SEO or keyword cannibalization, nowadays, can have very negative effects on the search engine positioning strategies of your website or eCommerce.
Why is this topic so important? Because search engines and their algorithms are constantly evolving and try to get closer every day to a relative perfection.
This means that they want to offer the most relevant content and with the highest possible quality, that is to say, the result that responds 100% to the informative or consumer needs of their users.
These evolutions are catching by surprise those domains that, not being periodically interested in optimizing their pages, now present problems of SEO On-Page that can affect their good organic visibility.
And one of these problems, which will make your efforts to generate quality content for the user and Google are in vain, is the cannibalization of keywords … subject that I will develop today in depth.
Therefore, on this occasion I not only want to show you what is cannibalization of keywords, but I would also like to explain what are the negative effects it causes.
But that’s not all, because you’ll also learn to detect this problem and, therefore, to give it the most effective solution, depending on the type of Web site you have.
What is keyword cannibalization?
Keyword cannibalization is a concept that, in the technical jargon of SEO, refers to the situation by which we intend to position ourselves in the SERP with different URLs of our Web site for the same search intention.
Another simple way to explain it could be: SEO cannibalization is when you compete against yourself and when you want to position more than one content you will be dividing your forces (therefore, you subtract effectiveness and confuse Google and your users).
From this definition, you should also pay special attention to the fact that I mentioned “for the same search intention”, that means that this topic goes beyond just wanting to position itself with two URLs for the same keyword.
That is because it may be the case that the Keywords that we try to position are relatively different, but, nevertheless, the intention to search or “query” them is the same.
Why does this competition between pages occur with the cannibalization of keywords?
This problem can be caused by a bad SEO positioning strategy, as well as by a scarce or deficient planning of your contents. But, outside the merely technical section, why not, can also be given by a simple absent-mindedness.
This is a very common problem and one that almost nobody gets rid of on the Internet.
Whether you are an eCommerce with thousands of products, a news site that generates a lot of information or a business with a simple corporate blog, this SEO cannibalization may be affecting you as well.
So, for any type of Web site that wants to avoid losing authority, it is vitally important to take into account the pages with which they try to attack each of the search intentions of their users, the internal linking strategies and the entire architecture of the information they possess.
In the case of a blog, the most recommendable thing would be not to touch topics of intention of commercial search, not to compete with the section of sales of the Website or eCommerce, and to have a well organized editorial calendar, in which to take an exhaustive control of the topics that already have been touched.
Be that as it may, if you think about it coldly, it doesn’t make sense to launch 2 contents to try to position the same keyword or, better said, the same search intention, when they could be dealt with on a single page or in a single article, right?
Sometimes, especially in niches of a very specific topic, this cannibalization also occurs because they are dealing with the same topic from different angles in different contents.
Remember, not for much talking about the same thing will position you better, on the contrary, the effect achieved will be just the opposite.
How does SEO cannibalization harm your Web Positioning?
Some of the effects produced by the cannibalization of keywords are the following:
1. Your authority falls irremediably in the face of the search engine
As with duplicate content, this is not a factor why Google will penalize you directly.
What the search engine does here, is to lower the quality and authority of your pages, thus losing to your competitors the positions in the search results.
In short, all that competition between your own URLs that I have been exposing you up to here, causes your strength is divided or reduced, negatively affecting your ranking in the SERP and, therefore, your organic visibility.
Instead of having a well-positioned page, with a high CTR and a high user rating, you have several URLs with almost no relevance and where each offers possibly incomplete information.
2. Confusing the search engine
By dividing authority among different pages that struggle to position the same keyword, you’re making the search engine not know which one is really important to you or the one that has more valuable content for the user.
Furthermore, all these contents are really responding to the same intention and the new algorithms want to adjust the answer with the greatest possible certainty and with the greatest relevance for what the user has demanded.
In this way, you create a kind of uncertainty about which one to choose, a choice for which the search engine is not prepared to give an answer on its own… choosing the pages of your competitors, URLs to which it attributes more strength and reliability.
