the page is not ranking for any keyword phrases, then no one is visiting the page. That will negatively affect the bounce rate and click-through rate, which can lead to a drop in rankings.
- Drop in organic traffic
If the keyword cannibalization is extreme, the website could lose all of its organic traffic. That can be a grave issue and lead to a drop in rankings or even a complete delisting from the search engines.
How to identify keyword cannibalization?
The best way to identify keyword cannibalization is to list the most important keywords for the website. Once you have the list, you can go through each page on the website to check for keyword cannibalization.
For each page, you’ll need to check the title tag, Meta description, headline, image alt text, content, and URL to see if each page is targeting the exact keyword phrase. If multiple pages on the website are targeting the same keyword phrase, you may have a keyword cannibalization issue.
The following are the most common symptoms that indicate a cannibalization issue,
- Fluctuating ranking URLs: If the ranking of a keyword phrase constantly fluctuates, then it is inevitably a sign of cannibalization. It means the search engine cannot figure out which page of your website to rank for that keyword.
- Website rank becomes stagnant: If you find that your website has no progress in rankings even after creating excellent content and earning quality backlinks, you are facing a cannibalization issue. It means link and page authority is distributed among two or more pages instead of one. As a result, none of the pages are ranking strong.
- Incorrect URL ranks: If you find a wrong URL ranking for the target keyword, it might be due to cannibalization. It means the wrong URL is becoming more relevant than the actual one you want to rank for that keyword. That may cause a decrease in conversion rates as users will be directed to the wrong landing page.
How to prevent keyword cannibalization?
The best way to prevent keyword cannibalization is to plan and ensure that each page on the website targets a unique keyword phrase. That can be done in a few ways.
- Create an editorial calendar: Creating an editorial calendar helps you plan out your website and publish relevant content for your target audience. An editorial calendar will help you plan your website so that each page targets a different keyword phrase.
- Create a keyword research plan: Planning out your keyword research can help you to identify the most relevant keywords to target for each page on your website. That will help prevent keyword cannibalization by ensuring that each page targets a different keyword phrase.
- Create a sitemap: A sitemap is a map of all the pages on your website. Creating a sitemap will help you plan your website and ensure that each page targets a different keyword phrase.
- Keep on top of your analytics: Regularly reviewing your website analytics can help identify any issues with keyword cannibalization and allow you to make changes as needed to correct the issue.
How to fix keyword cannibalization?
The best way to fix keyword cannibalization is to create new pages on the website that do not contain the keyword phrases already being used on other pages. Once the new pages are published, make sure to change the other pages to remove the keyword phrases that are being used.
Consider adding nofollow or noindex tags to prevent the search engines from crawling and indexing the pages using the exact keyword phrases already being used on other pages on the website.
The best tool to resolve keyword cannibalization
Several online tools can help you to identify and fix keyword cannibalization. These tools will analyze your website and let you know if there are any issues with keyword cannibalization. Rankwatch website analyzer is one of the most reliable tools to resolve this fatal SEO issue.
Now let us discuss the methods this amazing tool offers to resolve keyword cannibalization,
Method-1: Using Rankwatch Console Module
You need to follow the following steps to implement this method,
- Go to the Rankwatch Console module.
- Choose your search console account at the top left corner (marked in yellow). If you have not added one, you can click on the adjacent + button to add one.
- Next, you must put the website you want to analyze in the “choose a property” box (marked in yellow).
- Select the period for which you want to analyze. It is recommended to choose at least a period of six months and choose the date presets accordingly (January to July in this case), as shown below.
- You can select a specific country by clicking the “choose a country” box or keep it as ‘global’ as per your requirement (marked in yellow).
- You can refine your search by selecting the type of device by clicking the “choose a device” box, or keep it as ‘all’ as per the requirement.
- Now you are all set to perform a search by clicking the black ‘search’ button at the top right-hand corner.
- The table below shows all the queries for which the website under analysis has ranked for the last six months. The total number of queries shows at the bottom right corner (marked in yellow)
- Once you click the same, it will generate a detailed analysis report showing all primary KPIs like impressions, clicks, CTR percentage, ranking keywords and pages, keyword performance metrics along with positions.
- If you click on any particular keyword performance metrics, that filter will be applied, generating refined results for that factor.
- The data is not only shown based on queries. If you click on the ‘Pages’ icon (marked in yellow), you will get all your data, along with ranking URLs for the last six months, as shown below.
- The keyword section shows your hold for each search query of your website mapped with URLs ranking for it. That helps you to identify keyword cannibalization issues on an enterprise scale. You can also check different KPIs to gauge the impact of cannibalization.
Method-2: Using Rankwatch ranking overview
You need to follow the following steps to implement this method,
- Go to the Rankwatch ranking overview dashboard and click on ‘Rankings’ (marked in yellow).
- Select the period of a minimum of six months from the top right-hand corner.
- Scroll down and select Rank, Ranking URL, Previous Rank, Previous Ranking URL, Search Volume, and Share of Voice in the “Table Settings” and then click on “Apply” (marked in yellow), as shown below.
- You can identify keyword cannibalization marked with an exclamation flag (marked in red). You can download the report by clicking the ‘Export’ button at the top right-hand corner (marked in yellow), as shown below.
- The downloaded report will appear within a few seconds if you click the ‘Download’ icon placed right above the ‘Export’ button. You can download the report in CSV format as shown below (marked in yellow).
- You can save the report in Google drive and open the same in the spreadsheet to work more conveniently.
- You can create an additional column and name it ‘Cannibalization.’ Implement the simple formula =<Ranking URL>=<Prev.Ranking URL> in that column and apply it for all the rows. If the ranking remains the same, it will generate a ‘True’ or, otherwise, a ‘False.’
- To identify the cases of cannibalization, you need to select only the ‘False’ values by creating a filter.
- You can further filter the results by changing different columns of KPIs as per the requirement.
Keyword cannibalization is an SEO issue that can cause severe issues for website owners. It happens when multiple pages on the same website target the same keyword phrase or when there is a close similarity between them.
This issue can confuse the search engine and lead to a drop in the ranking of the website. To identify and fix keyword cannibalization, you must create an editorial calendar, a keyword research plan, and a sitemap, keep on top of your analytics and choose a reliable tool. With these steps, you can identify and fix any issues with keyword cannibalization.
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