What It Means When People Use The Word “Cannibalize” In SEO

Dive deep into the concept of keyword cannibalization in SEO, drawing parallels with real estate strategies. Discover its impact and how to address it effectively.

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What It Means When People Use The Word "Cannibalize" In SEO

The world of SEO is filled with terminologies that may sound complex but often have simple meanings, very much like some of the real estate jargon we encounter daily. One term you might have heard is “cannibalize” or “keyword cannibalization.” But what does it mean? Let’s unravel this mystery with a real estate twist!

1. The Foundation: What is Keyword Cannibalization?

Understanding keyword cannibalization begins with laying down the basics. Much like a solid foundation is essential for any real estate structure, understanding the core concept of keyword cannibalization is crucial for SEO strategists.

In its simplest form, keyword cannibalization happens when two or more pages on your website target the same primary keyword, resulting in them competing against each other in search engine rankings. Imagine having two houses on a street, both with the same address. A guest, wanting to visit, would be unsure which house to approach. Similarly, search engines, when presented with two pages of the same site targeting an identical keyword, might struggle to decide which page is more relevant to a searcher’s query.

This internal competition can be detrimental. Instead of boosting each other, these pages can pull one another down, causing confusion for search engines, and potentially leading to neither page securing a high-ranking position. Just as two identical property listings might confuse potential buyers, cannibalizing keywords confuses search engines and dilutes the strength of your content.

2. The Blueprint: How Does it Happen?

Keyword cannibalization might seem like an unlikely mistake for seasoned content creators, but it’s surprisingly common. Let’s look at it through a real estate lens: imagine you’re an estate agent who lists properties. Over the years, you accumulate so many properties that you unintentionally list two very similar ones in the same neighborhood at different times, forgetting about the overlap.

In the digital realm, as websites grow and content gets added over months or even years, there might be a lack of communication among content creators or a change in content strategy. This can lead to multiple articles or pages being created around the same topic without realizing the overlap. Some common scenarios include:

  • Content Updates: You might decide to write a fresh piece on a topic you covered a couple of years ago, thinking the older post is outdated, but without redirecting or updating the older content.
  • Broad Topic Ranges: If your site covers a wide range of topics within the real estate niche, you might have different articles targeting similar keywords. For instance, ‘how to buy a vintage home’ and ‘tips for purchasing old houses’ might end up competing if not differentiated properly.
  • Lack of Keyword Strategy: Without a clear keyword mapping strategy, it’s easy to lose track of which keywords have been targeted and which haven’t. This is much like forgetting which properties have been listed and which haven’t.

In essence, as your digital “property portfolio” grows, keeping track of every piece of content becomes more challenging, leading to unintentional overlaps and, consequently, keyword cannibalization.

3. Windows of Opportunity: Why is it a Concern?

The concept of windows in real estate is clear: they allow light in, offer a view, and can make spaces appear larger. Similarly, every piece of content on your website acts as a window of opportunity to attract, inform, and engage visitors. However, when keyword cannibalization occurs, you risk clouding these windows, making it harder for potential clients or customers to find and understand your content.

Here’s why keyword cannibalization is a pressing concern:

  • Diluted SEO Authority: Think of your content as prime real estate listings. If two properties are almost identical, it might be tough for potential buyers to choose. Similarly, when search engines see two pages of your website offering the same value, it divides the SEO authority between them. This “splitting” can hinder the chances of either page ranking high.
  • Confusing Search Engines: Search engines aim to present the best page for a user’s query. If your site has multiple pages targeting the same keyword, search engines may get “confused” about which page to rank higher, leading to inconsistent results. It’s like showing a home buyer two nearly identical homes, making their decision process more complex.
  • Wasted Crawl Budget: Search engines have a “crawl budget” for each website, meaning they’ll only crawl a specific number of pages during their visits. Cannibalized keywords can lead to search engines spending more time on similar content, potentially ignoring other vital parts of your site. Imagine a property inspector spending too much time comparing two similar properties and missing out on inspecting others.

4. The Inspection: Identifying Cannibalization

In the world of real estate, before purchasing a property, it undergoes a thorough inspection to identify any issues or potential problems. Similarly, diagnosing your website for keyword cannibalization requires a methodical approach:

  • Use SEO Tools: Several tools, such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz, can help you identify duplicate keyword rankings. They function much like a property inspector’s toolkit, highlighting areas (or keywords) of concern.
  • Manual Checks: Dive into your website’s content. List out primary and secondary keywords for each page or post. By having a comprehensive list, you can easily spot unintentional overlaps. It’s analogous to a real estate agent meticulously checking property listings to avoid overlaps.
  • Analyze Search Console: Google’s Search Console is a treasure trove of data. By checking the “Performance” tab, you can view pages that receive impressions for specific queries. If you notice multiple pages appearing for the same query, it’s a sign of potential cannibalization.
  • Check Internal Links: Ensure that internal links are structured in a way that doesn’t promote cannibalization. For instance, if two pages target the same keyword, but one is more comprehensive, consider linking to the more comprehensive one predominantly. It’s akin to directing potential buyers to the more promising of two similar property listings.