In the best case scenario, you will be able to present some of your pages in more or less relevant positions, although you will never do it in the place they might deserve.
3. Confusing the user
In the event that the search engine offers several of your pages in the SERP, these may not present the complete information that the user was looking for, producing a rebound that will also affect your SEO.
This reveals to the search engine, undoubtedly, that your content is not relevant enough for that query.
The user’s perception of the quality of your page is, therefore, very bad, since this does nothing to provide an optimal user experience.
This bad image of your site will presuppose a lack of ideas, imagination and creativity. In short, you will give an impression of lack of quality and competence, especially in the case of services that require deep knowledge and high professionalism.
4. You are indexing pages that are unnecessary
In this way, in turn, you make search engines crawl URLs uselessly of your domain, thereby wasting Google’s time.
You can understand this reason better once you understand exactly what the Crawl Budget is.
Perhaps in cases of medium “small” blogs, this factor is not so important, as it will not have a large number of URL’s indexed.
However, imagine the case of an eCommerce with thousands of references, between product sheets, URLs of color variants of the same product, sales pages, catalogues, etc..
5. SEO cannibalization makes Link Building difficult
With how difficult it is to do Link Building or win quality inbound links, to be cannibalizing topics, almost certainly you will have distributed by different places on your site.
For example: if you have 2 or 3 pages that talk about the same topic, how can others know which URL they should link to from one of its contents?
Which of them will be the main page or the one with really relevant information?
Based on this, they will make a random decision and the links they implement to your website will be divided between several pages.
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How to identify if my website has SEO or keyword cannibalizations?
In general, I can tell you that normally it is not very complicated to detect the cannibalization of keywords. This problem could be detected in an exhaustive SEO audit of our website.
Although as you will see below, thanks to these 3 simple methods, you will get very clear and accurate information.
1º Using the internal search engine of your website
This is a very basic and simple method, consisting only of writing the main keyword or idea of the contents that you suspect are cannibalizing each other.
The result of this action will give you all the content on your site that includes it. It is right there where you must intuit if there is content that respond to the same search intention.
2º Use the “SITE:” command.
Among the basic functionalities of Google there are different commands that help you analyze a Web site. For example, with SITE you can detect your indexed pages:
Use the “site:” command to detect indexed pages
And if we add to that search or add a term or key phrase between quotes, we will also see the content within that domain:
site:yourwebsite.com + “keyword”.
Use the “site:” command to detect SEO cannibalization
The result will give you a SERP formed by all the ULRs of that domain that are indexed and that have in common that Keyword, that is, those that are fighting among themselves for a place in the same search.
It is now where, again under your criteria, you will have to analyze carefully if these URLs have content that could be satisfying the same need of the user.
3º Through your Search Console
If you have your website registered in the Google Search Console platform, you can also detect the cannibalization of keywords.
To do this, you must follow these simple steps:
- Enter your property and in the section “Performance”.
- Within the list of keywords shown under the graph, click on the one you want to analyze in search of cannibalizations.
- From here, activate the “Pages” option. This way, you will be shown which URL’s that keyword is ranked for.
- In case it is positioning for 2 or more different pages of your website, you will have SEO cannibalization.
Detect if you have cannibalization through your Search Console
How to correct SEO cannibalization on my website or eCommerce?
Depending on the volume and size of your Internet domain, as well as the amount of content you have generated throughout the life of your site, you will have to use one method or another of those I propose below:
1. Create specific content for each Keyword
It is best to plan everything in advance and create a single page with all the necessary information for the user, i.e. a single URL for each keyword.
2. Redirect 301 (unify all URLs into one)
If you already have carnivalizations, a possible solution could be to analyze those URLs with some competitive research tool, such as SEMrush or Ahrefs, to see which one has more strength organically speaking.
By this I mean that you must analyze exhaustively which of them has more authority, more inbound links, more keywords positioned, etc..
It could also be a simpler case, by which you check that one of them has neither backlinks nor ranked keywords. Here it would be very easy to know which of them to “sacrifice”.
