No, this will not be a history lesson in the Donner Party. Instead, we’re delving into a modern dilemma that lawyers aiming to conquer the web need to understand: keyword cannibalization.
Sometimes, in the quest for SEO supremacy, you might unknowingly feast on your own digital offerings. This is called keyword cannibalization, and it’s a lose-lose situation.
In this article, we’ll simplify the complexities of keyword cannibalization in the context of SEO, identify its negative impacts on SEO, and provide actionable tips to ensure that your online strategy doesn’t fall victim to this gruesome phenomenon.
Understanding content cannibalization (with examples)
Most attorneys know that creating and optimizing content is crucial for effective search engine optimization (SEO). But all your great content can be undermined by a little-known phenomenon called keyword cannibalization. Yes, there is such a thing as too much content!
What is keyword cannibalization?
It’s when multiple pages on your website are competing against each other for the same target keywords and, ultimately, search intent. Search intent encapsulates scenarios where, even if you didn’t actively target specific keywords by adding them to the content, Google thinks the pages should appear in the same search result because the intended audience is the same regardless of what words you use on the page to satisfy that search intent.
The result of keyword cannibalization is fragmentation of traffic and dilution of your topical authority.
Content cannibalization can confuse search engines as well as your online visitors. More importantly, it can negatively impact your website’s visibility and rankings on search engine result pages (SERPs).
Examples of keyword cannibalization
Consider a law firm that specializes in personal injury cases, and let’s say they have two separate practice area pages, one for car accidents and another for auto accidents. In this example, the firm would be targeting users with the same search intent (i.e. individuals who need a lawyer after a card accident).
A more common scenario we see at Omnizant are longtail blog articles that target the same search intent with slightly different verbiage or a slightly different angle. For example, “What to do after a car accident” and “Steps to take after a car accident” would be targeting the same search intent.
The negative impact of content cannibalization on SEO
Cannibalization can harm your SEO efforts in several ways:
Keyword Dilution: Multiple pages targeting the same keywords can lead to diluted rankings. Instead of having a single strong page that ranks well for your target keywords, your efforts get spread across multiple weaker pages. That SEO harmony turns into cacophony.
Confused Search Engines: Imagine a GPS guiding you to three different destinations at once. Search engines may struggle to determine which page to display for a specific query. As a result, you may experience ranking volatility and a wasted page once Google chooses the more relevant page and ranks it.
Volatile Ranking and Traffic: Google’s algorithm rarely allows the same domain to rank two pages for the same SERP. In creating pages that are too similar, you’ll likely find that Page A will rank for a while, then Page B, but Page B will not have the same position as Page A so you’ll have volatile traffic for the pages.
Poor User Experience: Cannibalization can create a disjointed user experience, potentially causing visitors to bounce back to the search results and look for more coherent information elsewhere.
Tips to prevent keyword cannibalization
Let’s prepare you to enter the savage wilderness of SEO, friends. Here are six ways to avoid keyword cannibalization on your legal website:
- Conduct thorough keyword research: Before creating content, conduct thorough keyword research to identify relevant keywords and phrases. Map out your content strategy to ensure each page targets a unique set of keywords.
- Differentiate your content: Even when covering similar topics, ensure each piece of content offers unique value. Address different aspects, angles, or audience needs in each piece to provide a compelling reason for search engines to rank both.
- Audit your content regularly: Regularly audit your website’s content to identify instances of keyword cannibalization. If you find multiple pages targeting the same keywords, consider merging or consolidating them into a comprehensive, authoritative piece.
- Be smart with internal linking: Use internal linking strategically to guide users and search engines to the most relevant and authoritative content on your site. This helps establish a hierarchy and reduces confusion.
- Always refresh and update: Outdated or redundant content can contribute to cannibalization. Regularly update and refresh your existing content to maintain its relevance and authority. It’s important to note that you can always combine two, or more, pages and redirect the deleted page(s) to create one stronger page that delivers more value to users and search engines alike.
Review and next steps
For sites with frequent content additions (those with an active blog, for example), some keyword cannibalization is inevitable which is why it’s so important that your firm has a thoughtful content strategy and keeps an eye on competing pages. Over time, you’ll likely find you need to consolidate some pages to avoid the risks (dilution, ranking volatility, etc.) explored above.
Of course, it’s important to remember that domain authority and SEO are highly technical—this article barely skimmed the top of what can be done to combat cannibalization.