How Does Keyword Cannibalisation Affect Search Rankings?

Marketing SEO

Published Dec 20, 2021, 1:45 PM
Approx. read time 4 mins

If you're new to marketing, you might have heard the advice of "have as many keywords as you can on as many pages of your website as you can".

The thought process here is that the more keywords you have, the better your rankings will be.

But have you ever stopped to wonder whether this is actually a good strategy or not?

What is keyword cannibalisation?

When multiple pages of your website are optimised for the same set of keywords, they end up competing against each other for rankings. When this happens these cannibalised keywords can lower the rankings of all the pages that include them.

This sounds complex, but it's actually quite simple, take the following example:

A web designer has a web page dedicated to "responsive web design", this page ranks highly because of the optimisation they have carried out and the keywords they are using. But then they add another page on their website dedicated to "mobile-friendly - responsive web design". It's likely that these two pages will be using the same keywords and therefore competing against each other for rankings.

When users are searching for your services and are shown both of these results, they may get confused over which one they should choose to look at because one may be better than the other.

The search engine itself can also act in this way and means that both pages can be penalised because of it.

How do I know which keywords have been cannibalised on my website?

If you're not sure whether your website has fallen prey to keyword cannibalisation, don't worry, it's something you can easily find and fix.

Search through your website

Use a search engine to look through your website for industry-specific terms. This search will pull up all of the pages that contain the term you are looking for.

Check to see whether your website contains two or more pages that are competing for these terms and see whether you can change them in any way to make them unique.

Roseblade Top Tip: To make this easier put your website in before the search term to limit the results to just your site. For example: responsive web design

Search results for responsive web design

Tips to prevent cannibalisation from happening

Whilst finding and fixing cannibalisation is good for your website, what's even better is not having cannibalisation happen in the first place. So how can you do this?

Have a targeted keyword strategy

A part of any keyword strategy is to make sure your web pages are optimised for different keywords and different search terms.

For example, rather than having two different web pages "SEO Tips" and "Our Top 20 SEO Tips", you could have "SEO Tips" and "Digital Marketing Strategy Tips". While this is a small change, these two pages will not be competing with each other for rankings.

Track your keyword rankings and performance

Once you've identified the keywords you want to target, you will need to check their performance over time.

If you find that your keywords aren't performing as well as they once were, there's a chance that they are being cannibalised somewhere on your site.

Make sure you focus on your topics, not just your keywords

Sometimes you can get so focused on making sure your keywords are ranking well that you can lose focus of the whole topic you are writing about.

While your keywords can be woven into what you're writing about, you should make sure that the topic is the most important bit of your content.

Carry out regular content audits

Content that used to work well for you might lose its potency over time, so where you're writing new content to keep up with demand, you might end up duplicating keyword focus between posts.

When you're carrying out your content audits, ask yourself the following:

  • Are the topics still relevant?
  • Is the information contained in them outdated?
  • If there are statistics in them, are they still correct?
  • Are you prioritising the correct keywords for the content?
  • Do the topics and keywords match your marketing goals?

And that, as they say, is that. You now know what keyword cannibalisation is and how you can prevent it from happening on your site.