Keyword cannibalism is a classic SEO mistake that continues to plague many legal marketing campaigns. This nefarious sounding term simply refers to the practice of targeting the same keyword on multiple pages.
Let’s now discuss the details and how you can prevent keyword cannibalism from wrecking your SEO.
Confusion for Search Engines
Although you won’t be penalized for targeting the same keyword, it can hurt your organic traffic. Why?
It creates confusion for search engines. As Alexander Kesler writes in Moz, “By having multiple pages with the same focus, you’re forcing Google (and search engines in general) to choose between many pages and pick the one that fits the best.”
It’s basically like self-sabotage. By optimizing multiple pages for the same keyword, each one is trying to reach the first page in SERPs, which ends up hurting the rankings for all of those pages. Kesler adds, “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.”
Instead, you’re much better off targeting a specific, unique keyword for each individual page. This ensures that you’re never competing against yourself.
How to Prevent Keyword Cannibalism
Perhaps the most basic strategy is to simply keep note of the primary keywords you’ve targeted in the past. An easy way to do this is by using either a spreadsheet in Google Drive or Excel. Better yet, alphabetize your list for easy reference.
If you’re a WordPress user, I highly recommend installing the Yoast SEO, which is regarded by most experts as the number one SEO plugin. Among its numerous helpful features, it will let you know any time you’ve used a particular keyword in the past, and you’ll see something like this at the bottom:
This way you’ll know for sure if you’re targeting a duplicate keyword before you dive in head first to a new blog post. Believe me, this is really handy when you’ve written hundreds of articles and saves you from having to look over everything manually.
What if I Already Have Multiple Pages Targeting the Same Keyword?
You have two options. Merge the two or more pages into one or repurpose competing pages to target different, unique keywords.
If you choose the latter, you’ll first want to find out which page is ranking the highest because you’ll want to leave that page alone. Checking this manually can be arduous and time consuming, but one tool that will expedite the process is SEMrush. The “Top Organic Keywords” feature allows you to quickly check the position of your keywords and search for specific target keywords.
To be clear, there are a lot worse SEO mistakes you can make besides keyword cannibalism. But it’s definitely something to be aware of because it’s likely to diminish the effectiveness of your SEO campaign.
So be sure that you’re always targeting a unique keyword for each page. And fortunately, this issue can be remedied fairly easily if you’ve already got multiple pages targeting the same keyword.