Keyword cannibalization may sound harmless, but it’s a real challenge for e-commerce stores. It happens when pages on your store compete for the same keywords, confusing search engines and diluting your SEO efforts. Addressing this issue not only makes your e-commerce store more visible to search engines but also improves the user experience, which can increase your sales and online visibility.

Understanding eCommerce Keyword Cannibalization

The what, the why, and the impact of keyword cannibalization in your e-commerce store.

What is keyword cannibalization? 

It’s when different pages of your eCommerce store rank for the same search terms, creating confusion for the search engines and splitting the attention of the users.

For example, imagine an online store that sells athletic shoes. Two pages – one for “women’s running shoes” and another for “best women’s running shoes” – may unintentionally target the same search terms, leading to keyword cannibalization.

Causes of keyword cannibalization: 

  • Website structure: This happens when your ecommerce store has multiple pages that lead to similar products, confusing search engines about which page is most relevant.
  • Keyword strategy: When you optimize multiple pages for the same keywords without clear differences in content, it’s hard for search engines to pick the right page for users’ needs.
  • Linking strategyUsing the same text to link to different pages can confuse search engine crawlers, the bots that index web pages.
  • Unintentional content duplicationSometimes you create new pages that are too similar to old pages without realizing it, or you fail to redirect old pages to new ones, causing cannibalization.

Effects of keyword cannibalization:

  • Search rankingsConfuses search engines, making it difficult to decide which page ranks for certain keywords, resulting in lower search rankings.
  • User experienceThis confusion can have a negative impact on user interaction.
  • Business metricsResults in lower click-through rates, a decrease in organic traffic, a decrease in conversion rates, a decrease in page authority, and a decrease in link strength.

How to Find, Fix & Prevent Keyword Cannibalization

By following these strategies, you can correct existing keyword cannibalization problems and prevent them from occurring.

Find:

  • Run Site Search AnalysisTo find pages on your store that rank for the same terms, use Google’s “site:” operator followed by your domain and keyword (e.g. site:yourstore.com “running shoes”). This is a great way to see which pages may be in competition with one another.
  • Try SEO Tools and SpreadsheetsUse SEO tools to make tracking content efficient. Keep a spreadsheet of URLs, target keywords, and metadata for each page to help identify keyword overlap and duplicate content.
  • Use Google Search ConsoleThis free tool is a great way to monitor the search performance of your ecommerce store. Analyze search queries and keywords that drive traffic to your store in the Performance section. To identify potential cannibalization, use filters to examine specific keywords or groups of related keywords.

Fix:

  • Consolidate your contentMerge similar content into one piece. Use the better performing URL as the main page. Redirect old pages to this new one and update internal links accordingly.
  • Keyword and Intent RefinementDifferentiate the content and keywords of pages that are in competition with each other. Clearly define the specific user intent that each page is targeting.
  • Optimize the site structureMake the site structure more intuitive to help search engines distinguish between similar pages. Link sub-pages to their appropriate category pages.
  • Use canonical and noindex tagsImplement canonical tags for duplicate content where one page is preferred for search results. For example, you can add a canonical tag to direct crawlers to the proper page if you create a landing page that links to a holiday campaign. Use noindex tags to remove less important pages from search engine indexes.

Prevent:

  • Conduct ongoing keyword researchRegularly research keywords to match your evolving product lines and market trends.
  • Plan your content strategicallyDevelop a content strategy that anticipates and avoids potential duplication of content.
  • Create effective internal linkingBuild a deliberate internal linking structure that reinforces the unique purpose of each page.
  • Perform periodic auditsIdentify cannibalization issues early by regularly reviewing your store’s content and keyword performance.

Our clients’ FAQs on Keyword Cannibalization

To help you understand how to manage keyword cannibalization for your ecommerce store, here are the answers to the most important questions from our clients:

Q: Is keyword cannibalization always a bad thing for SEO?

A: Not necessarily. For example, having multiple pages rank for the same keyword can be beneficial for brand-specific keywords. It allows a brand to occupy more search engine real estate, which helps it get noticed. For example, a technology company might have several pages ranking for “brand name smartphone”-one for product features, another for customer reviews, and a third for where to buy. Covering different aspects of the user journey under the same search term can be beneficial in this scenario. However, keyword cannibalization typically splits SEO efforts and weakens individual page performance for non-branded, generic keywords.

 

Q: How do I manage keyword cannibalization in an ecommerce blog with weekly posts?

A: Regular posting of blog content requires a strategic approach to keywords. First, you should align the topics of your blog with your product pages, but avoid direct keyword overlap. Use long-tail, informational blog keywords that support but don’t compete with product keywords. Also, conduct frequent keyword audits to monitor for potential cannibalization, especially when introducing new products or topics. In this way, your blog will become an asset to your product pages, rather than a competitor to them.

 

Q: Can keyword cannibalization affect paid advertising campaigns?

A: Yes, it can. If you have multiple pages targeting the same keywords, it can cause them to compete with your ads and drive up your cost per click. For example, you could end up bidding against yourself in paid search campaigns if both a product page and a blog post are optimized for “affordable yoga mats.

 

Q: How does keyword cannibalization affect your content marketing strategy?

A: It can lead to confusion about which content to promote for specific keywords and dilute your marketing efforts. Making a clear distinction between the different types of content and the keywords they are targeting is critical to effective content marketing.

 

Q: What’s the role of backlinks in keyword cannibalization?

A: Backlinks to multiple pages that target the same keyword can dilute the link equity and reduce the effectiveness of your search engine optimization efforts. It’s better to have strong backlinks pointing to a single authoritative page than to have them spread across a number of competing pages.

 

Getting started with ecommerce SEO can be complex, but mastering keyword cannibalization is a critical step to succeeding. As you navigate this path, remember that clarity, strategy, and adaptability are your best allies. Need some help? Contact us. Let’s turn your e-commerce SEO (and more) into a driving force for your business growth. Get in touch with us today and let’s elevate your e-commerce store together!