How To Identify and Stop SEO Keyword Cannibalization
With the right keywords, you can rank your website or blog higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). You need a good plan to make sure that your keywords do not overlap or "cannibalize" each other.
Keyword cannibalization occurs when two or more of your pages, or pieces of content, are competing for the same keyword. An experienced SEO agency knows to quickly stop it to avoid ranking issues. This article talks about the following keyword cannibalization solutions:
- 301 redirects
- Noindex tagging
- Merging content
- Using canonical tags
Ready to find out how to deal with keyword cannibalization?
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How To Discover Keyword Cannibalization
When keyword cannibalization happens on your site, Google finds it hard to decide which page to rank higher. Eventually, it harms your ranking,
There are several ways to find keyword cannibalization issues on your site, but the quickest is by using an SEO tool like SEMrush Position Tracking Tool, Google Search Console, or Moz Keyword Explorer.
You can also try a Google search. Use the search operator "site:" plus the keyword and your domain name, in this format: “[KEYWORD] site:[DOMAIN].com.” This search limits results to the keyword and domain name you specify.
Assume that you suspect "Top SEO strategies" is a cannibalized keyword on your site; conduct a search for "Top SEO strategies site:forbes.com." Google returns all pages in your site indexed with the keyword that you searched. These are pages that are likely competing with each other for the same keywords.
Carefully analyze these pages and use a spreadsheet to track keyword cannibalization issues. List your meaningful URLs and their corresponding keywords. Then, check your list for possible duplicate entries, a sign of keyword cannibalization.
How To Stop Keyword Cannibalization
Solve keyword cannibalization by merging, deleting, and redirecting content. You should correct this issue as soon as you discover it. Otherwise, your site will confuse search engines with multiple posts targeting the same keyword, which eventually makes your ranking suffer.
Here are ways to stop cannibalization ASAP.
Using 301 Redirect
A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect HTTP status code from a web server to a browser. All users who access the old URL will automatically be taken to the new URL. This code stops keyword cannibalization because it immediately sends the user to the more important content.
A 301 redirect also promotes the new URL. No need to worry about your pages competing for a particular keyword, because a 301 redirect transfers the ranking power of the old URL to the new one.
You can set up 301 redirects using tools like HubSpot CMS or WordPress. When creating a 301 redirect, consider the following tips:
- Set up a 301 redirect between every iteration of your domain. Doing so improves search engine rankings.
- Remember to set up redirects while repairing your site. Creating a formidable link-building strategy takes time, so always try to save inbound links. 302 redirects (a temporary redirect) maintain the inbound links and search ranking while you change your domain.
- Redirect older internal links. Aside from cannibalizing your updated content, these internal links can create a bad user experience and affect your ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Stopping Cannibalization With Noindex Tagging
The noindex tag prevents similar or duplicate content from being indexed by search engines. It appears in the head section of your site's source code and tells Google not to index a page, to prevent that page from appearing in search results. The noindex tag is effective in stopping duplicate content from ranking.
Seek the help of an SEO expert to safely install a noindex tag. Here are a few tips when using a noindex tag.
- Review duplicate pages first. Use the spreadsheet that you created after searching for keyword cannibalization issues. Look for pages with high inbound link value and consider permanently redirecting these pages to a relevant site page.
- Ensure that the page is not blocked. For effective placement of a noindex tag, ensure that the page is not blocked by robots.txt file for the crawler to access the page and see the noindex tag.
1. Merging Content
Consolidating weak and competing pages to make one updated and helpful page is another way to alleviate keyword cannibalization. Content merging is best if you have a standout primary page with inbound links.
Do not simply merge content; update it to enhance your new page. Also, 301 redirects should be on pages with deleted or changed URLs, so that these pages pass ranking signals to the improved final page. When merging, consider the following:
- Create intent-focused content. Use Google Webmaster Tools or Google Search Console to review your users searches. This tool can reveal the common searches that drive users to your content. Use this information to improve your content, or use new keywords to create better content.
- Remember to redirect old pages. Once you have merged the content of two pages, ensure that you redirect users to the new page by using a simple 301 redirect from the old page.
2. Utilizing Canonical Tags
If you cannot remove cannibalized pages, then only keep one, using a canonical tag. Canonicalization is a technical SEO strategy that saves dedicated pay-per-click (PPC) landing pages and content that gives users the best experience. Canonical tags may be the best option if content management system (CMS) restrictions cause page duplication issues.
With canonicalization, you choose a primary page, telling Google that this is the page that should rank in SERPs. A web developer can add canonical tags on a page to ensure that ranking signals, such as link equity, are sent to the canonical page. When using canonical tags, consider:
- Pointing to your current URL. This ensures that all other pages are duplicates, and that your current URL is the canonical version providing the best source of information for users.
- Canonicalizing your main page. This prevents possible ranking issues, because homepage copies are prevalent.
- Adding canonical tags for very similar pages. This applies to product pages that have slight differences. For example, these differences may include location currency or a minor product feature.
- Ensuring that your solution fits your desired outcome. Do you use a canonical tag or a 301 redirect? With canonical tags, people can still visit your old pages, while a 301 redirect immediately takes your visitors to the new page. If your old pages can still be helpful to your users, then a canonical tag is a better choice than a redirect.
Stop keyword cannibalization before it is too late! Identify these keywords immediately and use strategies like 301 redirects, noindex tags, merging content, and canonical tags to stop cannibalization. Conduct regular site audits to avoid duplicate content. When these strategies are correctly applied, you can create a site that ranks higher and is more visible on SERPs.
Do you want to know more about keyword cannibalization? Are you worried about possible keyword cannibalization issues? Call Digital Authority Partners today.
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