Why Your Keywords Are Cannibalizing Your Content Strategy
People who approach digital marketing from an SEO perspective sometimes get caught up in the mindset of “optimizing” a page. This optimization mindset may cause them to overlook things such as good user experience and high-value content. On the other hand, content marketers with limited SEO background may churn out a ton of great content that is ultimately canceling out the search value of previous assets. It’s time to recognize synergies between content marketing and SEO. A great place to start is the topic of keyword cannibalization.
What is keyword cannibalization?
In a nutshell, keyword cannibalization happens when your website has multiple pages targeting the same keyword or theme. Sometimes these are accidental instances of duplicate content. Other times, content marketers have created similar pages assuming they will capture even more traffic by having more than one page dedicated to the same keyword focus. However, that won’t necessarily be useful to your site. Here’s why: unless your site is recognized as highly authoritative, the likelihood of having more than one or two pages ranked for page one for the same keyword concept is very low. So when you have multiple pages that overlap in purpose/theme, you are forcing Google and other search engines to make a choice as to which page is most relevant to a searcher’s query. While search engines have gotten pretty smart, what if the page they deliver isn’t your “money” page? Think of all that time wasted in creating content that ultimately doesn’t best serve your business goals and purposes.
As a content marketer, how can I avoid keyword cannibalization? It seems impossible!
On the surface, it does seem impossible to avoid keyword cannibalization if you think the whole point of content marketing is to routinely churn out content. After all, your site is limited to a specific set of products/industries/subjects. How can you NOT write about the same thing again at some point? What’s really at issue is the fact that maybe you haven’t really planned out where you are going with your content strategy. It’s a little like this exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat:
‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where —’ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
‘— so long as I get somewhere,’ Alice added as an explanation.
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat . . . .
Alice really has no clue how to accomplish her mission of finding the White Rabbit. She doesn’t ask the right questions to get her to her goal. In her mind, simply taking some action is better than doing nothing. Her next mistake is that she asks a cat for help, for goodness sake. Both actions result in a lot of walking around without really getting anywhere important.
Don’t be like Alice. Content marketers must define the goal of a specific piece of content before sitting down to create it. Is this piece of content meant to generate more awareness and traffic, or is the intent to create more sales? Time to get strategic! That leads us back to the concept of keyword cannibalization. It’s time for a content audit.
Keyword Cannibalization in Action & How to Combat It
Let’s make up a fictional company to walk through how keyword cannibalization could occur. Our company sells three different 3-D printer models:
- A low-end model for home users (page A)
- A mid-level model appropriate for small businesses (page B)
- A high-end model for engineering professionals and large businesses (page C)
An inexperienced content marketer might say, let’s target keyword “3-D printer” on all three pages. That makes our site all the more relevant, right? Wrong. Now we’ve given all the power to the search engine to determine which of these three pages is the MOST relevant to match a searcher’s intent.
Which page will Google choose: our cheapest model or our most expensive? What economic impact is this having on our business? If small businesses are landing on Page A and not checking out Page B, we are losing money even when they buy. If they land on Page C, we are losing money because they immediately bounce due to sticker shock.
Obviously, the best course of action is to differentiate the focus keyword for each page:
It’s very likely that a small business owner would use a phrase such as “3-D printers for small business” while a hobbyist might search with a phrase such as “best 3-D Printer for home use.” A more technical buyer will likely use different language – “3-D printers for engineering.” It’s all about writing for people – not search engines. Consider your searcher’s intent.
Now, you might be thinking, “that’s great, but what about blog posts and other content marketing pages?” Those types of pages are where you educate, enlighten, and entertain prospects and customers. They need to support the “money” pages. Here is how your content marketing efforts come into play with your main site to prevent keyword cannibalization:
Your blogs, videos, infographics, and other content marketing pages need to focus on different but related keyword concepts to those used on your product or service pages (“money pages”). In the image above, we have blog posts, videos, and infographic pages that attract visitors who are looking for information around different aspects of 3-D printing. These assets speak to different audiences and their varied interests. They are written based on a searcher’s “informational intent,” but they support our money pages’ commercial intents through internal linking. For example, our blog post on “3 Fun 3-D Printing Projects for Kids This Summer” should have a sentence that uses “3-D printers for home use” as anchor text to link to our 3-D Printers for Home Use product page. When you take the time to think of queries people use to find educational or informative pages, you should have a lot of variations for use in content marketing.
A simple spreadsheet can be a handy tool to help you keep track of commercial intent keywords and informational intent queries. Create a spreadsheet that has two tabs (or more if you want to break these out by product line): one for transactional/commercial intent and one for informational intent.
On your commercial intent tab, list the keyword and the corresponding focus page. This helps your content team know the right pages and appropriate anchor text for internal links in their content marketing efforts.
Your informational intent tab is a place to brainstorm all of the various ways a person might search for information or education on a topic related to your business or product line. These are the ones perfect for content marketing pages.
This simple spreadsheet can help you and your team ensure you have created content that supports your online lead generation or sales efforts by avoiding cannibalization of your money pages.
What Happens When I Run Out of New Topics for Content Marketing?
If you have been doing content marketing for a while now, you are bound to run into an issue where you eventually write on the same topic again on your blog. What do you do about that? Rand Fishkin, co-founder of Moz.com, has advice to help you deal with that:
Keyword cannibalization is a meaty topic. It can get a little confusing. When you think about it in terms of your users, it can get a little easier to understand:
- Organize the information on your site so that it makes sense to the person who lands there.
- Have a single authoritative page for each commercial intention to help facilitate lead generation or purchase. If potential buyers have to figure out where they should go to buy or request a sales call, you will lose out on opportunities.
- Create different roads that lead to those money pages through content marketing assets that focus on informational intent. Take different aspects of your product and write educational or entertaining content that draws in users and eventually leads them to the appropriate “money page.”