Today we discuss two of the most common SEO issues that companies have these days- keyword cannibalization and duplicate content.
First, let us start with Keyword Cannibalization.
What is Keyword Cannibalization?
Keyword cannibalization happens when two or more pieces of content in your site optimized with similar keywords compete against each other. It means two or more pages of your website showing up on the same listing of a Google search.
Keywords help you become discovered on the Google search results. You must have adequate of them in your site and at the same time, not overuse them till the point your website looks like it is only concerned with gaining visitors.
Well, you can add keywords as long as you have quality content to back it up. However, sometimes, you find yourself in a dilemma even if you are doing it in the right way. Keyword Cannibalization is one of those instances.
Is Keyword Cannibalization Bad?
For some, the idea of two pages of a website ranking on the top for the same keyword is ultimate. They believe it is a domination of some sort. Well, in some way, it is. After all, your site is ranking multiple times, so there is a good chance that people are going to click on your listing.
However, we can see a different picture if we look the other way around. Say that you run a site. You have two articles for the same keyword. Among them, you wrote the first one a year ago and the information is not so up to date. It is just a blog with the primary purpose to tell people about something. At the same time, writing is not so good because you were not a good content creator.
On the other hand, the second article is extraordinary. It has data that people can’t find anywhere else and has the potential to generate a lot of leads.
Both of these articles appear on the top page of the Google search results. Anyway, the first article ranks above the other. People are more likely to click on it, and thus, they won’t see the best you have to offer.
Drawbacks of Keyword Cannibalization
Here are the problems that might occur when you experience keyword cannibalization.
No Control Over Preference
Imagine a situation. Say that you run a coffee shop in Malaysia. You have two articles in your site, “Where to Find Beans to Grind Coffee in Malaysia,” and another one “Reasons Our Shop Provides You the Best Coffee in Malaysia.” Google shows the first article on the first page and the second one on the second page every time people search for “coffee in Malaysia.”
When keyword cannibalization occurs, the webpage you prefer to rank above the other might not do so.
As in the previous example, you might lose leads. There are two types of content- one that tells and another that sells services. If the initial one ranks high on every keyword and the next one does not, you will lose a number of potential customers.
A low-value page overtaking the desired page might just mess up your conversion rate. A non-lading page ranking over a landing page isn’t a preferable thing.
You will lose creditability every time a good page ranks below a bad one. As users are more likely to open a site which they see first, they might not get a very good first impression.
This problem persists especially if you have two pages ranked on an undesirable order on the first and the second page (or later pages) of Google. According to Moz, second-page articles only get 6% of the website clicks. Thus, even if you have better content on the second or the third page, you have already missed most of your chances to impress more people.
Ranking web pages on a decent search position requires a lot of hard work. Creating backlinks takes much time, doesn’t it?
When you create backlinks for more than two topics and end up ranking for both of them at the same time, something called ‘link dilution’ happens. This means that instead of creating backlinks of the present quality for both of them, you might have worked harder and had better links for only one of them. This would have its effects, for example, instead of two pages ranking on the fifth and sixth positions, one of your content would take the first place.
How to Detect and Remove Keyword Cannibalization
Detecting Keyword Cannibalization
Detecting keyword cannibalization is pretty straightforward. Google any of your keywords, and if you see two articles at the same listing, you will find the problem. While doing this, don’t only check the first page, but also jump to the second or the third ones. There you might see an article from your website which isn’t already at the top, but might create an issue in the coming days.
However, if you want advanced insights or a better view, we recommend you use third-party software such as Ahrefs or SEMrush.
How to Identify Keyword Cannibalization in Ahrefs
You can easily use Ahrefs to find what keyword is fighting against itself. For this, go to the website, and after logging in, and entering your domain name, choose the organic keywords option.
For a keyword, click on “Show History Chart.”
As you can see, in the above example, there is only one blue line, which means there is no keyword cannibalization. But in case you see two of them, two of your own articles have been competing against each other so you might need to fix it.
There are two lines in this instance. This is keyword cannibalization.
Use Semrush to Find Keyword Cannibalization
You can also conduct a keyword cannibalization audit with SemRush. First, login and enter your domain name.
After that, on domain analytics, click on organic research.
Then, you will see a chart like this. As you can see, this is one of our recent websites, and there are not a lot of keywords already. However, in one instance, you can see ‘from online to offline’ keyword appears two times. This means there’s cannibalization.
How to Remove Keyword Cannibalization
You don’t need to remove every instance of keyword cannibalization, especially if all the articles that repeat for a keyword are of superior quality. However, you can use some methods to stop multiple articles competing for the same keyword.
Here are some ways you can remove keyword cannibalization
- Deleting an irrelevant page.
- Joining the articles.
- Internal Linking from one page to another.
- Removing the focus keyword from one article and searching for other keywords to put in it.
- Making the metadata (title, meta description, and URLs) of similar articles as different as you can.
- 301 redirects- after removing a page, you can move every user who opens its link to another page. Ask your SEO service provider to do it for you.
Duplicate Content Issues in SEO
Now let us see the duplicate content issue. Actually, before moving any further, we should know the difference between copied content and duplicate content.
Copied Content vs. Duplicate Content
Say that you want to write an article about internet marketing. You went to the internet and copied an entire piece, pasted it on your site and published it. Or you copied it, spun the words and pasted and published. Both of these instances are copying, and you must not do it.
On the other hand, if you only derived some sentences from the article as a reference and then added some points of your own, you are simply duplicating the content.
Does Duplicate Content Affect Your SEO Ranking?
There are a lot of myths about duplicate content in SEO. One of them being that copying an article from another site will hurt your ranking. Actually, this is not completely true.
You can visit Google’s guidelines about duplicate content. There, it states that putting duplicate content in your site is good, as long as you don’t do it to manipulate the search ranking. This means that if you want to add content from another site with an innocent goal to inform people, you are doing nothing wrong. But on the other hand, if you are constantly copy pasting or spinning stuff and trying to get good SERPs through it, your site will face penalties.
Here are some useful things you should know about Duplicate Content
You Won’t Rank with Copied Content
This means trying to copy someone’s material is a waste of your own time. Here is the thing- Google’s algorithm is very advanced, and the search engine is more intelligent than you think. Google wants to inform people as much as it can with its top search positions. If you to submit an article that has information already listed on one of the top articles, you won’t intrigue Google. Thus, if you are duplicating content, you are just wasting your own time and effort.
Duplicating Extends to More Than Google Search Results
Alright, you might think about duplicating content for the sake of your SERPs. However, remember that Google is only a search engine, and it is not the law.
Say that you copy-paste someone’s content entirely to better your Google search result. The party that you copied from will not notice you until you start competing against them. After you build a decent ranking, the site from where you duplicated the content will notice and sue you. This is because you are a plagiarizer- you copied someone’s work and gave yourself the credits. You will be hit with copyright infringement law, and after the things escalate from there and Google knows about it, your site will be taken out from the listing.
So, What Should You Do?
Don’t plagiarize. It is fine to take references from other articles, but don’t copy everything entirely. Remember, Google thinks like a human when it assesses content (actually, the search engine has hired human moderators to check website materials), so there is no ‘machine-like’ algorithm regarding duplicated content. Your best bet is to think yourself rationally- is your act of copying sentences going to put you in troubles in the future?
Credit authors, write unique articles, and hire proficient content writers. If you can do these three things, you don’t need to worry about duplication. Remember, try to put up as much information as you can with the aim to help people, then Google will value your content.
Check out our short informatory YouTube video to know more about how keyword cannibalization affects SEO.