Five Strategies to Avoid Keyword Cannibalization


  • Cannibalization happens when you target multiple pages to the same or similar keywords. 
  • This is a big no-no according to search engines because it’s confusing and could make your site look like spam.
  • Improving website content and avoiding cannibalization can increase site quality and organic traffic. 

You might be wondering what keyword cannibalization is and why it’s important in the online marketing world. At its core, keyword cannibalization is when two or more of your pages on a website use the same keywords over and over again without variation.

For example, if your home page and an article on the same topic both use the keywords “injection molding services,” that would be considered cannibalization.

It’s easy to understand why this is important — Google hates seeing identical content come up for all types of search queries through multiple pages, as it knows if a searcher clicks one of those results they won’t find anything new or different from what they just read. That means traffic will drop off quickly, driving down your website’s value and rankings across the board.

How do you prevent keyword cannibalization?

No matter what platform you are using for your website, there are some plugins available that prevent cannibalization through their powerful features. However, even with plugins that prevent cannibalization, it is beneficial to review and optimize your content regularly and use some tricks that will boost your traffic.

Let’s look at five strategies that will help you avoid keyword cannibalization and maximize traffic to your website.

1. Identify keyword cannibalization

To understand how to avoid keyword cannibalization, you must understand what it is and identify where it occurs. Keyword cannibalization occurs when your site’s pages are competing with one another for rankings and traffic.

When two or more of a website’s webpages target the same keyword phrase, but aren’t set up properly to work together, they can end up hurting each other in search engine results (SERPs).

In other words, the more pages on your site that target a particular term, the more you can decrease your page’s relevance in the eyes of search engines. This is because the search engine sees the pages as being closely related, so much so that one may be “cannibalizing” traffic from the others.

Normally, a search engine, such as Google, will show only one version of a given page in its results. However, if there are multiple URLs targeting the same search term, ranking for that keyword may become too competitive and none of the pages may rank well. This is because Google assigns a relevancy score to each indexed page on your website.

In most cases, you want to prevent this from happening so you’re not wasting valuable time and money building duplicate content. By setting up your site’s internal linking structure properly, you can ensure that all of your pages with similar keywords get exposure without competing with one another for rankings.

With proper internal linking set up between pages targeting related terms, Google can determine which URL it should display when a searcher makes a particular keyword query.

2. Avoid irrelevant on-page keywords and keyword stuffing

On-page keywords should only be used when absolutely necessary. For example, if you are targeting the phrase “Vancouver maternity photographer” and one of your content pages is about running, then it’s fine to repeat the phrase “Vancouver maternity photographer” in your content for context.

An on-page keyword is harmful when it’s used on a page of content targeting a different keyword.

For example, if your product page is about the technical aspects of photography and contains the phrase “photography,” then it might be harmful if you decide to target the keyword “portrait photography” on that same page.

Be careful with how many times you repeat keywords on pages. Keyword stuffing is a term used to describe when web content includes a specific keyword or phrase excessively.

It’s considered best practice to include your core keyword in your page title and meta tag, but beyond that it can come across as trying too hard. Generating relevant content for the user is more important than cramming irrelevant keywords into a page of copy just because you think you have to.

You may have seen the term “over-optimization.” This comes from Google’s earliest days when people would try and trick search engines into ranking their pages by having excessive keywords on the page with no relevance to the topic at hand.

When you’re writing copy for your website, it’s sometimes hard to know when you’re using the same keyword too many times.

Luckily, there are online tools and services for keyword mapping that can tell you what percentage and density of keywords are on a page. That way, you can make sure your content doesn’t fall into the bad graces of Google and lose rankings.

3. Determine which page is most relevant

Determine which page is most relevant by looking at search results and how well each page ranks. It is common for websites to have duplicate content (a page that has the exact same content and link structure as another page).

Plagiarism can also hurt your site’s ranking, even if it’s unintentional, so avoid duplicate content from other websites by using a plagiarism checker. It can often be difficult to determine which page of a website should rank in Google, so you may want to ask yourself, “Which version of this webpage is most relevant to searchers?”

It’s not always easy to tell. You can start by looking at your existing traffic from organic search to see which pages receive more impressions and clicks. If one particular page receives far more than the rest, then it would make sense for that page to be prioritized in your efforts.

Use tools and data from Google Analytics or other apps to help you really understand how each variation is performing.

When you’ve identified more relevant pages, those pages should be coded properly to maximize their ranking. This will allow for specific URLs (page titles and meta descriptions) to be associated with these specific pages, which can help your rankings as well.

4. Use canonical tags to direct traffic to the most relevant URL

Instead of having several URLs with mostly the same content, you should use canonical tags to point to one URL. By directing all traffic to that one URL, it’ll help you save on link power and thus improve your rankings significantly.

You even get a bonus when you follow this tip since Google gives priority to websites that make good use of canonical tags and will reward them by listing them higher in search results. This of course means more traffic.

Google has now made it possible to mark up complete articles as duplicate content. Instead of marking them as duplicates, use this tag (rel=”canonical”) to let Google know which version is the original and which ones are duplicates.

This will allow you to index more information for a wider range of queries and at the same time keep Google from penalizing your website with a lower rank because of duplicate content issues.

You can also look into file header tags or HTML comments that will help minimize mismatches between different versions on your site.

Canonical tags are not a complete solution for improved ranking and usability issues, but it’s definitely a big step forward, so start using them today.

5. Use breadcrumb navigation for improved usability

Breadcrumb navigation is an easy way to make your website easier to navigate for both humans and search engines. This type of navigation helps visitors understand where they are on your site in the simplest way possible.

You can use breadcrumbs by inserting HTML in existing site pages or through implementing special plugins that automatically generate the links in each page to build out the breadcrumb trail line by line.

Breadcrumbs can be used in almost any webpage, blog, article, or website. It is the best way to connect users with their current location while allowing them to easily see where they are within the site hierarchy.

One of the nice things about breadcrumb navigation is that it’s context-sensitive. This means users only get links for areas of your site that are relevant to their current page.

This makes breadcrumb navigation both easier on the eye and more informative than traditional horizontal navigation bars or vertical menus because it helps users understand where they are without cluttering up each page with full links to other pages.

Another great thing about using breadcrumb navigation is that it helps search engines like Google understand your site’s structure. This is because breadcrumbs act like a built-in table of contents for every page on your website, and search engines love to crawl these familiar paths within your website and often show them in results.

Redefine can help

Need help with your keyword strategy? Reach out to the RMG team today.

Author avatar
Michael Gomez
Michael was an in-house and freelance content writer before joining the team at Redefine Marketing Group. He is now the Content Manager at RMG, where he focuses primarily on content creation but helps with SEO and Social Media. Michael graduated from CSU Channel Islands with a degree in English.
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