Competing for top organic ranks in Google and Bing is complicated and confusing. Google and Bing use many signals when ranking one result over another in their engine. With numerous elements both in and out of your control, you don’t want to compete against yourself too. What does competing against yourself mean in Google? The answer to this question is keyword cannibalization.
In this post, I will explain what this problem is, how to detect keyword cannibalization, an example on my site, and how to solve them. Envision we are working on search engine deoptimization to do better SEO somewhere else on the site. Below is a screenshot showing how one keyword moved from position 19 to position 4 by fixing this issue.
What is Keyword Cannibalization
Keyword cannibalization means your site has two or more competing pages going after the same keyword. The problem with this is that Google and Bing will not understand which page to show in their results. The confusion for bots leads to less than desirable organic rankings in Google and Bing for a given keyword. In this picture above, you can see that I have two pages ranking on page 5 for the same term, so I am not getting traffic for this term. By fixing this issue and having one page go after this term, I went from page five to page one in about one month.
How to Detect Keyword Cannibalization
Google allows you to perform advanced search operators to find specific results that are in their index. The command you want to type will be site:yoursite.com “keyword you want to target.” If results come up, Google has already indexed page/s for your site around this topic. You can also use SEMRush and or Screaming Frog to find these issues too. In SEMRush, you want to look at the report that I have above that explicit says there is that issue. In Screaming Frog, you want to look for duplicate title tags or meta name descriptions on your site. If you’re going to write a new guide about that existing topic, you have a few choices which I will highlight below.
How to Fix Them
Before I get into the steps below, I would like to share the exact process I took to combat this issue. If my solution in this video does not apply to your situation, I outlined alternative steps to consider below.
Add New Content to Existing Page
Sometimes it’s a better strategy to update an existing page with additional content for a few reasons. First, you might have established authoritative backlinks pointing to this old page, so you have a leg up on outranking a new page. Second, you have a history with Google and Bing with this URL, so you have a higher chance of ranking it over a new page. Third, you can save time by updating an existing page instead of spending the time and resources building something entirely new.
A canonical tag may the answer if you want to avoid cannibalization with Google and Bing. The canonical tag tells Google and Bing that you know that you have duplicate / similar content on your site, but you prefer this other page rank in search engines. Changing the canonical tag to the preferred page is a good strategy if you do not want to redirect users necessarily to a new page, but you don’t want to compete directly against yourself.
The 301 redirect, in my opinion, is the answer to this question if you have a lot of similar content. More likely than not, you can gain more value from passing authority via a 301 redirect from many places to one destination to rank for that term. This strategy works because you effectively give one page the best chance to rank instead of many pages a not so great oppotunity to rank in Google.
Reasons Not to Worry about Keyword Cannibalization
Sometimes keyword cannibalization is not a bad thing. It’s rare, but if you rank at the top of Google for the top positions, you should not mess around with that page. One example of this is when you are a brand and you cover topics on specefic tools for your website. By owning as much real estate on Google, you effectively control your brand’s message.
Keyword Cannibalization is resolvable with a few simple and straightforward steps. The last thing you want to do is give Google and Bing another reason not to rank your site their results, so fixing this internal battle is a significant first step. The strategy that I outlined above can be summed up as search engine deoptimization since you are working to lower one rank to improve another’s.
If you would like to use SEMRush for seven days free, you can use this link here. You can then find out if you have any of these issues that live on your site which can help propel your organic results at a fast rate.
If you are looking for help with your site, TM Blast offers Boston SEO Expert services.