Then, from there, we would compose a single content with all the complete information within the URL with more organic strength, adding to it the most remarkable of the others that we are going to discard. But…
So what do I do with the other URLs?
Having said that, you might have the idea of simply removing them. I must remind you that, although these produce SEO cannibalization, it could be that they receive internal links from other contents of our Web, they have been shared in social networks, etc.
Therefore, if we remove them, anyone who tries to enter will get an “Error 404” as a result. Faced with this, I will give you a solution:
If we redirect them towards the content we have taken as “reference” for that keyword or search intention, each time the user tries to enter the redirected content, they will end up at the main URL.
In this way, users will experience a better response to what they were looking for, the latter having all the information they were looking for in a single piece of content.
And at the same time, this improvement in UX means that we are giving positive signals to Google, so that it takes into consideration the action we have carried out in organic terms.
In addition, the redirected URL will transfer its authority to the destination URL and make it stronger.
In spite of these advantages, on the contrary, you must also consider that you will lose all the comments you have from your readers in the contents that will “disappear”. Like everything else, it also has its drawbacks!
3. Internal Linking
A somewhat “light” measure by itself, not to solve the cannibalization of keywords, but to “make up” and make Google see which is the 2 URLs is the most relevant is with the internal link from one to another.
This basically consists of that, from the content “less relevant” or worse positioned we would launch a link of type “dofollow” with exact anchor text towards the most powerful URL and with better quality.
My personal advice is to get this link out as soon as possible. For example, if you usually introduce your articles with a previous entry, this would be the ideal moment.
Why would we integrate it at the beginning?
Very simple: logically, if Google robots start scanning the contents from start to finish, the sooner you see this backlink, the sooner you will have signs that the post you link to is more important to us for that keyword.
As I told you before, this is not a super effective solution to eliminate cannibalization of our Web, but it is a fairly simple way to try to mark the way to the search engine.
In addition, it is ideal for cases in which you manage a client’s blog, which allows you to generate and publish content, but does not allow you to have access to certain technical sections of it, so it would be impossible to carry out a redirection.
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Basically, the canonical consists of making a “suggestion” to Google that, before several similar contents or that in theory should rank for the same keyword (or search intention), there is one that is the most relevant of all.
This alternative, however, has the downside that it does not transfer authority to the URL we indicate as relevant to that search intent, unlike what happened with 301 redirects.
In addition, the use of canonicals is nothing more than a “suggestion” that we make to the search engine, so you can perfectly ignore that recommendation.
Why is this solution more recommendable for an eCommerce than for a blog?
This is an alternative more used in online stores than in blogs, given that in an eCommerce can occur perfectly the case of having cannibalization or duplicate content for terms such as:
- 1º “Red sneakers”.
- 2nd “Green sneakers”
- 3rd “White sneakers”
As you can imagine, we could add a long etcetera of URLs, as many as colors present in our store.
Therefore, the main keyword in our case would always be “sneakers”, with the only exception of color, right?
This is where this “suggestion” makes sense, since taking the product card of red slippers as a canonical URL, it makes no sense to redirect the cards of the other colors to the red one, since in the eyes of the user the other colors will not exist, because they will always end up in the destination URL that we have marked.
Sometimes, if we take the example above, it is almost inevitable that there may be dozens, or even hundreds of references pointing to an identical Keyword.
Obviously, you can’t change this and you can’t put all the product variants in the same card.
You can resort to canonization, but sometimes it is preferable not to index these product pages in search engines, leaving only the categories.
You can easily achieve this by using the “noindex” label. In this way, the search engines will ignore these pages and will not crawl them and you can devote all your effort to positioning the categories well.
As a general rule, cannibalization of keywords and good positioning do not get along well and this phenomenon seriously affects the obtaining of good positions for your domain in search engines.
It is important that you know how to identify it and detect where you must correct it in order to improve the ranking of your contents, acting on those that are dispensable and boosting those that can offer a more relevant content.
After knowing what SEO cannibalization is, have you already detected this phenomenon on your website?
What solution are you going to give it?