The world of SEO is a battle to the top where webmasters fight by designing web pages around specific keywords to improve each page’s rankings on search engine results. And while the competition is fierce to improve page rankings, many SEO experts believe that stagnation and falterings in page rankings can often be self-inflicted.
What is keyword cannibalism?
This self-inflicted issue is known as keyword cannibalism, a term used to describe a situation where multiple web pages target the same keyword, resulting in those multiple pages competing against themselves in search engine results.
Alexander Kesler of Moz.com states that targeting the same keywords across multiple pages spreads thin the chances of pages to gain the top spot in results.
“The multiple pages you’ve optimized for the given keyword are all trying to make it to the first place in Google’s search results. So instead of focusing your efforts on one piece of content and giving it the best chance to claim the top spot, you’re spreading them thin,” he wrote in an article on keyword cannibalism. “Another important reason to avoid keyword cannibalism is that it hurts the quality of your content. After all, how many great articles can you produce on the same topic?”
How can I adapt my strategy?
Kesler’s viewpoint is shared by many of his counterparts in the SEO landscape, but not by all.
In a recent article by Patrick Stox of Search Engine Land, he argues that competing pages should be looked at not as a problem, but as an opportunity. Stox suggests turning off Google filters, like crowd hosting and domain clustering, by adding &filter=0 to the end of the URL.
This, he said, shows what pages are in consideration, allowing webmasters to see where they stand in search result rankings.
“While you could let pages fight it out and see which page ranks for a particular query, there are other options. Look at these other pages not as competing but as opportunities. By turning off the filter, as shown above, you can see which pages are in the consideration set and where they stand in the rankings,” Stox said. “You can wait and see if multiple pages will show or help the process along by adding additional internal links or consolidating pages where it makes sense. As long as the intent is the same and the content is similar, I’d typically go for fewer, stronger pages.”
While there are competing views about whether keyword cannibalism is damaging to SEO, most SEO experts seem to agree that it can be used as an opportunity to improve results by consolidating pages with the same keywords and repurposing pages to target alternate keywords.
To learn more about how to use SEO to your advantage, read our post on SEO strategies to increase online traffic.