The main goal of SEO is simple – get each of your pages to rank as high as possible.
But what if you optimize two pages for the same keyword?
If you do a good job, you can secure two prime spots in search results, right?
Well, not exactly.
In fact, the very opposite happens. Your pages start fighting for the spot, eating away at each other’s performance.
This issue is known as keyword or content cannibalization. And if it creeps into your website or blog, it can do a lot of damage.
In this article, we’ll show you how to fix keyword cannibalization and make sure it doesn’t ruin your SEO efforts. But first, let’s see why you should get serious about it.
The Internal Conflict
There’s too much competition out there as is. The last thing you want is to make your own pages go head-to-head with one another. And yet, this is exactly what will happen if you try to optimize them for the same keyword.
It’s because of the way Google’s web crawlers work. While they use many factors to determine a page’s relevance, it still starts with keywords. If several of your pages are targeting the same ones, the crawlers will have a harder time deciding which page is more relevant.
This is when your pages start fighting each other. As they do, the performance of each of them gets diluted.
Instead of having one page with 10,000 views, you might get one with 7,000 and another with 3,000. As a result, neither of them will rank higher than a competitor’s page with, say, 9,000 views. Rather than one high-performing page, you end up with two mediocre ones.
Of course, this example is quite simplistic, as Google looks at much more than views to determine the rank. It’s just that keyword cannibalization affects many of those factors, as well.
For instance, you might have to spread your backlinking efforts between multiple pages, as opposed to concentrating on one solid page. The authority of each of those pages would be lower than the authority of one page filled to the brim with solid backlinks.
These are only some of the consequences of keyword cannibalization in SEO. So, what can you do to prevent them?
How to Deal With Keyword Cannibalization
Even though content cannibalization can be a serious issue, it has a relatively easy fix. All you have to do is some content spring cleaning.
Here are some quick tips on how to do it:
1. Get a Bird’s Eye View of Your Keywords
Your keyword strategy is the last thing that you should take a randomized approach to. You need to be methodical and pay close attention to your keywords.
To identify potential cannibalization, put all your pages on a spreadsheet, making sure that each URL has its corresponding target keyword. Once that’s done, you should immediately notice any overlaps. To avoid them in the future, plan your content ahead, always being diligent with keyword research.
But how do you deal with existing overlaps?
2. Consolidate Your Content
Content consolidation is an impressive-sounding term for a simple concept – merging several pieces of content into one amazing post.
If you notice that some of your posts are targeting the same keywords, choose the best-performing one and use the others to give it more power. Alternatively, you can combine several posts into a long-form pillar article.
Revamping your content like this is a great way to deal with content cannibalization and help your pages rank higher. Perhaps the best-performing one is old and can use some refreshing to stay on top of current SEO trends. Through content consolidation, you can update your content to maximize its performance.
3. Do Some Pruning
Think of your website as a tree. As it grows, it’s almost inevitable for some branches to start withering. While they can no longer contribute to the tree’s growth, they still consume its energy. Naturally, they should be cut off to better fuel the healthy branches.
The thing is, not all of your content is evergreen. Some of it might contain old news or tips that are no longer applicable. If it targets the same keyword as your recent and more successful content, perhaps it’s best to delete it.
Such old content can rob your newer pieces of views and SEO value. At the same time, people will likely bounce away from it quickly, which hurts your overall authority.
So if you can’t consolidate some of the content, you might want to cut it off. Focus your SEO power on fewer solid pieces, and give all of them a better chance of ranking high.
4. Refresh Your Backlinks
There’s a seemingly strong argument against consolidating or deleting your content:
You’ll lose all those valuable backlinks you’ve worked hard for!
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Let’s say you wrote a guest post linking out to a piece of content that you now want to delete. What you’d do in this situation is simply ask the webmaster to change the link. Let them know that you’re tightening up your content, and provide a new link for them to use.
In many cases, they’ll be happy to do just that. After all, it hurts their reputation if a link leads to a 404. Plus, you’ll be showing that you care about providing the latest and most relevant information. You’ll have revamped content while retaining those strong links, which will greatly improve your SEO.
Less Is More
Hopefully, your content has evolved beyond keyword stuffing and other practices that used to work but are now hurting your SEO. But even if that’s the case, content cannibalization might still be there in the aftermath.
Now that you know how to deal with it, it’s time to take a closer look at your content. Make sure that the keywords you’re targeting are similar but not the same. In other words, focus on semantic relations instead of exact matches.
Finally, don’t forget to tidy up your content and double down on the high-performing pieces. Google certainly favors quality over quantity, and so should you. Carefully plan what you put out, follow the latest SEO practices, and you’ll see the power that just one piece of content can have.