What is keyword cannibalization?
Keyword cannibalization occurs when various pages on the same site compete for the same keywords.
This means that when Google tracks your website or online store and finds keywords repeated on several pages, it won’t be able to determine which is the most important. It then interprets that you are repeating content, which is never good, and penalizes you in search results as a less relevant site.
Keyword cannibalization can happen with two types of ecommerce content:
- Metadata: when keywords are repeated in the meta descriptions and meta titles of various pages.
- Product pages: when the product content itself repeats similar keywords. This often happens when a shop or brand offers products from the same range, such as several variations of backpacks or beers, described with similar keywords.
Why is keyword cannibalization a problem for my ecommerce site?
SEO work is essential for your online store in order to ensure good positioning on Google and other search engines.
Keyword cannibalization negatively affects ecommerce businesses because it ruins all this effort put into SEO (or reveals that it wasn’t done correctly to start with).
If online search engines like Google detect that your content is repeated on several pages, they will become confused as they attempt to identify your content. As Google doesn’t have the time to stop and evaluate each website, you will be directly penalized with less relevance given to your pages.
This has various negative consequences for any ecommerce business:
- Decline in web authority
- Lower organic traffic
- Less sales conversions
- Priority given to other competitors
- Backlinks with less weight
Not to mention that repeating keywords also affects the user experience. If you repeat much of your site’s content and don’t categorize properly, it will be harder for buyers to find the product they’re looking for and compare variations. As a result, you’ll experience increased abandonments due to confusing sites and search results.
Ecommerce sites are particularly vulnerable to keyword cannibalization as they can contain dozens of pages, many more than the average site: with all your landing pages and pages for products, collections, categories and more.
→ SEO checklist for ecommerce sites: the impact of product data
At times, it is necessary and inevitable that content, and therefore keywords, will be repeated – such as in press releases, news articles or brand-event announcements to be published on various media.
The key is to avoid being penalized in these situations by instructing Google and other search engines, and improving your catalog content.
5 ways to avoid keyword cannibalization on your online store
Comprehensive and complete product content
In order to describe your entire range of 50 different pencils, there will inevitably be repeated keywords within your product texts, such as ‘pencil’, ‘wood’ or ‘line’.
As we’ve already noted, the problem is not repeating keywords – but avoiding doing this en masse and remembering to let Google know why this has occurred.
The first step is improving your ecommerce product content, offering buyers (and Google) unique and comprehensive titles, descriptions and complementary texts that detail the products in a way that differs from both your competitors and from other pages on your site.
→ How structured data can help you increase visibility
Complementing primary and secondary keywords can be useful for improving your results and making it clear that your product information is unique and explanatory. What’s more, it’s often enough to be creative and customize the titles of products to avoid these common repetitions between similar products.
Keeping your content organized and creative is a complicated task, particularly if you have a large catalog. That’s what makes a PIM system (Product Information Management) a great aid for centralizing all product data, allowing you to analyze its quality and distribute it across all your required channels.
Good SEO research
Without a doubt, SEO analysis is vital for determining which are your most repeated keywords, which are trending in your sector, and which you should promote or stop using.
If you already have an ecommerce site or if you’re looking to launch one, an SEO audit will offer you essential information about which keywords are problematic and where you will have take measures to avoid penalization from Google.
Content optimization should be regular and ongoing, as search trends and behaviours can change quickly. This will allow you to keep up to date, both before customers – with fresh content – and before Google and other search engines, by letting them know that your site is well-maintained, carefully developed and relevant.
Understanding faceted navigation
Facets can be incredibly helpful for ecommerce sites, as they make user navigation much easier.
Faceted navigation consists in offering extensive product filters so that users can narrow down their searches. For example, a stationery ecommerce may offer filters by type of notebook, cover, inside print, color or size, etc. The buyer can then choose their desired filters and obtain very specific results, such as an A4, green, hardcover notebook with grid print.
This is great for catalogs with a wide range of products.
However, it’s a nightmare for SEO, as each filter-type results page will require its own URL. As a result, you’ll have various URLS with similar content, for which you’ll need to avoid cannibalization by using the resource explained below.
Applying canonical URLs
This is the first thing you can do to warn Google not to penalize your keyword cannibalization.
When two or more pages compete within your site for the same keyword, you can indicate which page Google should consider as priority. This will resolve any confusion when tracking your site and allow the search engine to understand that you are not intentionally repeating your content or that of other sources.
To apply this, use canonical links, also known as canonical tags, to highlight a page that is very similar to others. For example, if you have five versions and pages of ‘Satin yoga pants’, you can mark the one you want Google to choose with a canonical URL.
It’s also important to use canonical tags on pages of uncatalogued products that, for whatever reason, you don’t want to remove from your catalog or website. This way, users can see the content, but Google will understand that it is not relevant for certain keywords.
Using 301 redirects… in moderation
As in the previous cases with discontinued products, applying redirections on your site is a useful way to redirect users to similar content if the product they’re looking for no longer exists.
However, too many 301 redirects can be harmful for a website – as a result, we recommend using them in moderation.
The best way to avoid ecommerce keyword cannibalization?
Without a doubt: a good SEO team or keyword optimization work to understand how your online shop is positioned and how search engines like Google recognize your site.
Above all, take care of your product content to ensure that it is descriptive and useful, that it stands out, and that it is unique and different from that of your competitors. A good ecommerce creates product texts adapted to answer your buyers’ doubts and questions, which normally align with those of Google. By taking care of one, you’ll offer a good impression to the other, and see how your traffic and conversions increase.
Take advantage of a free PIM system trial to centralize all your product data and offer an excellent shopping experience, based on quality content that will be appreciated by both customers and Google alike.