Does creating SEO content to build your brand online and grow your inbound traffic sometimes feel like a vortex of same old, same old?
If you find yourself wondering, “Did I just create too much content on the same topic…?,” you’ll want to stick around for today’s video.
In today’s new YouTube video, I explain keyword cannibalization: what it is (the good, bad AND ugly), how to avoid it, and three measures you can take to prevent it completely.
Finally, which tool to use to see if you actually do have keyword cannibalization happening. Let’s get into it!
Keyword Cannibalization: What It Is & How to Avoid It Completely (Video)
My Fall Update
This fall, I’m head-down working on the developmental edit stages for my third book, a narrative nonfiction memoir. Every single day, I’m going in my content hermit hole and writing! I’m super excited about this book, and cannot wait to share more updates with you. It’s the story of how I left my dad’s cult in the middle of the night at 21 years old and built a life I love — including several businesses! Bonus: We’re full blast at Express Writers, keeping our writers and team busy with tons of great content creation projects for our clients. We have several work-from-home positions open — a part-time editor and a part-time support specialist. Get in touch with us by emailing email@example.com if you want to hear more about our opportunities.
Thirdly, even though I said I’d take on less, I couldn’t resist the opportunity of an amazing invitation I received to co-write Ryan Stewart’s new book on SEO, this fall. Ryan Stewart is a friggin’ amazing expert I’ve been a fan of for years. He’s built and sold multiple businesses from scratched and consulted for leading businesses. He and I share the same growth-focused marketing mindset. Look for our updates on that new book coming soon! This made wonder if you’re wondering how I get all my writing done. 😆 Maybe that should be another video!
Okay, let’s get into today’s topic.
What is Keyword Cannibalization?
Keyword cannibalization is when a site has more than one page with the exact same focus keyword — typically unintentionally.
When this happens, you’re diluting your page authority and potentially eating your own ranking potential (oops). Thus the name for this issue: “keyword cannibalization.”
Instead of you telling Google, “Hey, this is my single awesome killer page for this focus keyword,” you’re throwing a bunch of pages at Google hoping one of them sticks. And that doesn’t work.
Keyword cannibalization is when a site has more than one page on the exact same keyword. Watch @JuliaEMcCoy explain keyword cannibalization and measures you can take to prevent this from happening to you. 💀 #SEO Click To Tweet
Why Keyword Cannibalization Is Not Good for SEO
Eric Enge, one of the lead writers of “The Art of SEO”, says that keyword cannibalization is like writing a really good book, but each chapter is on the exact same thing. That wouldn’t be a page-turner, would it?
He has this illustration to show how keyword cannibalization kills site SEO, and what should be done instead:
The only thing I would clarify on this concept is that when you create a bunch of pages on the same keyword — subconsciously or by accident — you’re not confusing Google. Google is pretty smart with how they rank content, so Google will make their best choice from your content based on the searcher’s intent.
But what happens…
When you create too many content pieces on the same topic you can cause an ICKY page to rank above an AWESOME page (i.e., the one you really want to rank).
Take a look at this example from Ahrefs, in this blog by Joshua Hardwick on the topic of keyword cannibalization.
If you Google the phrase “competitor backlink analysis, you’ll see two different blogs of theirs ranking in positions #6 and #7:
The result in position #6 was published 4+ years ago, contains a ton of screenshots showing a very old Ahrefs UI, and is a short post compared to the mega-guides they publish nowadays.
The post they wanted to rank highly, #7, is a better blog. It’s more up-to-date and offers better advice. But, because they’ve already written on this topic, they’re cannibalizing their position.
When Keyword Cannibalization Isn’t An Issue
There are a few instances when you don’t have to worry about keyword cannibalization.
For example: if you rank in positions #1 and #2 for a very valuable keyword pulling in ideal traffic, and the content in those rankings are valuable, long-term positions for you, then you don’t need to worry about keyword cannibalization.
Example: Bodybuilding.com currently holds the #1 and #2 spot for “back and bicep workout.”
Look at the two content pieces. Each features a different workout, by a different expert. So if you’re an ideal audience for this site, and let’s say you’re seeking a back and biceps workout and you’re interested in one of these experts (you already know them by name and are excited they’ve put together a workout online), you’re going to click on the one you like the most. So, bodybuilding.com is not cannibalizing their own rankings because both of these rankings serve a purpose. Different workouts by different experts.
The other example of keyword cannibalization not being an issue is when you have many pages around a central two-word phrase, but your rankings and focus keywords are long-tail versions of that two-word phrase.
As long as you create a unique content piece to compete for a different long-tail phrase each time, the long-tail phrase itself can have the same word or couple of words repeated.
Example: blogging statistics, best blogging service, blogging packages for law firms
Three different keywords, three different content pieces, three different search originations… all containing the same core term, blogging. Not keyword cannibalization.
How to Fix Keyword Cannibalization
So, let’s say keyword cannibalization is happening to you. What do you do? Here are three measures you can take.
1. Merge & Update Old Content
Updating old content is one of the best ways to tell Google, hey, look! I just made this old, icky piece of content better! Now it’s worthy of search user’s eyeballs.
So if you have two pieces of content on identical keywords and topics, pick the better one, merge any content that’s worth merging from the other duplicate content, and finally, it’s best to go over the whole piece, refresh, update, write a new meta title and description for optimal results.
After you update an old piece of content, 301 redirect the URL of the old post you updated to the new one, then delete the old post.
2. Delete the Worst Version
If you have one content piece that is amazing and one that is horrible, just throw the horrible one in the trash.
Don’t even try to save it, if it’s not worth showing to your ideal audience. Don’t try to merge and update and use it, if it’s straight up cruddy. Don’t forget to 301 redirect the URL to another relevant blog before you trash it, so you don’t lose any clicks from possible anchor texts that could be linking to it.
This is a situation that would work if you have a product page, for example, that a user or shopper absolutely must have, but isn’t going to help you in search because you might have two of them.
Simply no-index the page when you publish it, and avoid search crawlers completely. Not recommended if your goal is inbound traffic – I would recommend one of the other two instead – but absolutely an option if you don’t care as much about SEO and you already have great sources of traffic.
If you have tons of content and you’re not sure what’s duplicate and what’s not, use a tool like Screaming Frog to crawl your site and export it. If you paste the Screaming Frog export into Excel, for example, you can use filtering to see how many pages talk about a given topic and get going on content cleanup. Think about how to organize main pages that link to sub-pages, if you have a lot of similar topics.
More Recommended Resources on Keyword Cannibalization
I also recommend these resources for learning more on this topic. Very useful!
Rand Fishkin: Keyword Targeting, Density, and Cannibalization – Whiteboard Friday (2014, but still extremely relevant)
How to Find and Fix Keyword Cannibalization Issues by Joshua Hardwick (Ahrefs)
That’s a Wrap for Today’s Video!
Thanks so much for joining me on today’s video. Don’t forget to subscribe for my new videos, and let me know in the comments if you have any questions on this topic!