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Keyword Cannibalization & SEO

So, you want to rank on the first page of search for a specific keyword.  What better way to rank for that term than to ensure it’s used on every page of your site, right?  That’s gotta be an SEO best practice for sure!

Nope.  That makes you, my friend, a keyword cannibal.

What is keyword cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization occurs when you “cannibalize” your own ranking for a keyword by having multiple pages on your website focusing on that keyword.  If you can capture the first few spots with multiple pages, more power to you!  But, in most cases, it’s a difficult feat to even make page one.  If you do make it to page one, wouldn’t you like it to be a page that is essential to conversions?  That’s why it’s important to focus your site so that only one (maybe two) pages is focused and optimized for a specific keyword.

As mere mortals, it may make sense to us that a site is considered highly relevant for a keyword if it’s used across a site’s pages.  A search engine doesn’t weight your keyword rank across your site as a whole.  A search engine spider crawls your site and looks for a PAGE that is most relevant to the specified keyword.  When you have multiple pages for the search engine to choose from, it’s forced to pick a page to return as the most relevant one from your site (the one that will appear highest in search for your site).  What if the page it picks isn’t the best for conversions?  You already have thousands of pages to compete against.  Why make it harder on yourself by diffusing your potential ranking power across pages of your own site?

Create a keyword map

A keyword map is a good way to plan your content to ensure you’ve got your site properly targeting keywords.  Here’s an example I put together.

keyword map

In the above scenario, you are trying to rank for keyword “Widgets.”  On your site, you could have a primary page optimized for “Widgets” with child pages focused on variations of the keyword.  You can then build internal links from your child pages back to your primary page.  Additionally, you can ensure your external links for Widgets (ads related to widgets, guest blogs, etc.) point back to the main Widgets page.  Each link is a “vote” for your page’s authority on the target keyword.

If you’ve already got a problem with keyword cannibalization, check out Rand Fishkin’s advice in his post “How to Solve Keyword Cannibalization” and use 301s liberally (link: http://moz.com/blog/how-to-solve-keyword-cannibalization).

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