Howdy there stranger, and welcome to my keyword cannibalisation explainer blog, where I’ll tackle these horrible, self-sabotaging baddies with a swift sword.
In order to understand this blog, you’ll need to have a good grasp on the concept of keywords. If you’re new to SEO, I’d recommend having a look at my Understanding Keywords blog post first, referencing the SEO dictionary if you don’t understand any of the jargon.
Now, onto today’s main offender: Keyword cannibalisation, or Keyword cannibalism. While it’s not quite as icky as it sounds, it’s not great, either. It basically refers to the negative result of two or more pages on your website competing against each other.
In this context, ‘compete against each other’ basically means that they have been optimised for the same keywords, and therefore are confusing Google as to which one is actually about that topic.
Quick Interlude: SEO is all about convincing Google (or another search engine) that your webpage is the best, most thorough webpage out of all of the internet’s webpages about a certain topic. That certain topic is the keyword.
So, if you have two pages that both are vying for the attention of Google for the same keyword, Google might just get confused about which one is better. Best case, you end up with both of your pages in the google results – worst case they fight against each other so much, cannibalising each other until neither end up ranking.
This is a common problem for small businesses that sell lots of products of a similar type, and therefore they accidentally optimise more than one product page for the same keyword.
For example, let’s say you’re a jewellery brand with lots of different gold jewellery to sell. But what happens if you use the keyword “gold jewellery” in the content of every product page? They’re all competing against other for the same keyword traffic.
A proper content strategy would identify unique longtail keywords to target for each page or product, keeping the higher value keyword for a high value page – like a collection or home page – and direct traffic there. This is also where the innerlink strategy comes in.
An innerlink is a big sign that gives a search engine a really clear signal as to the topic of the page. I’ve discussed innerlinks loads in this blog: understanding innerlinks.
Basically, an innerlink is a clickable word or phrase in the text of a page of a website that takes you to another page of that website. The words used are called an “anchor”. For good SEO, it matters what words are used in the anchor. The words should reflect what the user (the person clicking) will see after they click the link and see the next page.
These words in anchor should therefore be the keywords of the page that is being linked TO, not the page the link is ON. When it comes to avoiding keyword cannibalisation, innerlinks can be a really handy tool. If you have two pages that are about similar product, you can use the power of the innerlink to give the correct signal to google on which page is actually targeting that keyword.
Think of your website like a tree. The home page is the trunk, a collection page is a branch, then each product is a leaf. If each product has an innerlink in the product description that points back to the branch – for example, pointing from a product listing for a gold ring product listing back to a gold jewellery collection page – and all the link anchors on each product are “gold jewellery”, that sends a really strong signal to google that the collection page keyword is “gold jewellery”.
The more links pointing to a page with the same keyword used as the anchor, the better. This “signal” is sometimes known as “link juice” which is putrid. But I mean, that’s what happens when SEO Bros get to name stuff.
In order to avoid this problem, you need to know which pages are targeting which keywords, then reserve the use of those exact words for those pages. You can use similar words, or longtail versions of the keywords instead, but not that one.
Now, your job is to:
1. Identify the target keywords of all of your website’s pages
2. Check that they’re not optimised for the same keywords
Sounds boring and complicated? It is! But it would be such a shame to go through all that hard work of optimising your website only for it to gobble itself up into oblivion..
Until next time you little cuties!