Through meticulous inspection, much like in real estate, you can uncover and address issues, ensuring your website’s foundation remains strong and poised for optimal performance.

5. Renovation Time: How to Fix It

Just as outdated rooms or faulty structures in a house require renovation, your website might need tweaks to rectify keyword cannibalization. Here’s how you can remodel your content strategy:

  • Merge and Conquer: Consider consolidating pages that target the same keywords. Merge their content to create a comprehensive, authoritative piece. It’s like combining two similar, small properties into one luxurious, spacious home that stands out in the market.
  • Re-optimize Content: If pages serve distinct user intents, adjust the keywords they target. Update titles, meta descriptions, and content to align with specific, unique keywords. Think of this as repurposing rooms in a home – transforming an unused study into a trendy home office, for instance.
  • Use Canonical Tags: If for some reason you want to keep both pages, you can use a canonical tag. This tells search engines which version of a page you deem more essential. It’s akin to having two entrances to a home but directing guests to use the main one.
  • Adjust Internal Linking: Guide the “link juice” to the page you believe is more important by tweaking the internal link structure. Redirect the flow to the more relevant content, much like redirecting foot traffic to the main showcase areas during a house open.

6. Future-Proofing: Preventing Cannibalization

Securing a house against future damages is as crucial as fixing current issues. Similarly, ensuring that your website remains cannibalization-free in the future is vital. Here’s how you can future-proof your site:

  • Regular Content Audits: Periodically review your content to identify overlaps or gaps. Using tools or manual checks, ensure that you aren’t unknowingly competing against yourself. It’s much like regular home inspections to prevent costly future repairs.
  • Keyword Mapping: Before creating new content, map out the keywords you intend to target. This strategy ensures every page has a distinct purpose, similar to having a blueprint before constructing or renovating a property.
  • Educate Your Content Team: Make sure everyone involved in content creation understands the importance of unique keyword targeting. Hold training sessions or workshops – think of it as safety drills to ensure everyone knows the protocol.
  • Stay Updated with SEO Trends: Just as real estate trends evolve, SEO does too. Regularly updating yourself with the latest in SEO ensures you’re always ahead of potential issues, like a real estate agent keeping abreast of market changes.

By renovating current problems and safeguarding against future ones, you ensure that your digital “property” remains valuable, functional, and a delight for its visitors.

7. The Big Picture: Cannibalization and Real Estate

Drawing parallels between SEO and the realm of real estate provides us with a more tangible grasp of abstract concepts. Let’s delve deeper into how keyword cannibalization and real estate intersect:

  • Prime Property and Prime Digital Real Estate: Just as prime properties in the heart of the city are coveted assets, the first page of search engine results is your digital prime real estate. Having multiple properties (web pages) in the same prime location can cause congestion, making it harder for any single one to stand out. Similarly, when multiple pages from your website compete for the same keyword, they might push each other down in rankings, causing you to lose that prime digital spot.
  • Property Value and Authority: In real estate, a well-maintained, unique property often sees its value rise over time. In the digital world, a webpage that offers unique, valuable content tailored for a specific keyword becomes an authority on the subject. Keyword cannibalization can be likened to having multiple similar properties in the same area, diluting the uniqueness and value of each.
  • Specialized Listings vs. Specialized Pages: Just as a real estate agent wouldn’t list two almost identical properties under the same listing, your web pages should be distinct in their content and target keywords. This distinction ensures that potential buyers (or website visitors) find exactly what they’re looking for without confusion.
  • The Role of a Skilled Agent: A good real estate agent knows how to market each property to its target audience, highlighting its unique features. Similarly, SEO experts ensure that every page on your website caters to a specific audience segment, minimizing overlap and competition.
  • Consolidation for Strength: In the property market, sometimes merging adjoining plots or properties can create a more valuable and functional space, attracting higher prices or rents. In the same vein, consolidating similar content and focusing on creating one strong, authoritative page can boost its search engine ranking and value to the user.

Understanding keyword cannibalization through the lens of real estate not only simplifies the concept but also emphasizes its importance. Just as real estate professionals aim to maximize property value and visibility, digital marketers and SEO experts strive to optimize web pages for the best possible search engine performance. Both fields require strategy, foresight, and a keen understanding of the landscape to succeed.

Travis Christianson
About the Author: Travis Christianson
Travis Christianson is the founder behind ThriveByWeb, a cutting-edge digital marketing platform tailored specifically for the real estate industrry in the United States and Canada. With over two decades of experience in graphic design, web development, and internet marketing, Travis embarked on a mission in early 2020 to assist families, homeowners, and small businesses in maximizing their online presence.

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