Last Updated on September 9, 2020
An Advanced SEO Concept
The issue of keyword cannibalization isn’t talked about much. No, it’s not another TV series starring Hannibal Lecter. It’s a technically advanced SEO concept, and I suspect it will become a more mainstream topic very soon. Why? Because our buddy, Joost de Valk, developer of an awesome WordPress plugin — WordPress SEO by Yoast — recently upgraded it’s functionality. I’ll explain what keyword cannibalization is and what it means for building SEO.Ready to Talk?
Keyword Cannibalization Explained
To really explain keyword cannibalization, let’s take a step back and talk about how search engines like Google and Bing index a webpage. When your site is crawled by bots, it interprets the content. Remember, bots are “deaf, blind, and dumb.” It can’t listen to podcasts. It can’t see pictures. It can’t fully interpret your text. It’s a smart program that scans websites and assigns ranking data to each page based upon many factors. But it can’t fully contextualize all the information it sees.
Search engine algorithms grade websites based upon relevance (having lots of content focused in an area of expertise) and authority (other quality sites that point back to you via a link). Why? Because the algorithm’s job is to categorize Web content so it can deliver the best results for any type of search query.
Keyword cannibalization refers to having multiple pages that are optimized for the same keyword. In essence, you are diluting the chances of having your best webpage show up on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) by optimizing multiple webpages or blog posts for the same keyword.
Let’s say you have a website that sells knitting supplies. You sell knitting needles, yarn, patterns, knitting video tutorials, etc. You want to rank for the keyword “knitting.” So, you optimize all of your webpages and blog posts for that keyword. When Google comes to your site, it’s pretty clear you sell knitting related stuff. But the keyword that appears on all the pages is identical. Which one is better? Which one should it choose to best fit the query for “knitting?” Your best page about knitting — the one that gets you the most paying customers — is now lost in a sea of pages. That’s keyword cannibalization and it can be costly.
The SEO Ramifications
More Isn’t Better
Let’s use a raffle drawing as an analogy. The more tickets you purchase, the better your chances of winning. For SEO, the opposite is true. The more pages optimized for a specific search phrase actually diminishes its chance of showing up on a SERP. That’s why having your website built upon an architecture based upon keyword research is so powerful and effective. By having an optimization strategy, keyword cannibalization can be avoided.
The Long Tail
Instead of using the same exact keyword use a synonym or long tail keyword. Long tail keywords are search phrases that tend to be more specific and typically have fewer monthly searches, but you are widening your net. Maybe some people search for crochet as well as knitting for example. They tend to attract a more concentrated and primed audience. They aren’t looking for general information anymore. Their search queries are more specific, and they are getting closer to a buying decision. Using our knitting example, an appropriate long-tail keyword might be “circular knitting needles.” Dedicating and optimizing a page to this type of product doesn’t dilute relevance and doesn’t cannibalize from a similar page.
Would you like to know if keyword cannibalization is hurting your website?