Forget images of a very large black cooking pot suspended over an open fire, filled with missionaries and surrounded by natives brandishing knives and forks, although the end result of keyword cannibalisation can be just as unsavoury.
Keyword cannibalisation is usually the result of people not really understanding SEO or alternatively have convinced themselves that what they are doing to their website will result in a massive positive result. A word of warning: it won’t!
What is Keyword Cannibalisation?
To understand this misguided practice we need to understand how the search engines index a webpage. The first thing you need to know is that the Bots can’t see any of your pictures, it can’t interpret your text. The bots are smart programs that use algorithms to grade your website based on relevance and authority.
As it crawls through your site it will assign ranking data to each of your webpages based on many different factors, some of which we know and some we don’t. If you have more than one page targeting your keyword, then this will confuse the search engine and as a result it will not know which is the better page to rank. Effectively, you are diluting the strength of your keyword. Welcome to Keyword Cannibalisation!
Multiple pages with the same keyword splits the content and so divides the value of the information among all of these multiple pages.
Lets imagine that our cannibal friends above have their own website selling cooking utensils. They also sell cookery books, microwaves, egg timers, temperature probes, and you get the idea. They want to rank for the term “cooking” unsurprisingly so they have optimised all their webpages and blog for that particular keyword.
Along comes a search engine and determines that they sell cooking related products, but their same keyword is appearing on all their pages. Which, out of all these pages, is the best and most relevant fit for the search query of “cooking”? The page that gets them the most paying customers is now lost within their own site. That’s keyword cannibalisation and it’s just cost our hungry friends a shed load of money.
Less is More
To understand this better, lets use The Lottery as an analogy. In theory, the more Lotto tickets you buy, the greater the chance you have of winning. With SEO however, the opposite is true, the more pages you optimise with the same keyword reduces the chance for it showing up on search engine result pages.
How to Avoid
So, now you know there are no short cuts to increase your rankings, what should you be doing? Well, in place of using the same keyword on multiple pages, use long tail keywords. These are search phrases that are usually more specific and tend to have fewer monthly searches. Because of this they tend to attract visitors who are no longer just looking for general information but are looking to buy, their search criteria being more specific such as “metal cooking utensils” Long tails makes it easy for search engines to decide on right page and therefore doesn’t cannibalise from any similar pages on your website.