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What is Keyword Cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization in search engine optimization (SEO) content refers to having multiple pieces of content on your site that can all rank for the same query.

For example, if you have multiple blog posts, a Q&A, and an expert interview about the same keyword on your website, that could be considered keyword cannibalization.

It’s a common misconception that creating multiple pieces of content about the same keyword can help you to take up more space in SERPs, booting out your competitors. However, all you’re really doing is diluting your own traffic and potentially even stunting your own SEO growth.

How? Let’s explore it in more detail.

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How does keyword cannibalization hurt SEO?

Writing too many different articles or posts about the same keyword can hurt your SEO traffic in a few different ways:

  • It dilutes traffic
  • It can stunt SEO growth
  • It’s similar to keyword stuffing

How does keyword cannibalization dilute traffic?

The purpose of a good piece of SEO content is to bring natural search traffic to your website.

Users who get to your site through one high-quality piece of content for a specific keyword are easy to track and analyze. They’re all coming from the same place, which makes it easier to find information about them as a group, such as overall bounce rate, time spent on a page, the browsers they use, and more. Concentrated traffic is easier to target, analyze, and optimize.

Users who get to your website through multiple channels for the exact same keyword are spread out all over the place. Instead of having one URL to analyze, you have multiple. This makes things much harder, especially when you consider that you have virtually no way to tell which content showed up when or whether it was paired with your other pieces.

Instead of taking a bite out of your competitor’s organic traffic, you’re just eating up your own.

How does keyword cannibalization stunt SEO growth?

Traffic dilution caused by keyword cannibalization can stunt SEO growth by not giving search engines a single piece of content to serve to searchers. Instead, they must choose which piece they think is the best fit for a given query.

If you have one piece of really great, keyword-focused content that users click on in SERPs, that content will likely grow in popularity and rank over time because the search engine will see it as a quality result to serve. Over time, that can mean ranking highly and bringing in traffic, as well as positively affecting things like your brand awareness and link building opportunities.

On the other hand, if you have too many pieces of content focused on the same keyword, search engines are going to serve up whichever piece they think best suits a query.

Since SERPs will serve inconsistent pieces, it means less traffic to each one. This can result in low rank in SERPs for all your pieces, which means none of them will ever really shine. Plus, your chances of building brand awareness or link building opportunities through multiple pieces of content will be slim.

How is keyword cannibalization like keyword stuffing?

While keyword cannibalization generally refers to creating multiple pieces of content using the same target keyword, keyword stuffing is when you oversaturate a single piece of content with one keyword.

Keyword cannibalization is basically just keyword stuffing for your whole website instead of a single page. Although the standalone pages you create may not be keyword stuffed, your overall website could be, leading to low rank, SERP dilution, and poor SEO growth.

How can I avoid keyword cannibalization?

To avoid keyword cannibalization, you should really focus on quality over quantity when it comes to your content. Instead of writing 10 articles about the same query or keyword, try creating one high-quality, optimized piece. Or, repurpose oversaturated keywords for supplemental marketing material, like infographics and email campaigns.

Up your chances of having it do well by creating an optimized URL, title tag, and meta description. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to make sure that your technical SEO is up to snuff.

Use the time you would have spent writing other articles on building out a great link building strategy and promoting the piece.

If you think you’ve already done some damage, don’t worry—keyword cannibalization can be easy to find and fix.

The most important thing to remember is that, unlike a lot of blackhat SEO practices, keyword cannibalization is often the product of someone who wants to optimize their site without really understanding the intricacies of SEO.

That’s where an expert can come in handy.