Websites and the associated need for SEO have existed for a long time; long enough that new challenges have arisen. Keyword cannibalization is one of those challenges, resulting from changes in the ways consumers search online. Updating keyword usage is now an essential baseline for reinvigorating a digital marketing strategy to match the latest customer behaviors for researching products and services
What is it?
First let’s cover the basic definition of keyword cannibalism. Keyword cannibalism is a condition in which multiple website pages are competing for exposure to a keyword in a search engine query.
Keyword cannibalization occurs from overemphasis of a specific keyword throughout an entire website structure. Businesses assume that an exclusive reliance on search will solve their marketing needs, and thus a website’s information architecture can become excessively reliant on a single keyword. Sometimes this occurs accidentally, where a website just has too much content on the same topic, reproducing the keyword endlessly. Other times it can result, frankly, from poor SEO practices, with plans that overlook product and service strategy.
What has changed, especially in today’s Amazon Echo era, is that different kinds of requests for products and services are emerging. Customers are discovering new ways to ask for a product or service, or look for associated items. The result are forms of long-tail keyword searches containing distinct words indicative of how a product or service is used.
Left unchecked, keyword cannibalization can ruin a customer experience because competing content can overwhelm a customer’s decision process. The customer is discouraged from further researching the product or service, instead of being presented with creative ways in which a product or service can solve their needs and lead them to convert.
How can it be fixed?
There are a few ways to counter keyword cannibalization, including ways that do not require an entire website redesign, depending on how elements appear in the underlying code. Think of it as the digital marketing equivalent of mowing the grass, and you can envision how essential it is to update things periodically in order to keep cannibalism in check.
One step is to review the site structure elements for adjustment opportunities. This is useful if you are not scheduled to redesign the website, and can form part of a SEO review. The focus should be directed toward page URLs, page headers and H1 element tags that appear in the HTML code. These elements are first scanned in a search engine query, so making adjustments is a good first step, and may solve some cannibalism problems. You can next review opportunities to adjust content to focus on the keywords. You can also label image files and associated alternative text with keyword phrases
You may decide that some pages do not work at all. This is typical when a keyword is associated with a product or service no longer offered. Based on your business model, you may want to apply 301 redirect pages for those removed pages. The 301 redirect can also permit a redirect of link relevance of duplicate pages to one single page, strengthen the canonical page strategy further.
Adding landing pages named for additional keyword phrases can also be a temporary assist. Landing pages can spread the keyword usage within the site, and introduce new choices for a search engine to consider.
Now for this to be effective, the landing pages should be hosted at the same server as your site. This means the landing pages will have a URL address with the page as a sub-directory of your main site. i.e. www.yoursite.com/landing-page-with-keyword.html
In the same vein as landing pages, you should consider alternative platforms to extend business exposure. A website can be associated with a YouTube account, for example, allow the site to send a strong signal to Google that its content and YouTube channel are associated. The site can then take advantage of YouTube being the second largest search engine with dedicated content described with keyword phrases.
Whether updating an old site or launching a new one with revised keywords, it is important to launch digital ads, and deploy content marketing and other events to help stir interest. This is especially important to let customer be aware of new ways a product or service can solve their needs. Campaigns help to draw renewed attention to content, especial in the current age of re-marketing and dynamic campaigns. Marketers should use these to build awareness, if the remedies for keyword cannibalization involve revised offerings to customers.
Also marketers should evaluate the blog content. Some topics can be revised with better focus on how different customers benefit from a product or service. Even creating video segments with differing titles and tags from a blog post can make a difference.
Managers should remember that customer experience online evolves, and inspecting a site for keyword cannibalization can better match marketing campaigns to that evolution. Updating SEO requires a few, short, coordinated steps that can keep customers returning to your brand for a long, long time.