What Is Keyword Cannibalisation?

March 19, 2024

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If you have a search engine optimisation strategy ongoing, then you’re likely also doing some form of content marketing to leverage essential keywords you want to rank for.

For the most part, this is a good approach, but if you routinely optimise your articles or content by targeting similar terms, this can actually have the opposite effect you want. Instead of ranking better for that search term, you can start competing against yourself, which in the industry is known as keyword cannibalisation.

Here’s how to spot it and what to do about it.

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What Keyword Cannibalisation Looks Like

If you have multiple pages on your site that rank for the same search term in Google, that means you’re dealing with keyword cannibalisation.

This occurs mostly because you are covering topics on different pages, blog posts, or articles that are too similar to each other, or because you optimise your content for SEO by using the same string of terms as your keywords.

When you do this, the pages start competing with each other instead of your competitors, and this can hurt your position in the search results. Google will only show the results from a single website, no matter how good, relevant, or impressive the content is. High authority domain sites may get up to 3 results, but most websites can be lucky if they get two links in the search results.

To put that into perspective, let’s say you have three blog posts with the same target keyword, like “quality wedding services Sydney” and you optimise all three of them the same way. Google can’t actually tell which of the three articles should rank higher in the search results because even other important ranking factors like the conversion rates, anchor text, or backlinks get diluted. And when you have three links competing with each other, all three of them will likely rank lower, regardless of your SEO efforts.

Note that in some cases, the keywords don’t have to be identical to lead to a cannibalisation issue, but if they are too similar, or focus on the exact same topic, you are still competing against yourself. Say one article is optimised for “quality wedding services Sydney” and the second uses another specific keyword like “quality wedding planning Sydney.” For Google, both these terms point to the same type of content.

How to Fix Keyword Cannibalisation

SEO Sydney

To fix keyword cannibalisation, you’ll first need to audit your content to spot any places where you’re optimising with the same target keyword. If you’ve done keyword research, you can use that list of terms to help you audit your content with a simple site: search on Google.

Simply type in site:mysite.com “my keyword” and Google will show you all the pages that use the same keyword. Additionally, you should also check the metadata of your content, such as the title tag or meta description. Using the same keywords here can also lead to keyword cannibalisation, so make sure you don’t miss them!

Then, you can check the performance on each individual page, and follow these steps:

Decide What You Should Keep, and What Needs to Go

The more you have a website, the more pages and content you accumulate on it, but some of that content is outdated and can really hurt your SEO efforts.

In your audit, you will discover a few pages that are not really relevant to your business anymore, but that use a specific keyword you still want to integrate into your strategy. When you spot product pages, blog posts, or other pages that simply don’t help your goal, you can remove them to prevent keyword cannibalism. This way, you’re only left with the quality pages ranking for your most important keywords.

Merge Pages

In some cases, you may have two relevant pages that are similar enough to lead to keyword cannibalism, but both are still necessary to your strategy as they cover different nuances of the topic (Google can sometimes not pick up on these nuances).

When this happens, you should merge the two pages, and get just one, long-form content that will help you rank higher in search results.

After you consolidate your content, make sure you also employ some 301 redirects to ensure people don’t end up on the wrong page by mistake. You likely have some active links out there, from a social media post or something like that. If a user happens to click on those links, a 301 redirect will take them to your new page instead.

Create New Landing Pages

In some cases, keyword cannibalisation can be caused by poor internal linking structure. For instance, if you have a lot of product pages that Google can’t tell are all linked, it can think all these pages are offering the same thing and put them in competition with each other.

You can fix it by creating landing pages that set a clear hierarchy of your pages and gather all your product pages (or other categories you have) in one place.

Finesse Your SEO Efforts with Us!

In today’s marketing spectrum, businesses often have to address the requirements of search engines directly if they want to remain competitive and rank higher in result pages. But as you can see, you can do everything by the book, and have just one tiny oversight that jeopardises your success, like keyword cannibalisation.

Australian Internet Advertising is here to support Sydney business owners in refining their SEO strategy and generate great results that can help them meet their bottom line. Get in touch with us now online, or call our office directly at 1300 304 640 to find out more.



Billy P.

About The Author

William Polson founded Australian Internet Advertising in 2013 and has over 12 years of experience immersed in Digital Marketing.

With an in-depth level of digital marketing knowledge, William has been sort after by and worked for, many large national brands including Subaru, Blooms The Chemist, and Nova 96.9.

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