How to Fix Keyword Cannibalization

November 5, 2015

By November 5, 2015insights
61115Canibilizing Keywords

You never intended to cannibalize your keywords. However, it happened. Now you need to focus on what you did and how to fix it. Otherwise, you might experience a serious loss in search traffic.

Maybe you got a bit too aggressive with your search engine optimisation efforts? Perhaps you just had too many pages that were similar to each other.  Conceivably, it was Google not understanding your website set up.

Whatever the case, you need to fix your keyword cannibalization before your traffic leak becomes a full on flood.

What is keyword cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization can be dangerous to your search engine traffic. It generally happens when you over-optimise your website by having too many pages with similar content and keywords.

As we discussed in the Power of Keywords Across The Internet, “Keywords run the internet.” That means you need to respect their power to positively and negatively affect your website traffic.

Four different types of cannibalization exist: internal, sub-domain conflict, international conflict, and semantic flux. Below we discuss each type and some solutions for each version.

Fixing the four types of keyword cannibalization

  1. Internal keyword cannibalization– The first type of keyword cannibalization is when you use the same keyword for two different website pages.

Because of the pages’ similarity, they damage your rankings. Google is not sure which is the dominant page on your site, and the system ends up having the two keywords compete against each other for rankings and traffic.

As if competing against the entire internet for traffic was not enough. Now you have to compete against your own pages.

The fix here is simple. Stop creating duplicate pages on your site. If you already have duplicate pages with duplicate keywords, then your best bet is either to forward one page to another or rephrase one of the pages to fit with a new keyword.

Use long-tail keyword tools like UberSuggest to find long-tail keywords for your website pages. This is like hitting two birds with one stones. You expand your keyword reach, and remove duplicate keywords at the same time.

2. Sub-domains Conflict-Often when creating a sub-domain for a blog or ecommerce site, you may end up cannibalizing your keyword rankings.

When you create a new website sub-domain you are effectively duplicating the pages you are creating. So, if you run Website.Com and then start Blog.Website.Com it is a sub-domain of the original site.

This is not horrible, but the challenge is that Blog.Website.Com now uses a number of the website pages from the original site.

Take the New York Times. They already have a topic page devoted to “news on financial markets.” However, they also recently added an article on the topic.

The combination of two different pages on different sub-domains reduced their ranking for the keyword.

Therefore, they need to focus on which page they want to get the traffic for that keyword. Otherwise, it will negatively impact both pages.

3. International keyword cannibalization- Most international companies now have multiple websites to communicate to their audiences in multiple languages. The problem is that many of these pages are also in the same language across multiple sites.

For example, if you have a site on Company.Com.UK and Company.Com.AU, it is very likely that these two sites could be competing for the same keywords.

Unfortunately, Google might not know how to rank the two specific sites for the same keyword. Even though they are sites created for different countries, using similar or the same content across international websites can hack away at your results.

Therefore, similar to the sub-domain, choose the dominant page to reap more search traffic. An easy way to do that is to look at your Google Analytics to see which country has more traffic for that keyword.

If Australia has twice as many visits as the UK, then it is a no-brainer.

4. Semantic flux- Often a company owns multiple websites for similar niches online. As target marketing for businesses improved over the years, many companies understood the value of creating multiple websites for each target market.

The challenge is that often these companies offer the same product across multiple verticals.

A classic example is Gap and Old Navy. Both sell women dresses. Therefore, if both companies sell the same product, it is not surprising how that they compete against each other for the same keywords.

Google knows they are related, because the sites are linked together. However, it does not know which one is the dominant page for specific products and keywords shared by both companies.

In the end, it reduces the search engine rankings of both websites. Therefore, Gap needs to establish a clear dominance on specific products. Since they already break down their information by target market, they need to specify online which page is dominant.

An easy way to do this is through linking from one page to another. That way, you can still sell on both pages, but one is the primary page.

Final Thoughts

Often with search engine optimization we talk about how unique content is vital to the success of a business. What we do not realize is that this content must be unique against all of the pages on your website.

Furthermore, the keywords you use should be unique as well. That is part of the reason why long-tail keyword research is so vital to SEO.

You need to keep an eye out for possible duplicate pages. Often you can find them in Google Webmaster Tools.

However, if you do run up against a problem, feel free to give us a Shout. We can provide a keyword audit to help you determine if your site has keyword cannibalization that is hurting your rankings.