What is a cannibalisation of keywords and why should we avoid it?
Cannibalisation of keywords can make it difficult for a website to reach higher positions in search engine rankings. This phenomenon (although unfortunately quite frequent), does not yield positive associations for the employees who work in the Internet marketing industry or even common people (likely because the strange jargon ‘cannibalisation’).
What things are referred to as ‘cannibalised keywords’?
In the simplest terms, cannibalisation of keywords refers to a situation during which several subpages of the main website are positioned under the same key phrase. But positioning multiple subpages under identical keywords leads to a situation during which search engine robots are confused about which subpage is more important and some are prioritised over others. This means that none of the subpages can permanently take an attractive position in SERPs.
What are the threats to your website if keyword cannibalisation occurs?
When it comes to website hosting and positioning, the cannibalisation issue may contribute significantly to the instability of the website within the search results – so exactly the opposite of what we are trying to achieve. This mistake can be harmful and costly. In some cases even long-term decrease in the position of the website in Google may occur, affecting the website and the business as a whole. The search engine bots may choose to position the most important subpage on a given keyword/phrase and so the remaining subpages will have no chance to break out or be noticed. They are essentially wasted and ignored. It’s also worth noting that the search engine robots may not necessarily choose the subpage which the owners care about the most, and the one that is the most essential for the main website (for example including the most important content, internal linking, etc.).
In addition, it may happen that the next time the search engine will find another subpage more valuable, the previously selected one will note a decrease in the rankings (unfortunately the consequences will be large and durable). Therefore the cannibalisation of keywords will mean that the subpages will exchange their positioning, instead of strengthening each other. Such instability and chaotic set up will affect the sites negatively, as the number of visitors will decrease.
Why is Google having a problem with cannibalisation of keywords?
Many factors will impact the positioning of the website in Google’s search results – but why isn’t Google always able to select the subpage that is significantly more important than others (from the list of subpages positioned on the same phrase)? Well, it turns out that using keywords is more important than linking, even though Google does not officially confirm it. In addition, pages containing more recent entries i.e. filled with most up-to-date information, are treated as more valuable.
Cannibalisation of keywords can therefore seriously damage the site’s position in a search engine and undoing all these faults and negative effects requires a lot of work. So, it’s always worth to approach this topic with a lot of expertise and professionalism to avoid all unnecessary problems. Unfortunately adding a few valuable links to the ‘chosen’ subpage may not always work and won’t yield an immediate positive effect, but more importantly the subpages won’t always exchange the positions perfectly. And even if we will support the subpage with all our efforts, it will not mean that it will be in the same high position as the subpage that was previously chosen by the search engine.
Cannibalisation of keywords – how should you deal with it?
Firstly, we need to exclude the most important keywords on subsequent subpages. It is best to completely abandon the use of key keywords on such subsequent (less important subpages), or just reduce their use dramatically. A good solution can be to use different formations of the same phrase, although some argue that Google can recognise all forms of the same word/phrase and treats it as the same thing anyway. Secondly, it’s worth to know that the most generic form of the keyword/phrase and the most frequently searched by users should be applied to several most vital subpages – these are called milestones.
The use of ‘long tail phrases’
Cannibalisation of keywords will cease to be a problem if the subpages with little or no content, will be optimised for long-tail phrases. This solution is especially recommended for heavily expanded websites businesses, e.g. companies that have websites with large online stores. The trick is simple – the subpages that are positioned on long tail phrases note less general user traffic but are more likely to be visited by direct users who are searching for specific items/services/information. SO even if the visits are low, the overall response and interest might be satisfying.
Do an audit of the website
Conducting a website audit is a must if we want to seriously approach the website positioning of our website. SEO agencies can always check if there is any contamination that prevents the website from being noticed online, and of course whether there is any cannibalisation of keywords present. With the help of appropriate tools, they can find keywords that are embedded into the meta title, meta description, image names or subpages with very similar themes. This is also a vital process, benefiting your website in the long run. The optimisation of the website carried out after an audit will not only reduce or even completely exclude the cannibalisation phenomenon but will also be a great foundation set for any further processes undertaken during website positioning. You can read more about keywords here.