There’s lots of talk regarding keywords right now; some will tell you that keywords are dead, while others will try to explain that everybody needs multiple pages targeting the same keyword in order to get on the SERP. With so much false information disseminated on a daily basis, it’s hard to keep up with the real trends and what we should be doing as marketers to get results. In this guide, we want to set the record straight… and discuss why keyword cannibalization matters in 2020!
To start, we’ll address one of the biggest concerns that keywords are now ‘dead.’ When HubSpot decided to remove its keywords tool, this only fueled the fire and it has had marketers panicking ever since.
According to HubSpot itself, the keyword tool was removed because search is now more than just keywords. With the introduction of artificial intelligence, machine learning, voice search and other technological changes, it said that focusing on keywords alone would be misleading for marketers and wouldn’t allow them to achieve their goals as closely as newer tools being introduced to the market.
As we analyze the shift in importance of keywords, Google has played a pivotal role—in particular, the accuracy improvement in RankBrain, Hummingbird, and the whole algorithm. Google now takes searcher intent into account, which is the next step in the evolution of the world’s most popular search engine.
If you remember the early days of Google algorithms, it was all about flooding content with keywords (even if the content no longer made sense). The more people abused this simple algorithm, the more Google had to do to keep the service valuable for users. Rather than displaying the content with the most backlinks and keywords, Google now focuses on high-quality content that provides value and, most importantly, answers to questions.
Does this mean you should stop concentrating on keywords immediately? No, it just means a change of approach is in order. Rather than using keywords as the focal point on which the rest of the content depends, use it to align the intention of those reaching the page and your content. Go back to the basics. What is it that your company does for customers? What problems do you solve? With your content, it’s time to address these problems and explain how you can help.
Instead of starting with keywords, focus on your content instead. Think about the content your audience will find valuable and aim to provide the service you desired when first launching. If somebody walked into a physical store and asked a question about your industry, you wouldn’t shape the answer based on some keywords. You would answer the question as best possible. This is where content is going in 2020.
This term describes a situation whereby we’re ‘cannibalizing’ and affecting our own results negatively. Instead of producing one page, we’re creating two, which means that all content, CTR, links and conversions are split between these same two pages. Although done with good intentions (we think that having multiple pages will boost results), it’s harming results because Google can’t see our knowledge and the website doesn’t get authority.
If you think about it, you’re asking Google to compare your pages and make them compete against one another. Now, each page has to compete not only against the pages of competitors, but your content too.
Why should you focus on keyword cannibalization as part of your SEO revamp in 2020? Too many times, we’ve seen keyword cannibalization kill a website without marketers or business having any idea it’s hurting their business. They feel proud that they have two web pages within the first three pages of results, but they don’t realize that they could get into the top three results by merging the two. This would give the site more authority, Google would see the value of the website, and prospective customers would get the answers they needed.
Here are some ways that keyword cannibalization negatively affects SEO:
As we’ve just seen, the first problem is that we sacrifice one authoritative page and split everything between two pages. We’ve seen so many businesses create pages that compete against one another because they feel as though they constantly need to create. In reality, it would be better if they slowed down and left one page to do the job.
Despite all the changes in recent years, Google still uses keywords to determine what a page of content is about. Is it about soccer, dancing or calculators? If all your keywords are the same across several pages, Google needs to decide which page best fits the request of users. When the content is similar, Google can get this wrong and your ‘better’ page loses value.
Keyword cannibalization causes backlinks to split between several pages rather than just one, and internal links head to numerous locations. It’s much better to have all your internal links leading to one authoritative, definitive page.
For those who haven’t seen this term previously, it describes how many times a search engine will crawl a given website. When several pages point to the same keyword, pages are crawled and indexed unnecessarily. While this might not affect small businesses, growing eCommerce platforms will almost certainly suffer.
As a result of all of these negatives, conversion rates across two or more pages pale in comparison to the potential of one single page.
If you aren’t sure whether or not your website is suffering from keyword cannibalization, one of the easiest things to do is write down all the important URLs of your website into a spreadsheet alongside their respective keywords. If several pages all have the same keywords, you need to make some changes.
To finish, here’s five ways you can fix keyword cannibalization (it might be easier than you think!).
Many marketers have several landing pages for their products, which bares the same problems as discussed. This year, we highly recommend switching to one landing page and consolidating all product pages. Again, this will allow for the authoritative page you need for all products. From here, you can link the variations. If you sell hats, for example, you might link away to different types of hat with different keywords and focuses.
In other cases, you may take the most authoritative page and transform it into a landing page linking away to all the variations. With ‘hats’ as the elite page and focal point, you then have ‘top hat,’ ‘flat cap,’ and others linking back to it.
As long as you’re still able to keep pages accurate and not mislead visitors, another tactic is to change up your keywords. It might not be an option for all marketers, but some will have a wealth of keywords to dip into.
Next, we recommend making a full assessment of all the website’s content. If there are several pages all using the same keyword, think about consolidating them into one. For the small investment this will require, you’ll take two average pages and transform them into miracle workers in terms of conversion and effectiveness.
Across the internet, you might see ‘using too many 301 redirects’ as a classic SEO mistake. However, this might be a time when they’re necessary. When several pages rank for the same keyword, 301 redirects can dig you out of a hole.
If you link all of the smaller, less relevant pages to one consolidated, authoritative page, 301s will help with the process. Remember, this will only work if the pages have matching keywords and similar content.
Often, we see how Google is ‘punishing’ marketers and companies. In the case of keyword cannibalization, it’s the marketers punishing themselves. This year, we recommend taking the time to review your website and landing pages to ensure you aren’t shooting yourself in the foot. If you spot keyword cannibalization and want to do something about it, refer to our list of solutions above and you will start to compete against only the competition rather than yourself!
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