Content Cannibalisation Google Penalty

content cannibalization google penalty

We all know that freshness of content is important for a site, but you need to make sure you are not trying to rank a page for what another page is already ranking for.

Every SEO agency knows about Penguin and Panda penalties on websites or the latest algo updates like Fred or whatever folk would like to call them. But only the advanced SEO companies know about the hidden secret of the content cannibalisation Google penalty.

This is a little misleading because it is not actually a penalty but an internal conflict of your website. This then causes certain keyphrases to jump up and down in the SERPs regularly.

Are you jumping around from page one to page six and wondering what the hell is going on? If that is the case then it could be the content cannibalisation internal conflict you have going on.

SEO Content

This is a big statement and it comes with massive consequences because Google hits the majority of websites with this without many knowing. So what is this Google penalty and how does it affect websites? You can describe SEO content cannibalisation as ‘A single website targeting the same keyword on multiple pages.’ 

When this happens, Google’s spiders don’t know which of the pages is the most relevant to that keyword. Rather than ranking the best page in one of the top positions, the lower quality pages pull its rankings down. Therefore you end up with all of the pages ranking on page 2 or 3 or even lower.

Please be aware that the Google Dance may have some effect on your position, so please do not be disheartened if you do not position 1 straight away.

Internal Conflict

Moving forward, when creating any new pages on your website you really need to follow the process on this image below. Checking if there are any internal conflicting existing articles is key. This is because it could end up having a negative effect on your website.

You may have an article which is almost a duplicate of another, talking about the same topic. While these may not be duplicate content and could be written uniquely, they will affect each other’s rankings.

Theming pages and making it very clear to Google which URL you want to rank for a dedicated keyphrase is ultra important. At the bottom of this article, I am starting to carry out case studies to find ways of helping keep sites away from this problem.

Avoid Internal Conflict Content Cannibalization

Avoiding Internal Conflicting Pages with Content Cannibalisation

Ranking a Specific Search Term

For example, if you had a website about musical instruments and you tried to optimise 5 of the pages to rank for the keyword ‘musical instruments’, the spiders would be confused as to which one was best. You could also confuse users looking for a particular search term.

This would then mean that it pulls all 5 of the pages down into lower SERP positions. Therefore your best quality page wouldn’t rank in a top position. Be sure to remember that Google ranks pages, not websites. So trying to rank your whole website for one keyword by including it on lots of pages won’t work. By doing this, your pages can miss out on a lot of SEO benefits, such as:

  1. Quality Content – If you have multiple pages talking about exactly the same topic, the quality of your content is likely to deteriorate as you run out of things to say. Instead stick with a single, well-written page that targets the chosen keyword, eg ‘musical instruments’. You can ensure a good quality page or blog post that is more likely to engage readers and rank better.
  2. Internal Links – By interlinking throughout 5 very similar pages rather than concentrating internal links on one good quality page, you lose value from the anchor text links as it’s dispersed through lots of pages. It is important your silo structure for internal links is good. Please concentrate on this when internal linking.
  3. External Links –  You may have external links from other sites pointing to each of the 5 different ‘musical instruments’ pages. The value of these links will again be split up between each of the pages. It’s much better to have all of these relevant links pointing to a single page. This way it receives all of the benefits and can get a boost in the rankings.
  4. Page Conversion – If there’s one page with better conversion, it’s pointless trying to rank other pages for the same keyword. This is especially true when the other pages don’t convert as well. It’s better to target all of your traffic to the same page to maximise conversion.

Establishing Topic Relevance

So what can you do to remove the Content Cannibalisation Google Penalty and how can you resolve this? Well, instead of having multiple pages on your site all targeting the same keyword, you can have one main page. This targets the keyword and a few other pages with variations which are valuable themselves.

These pages then act as supporting articles for the main page. They are clearly establishing the topic and letting Google know what the main page is all about. This also works if you are adding a new topic to your website and Google hasn’t related your site to that particular subject.

Using Supporting Articles

If you add the page and then create at least 3 supporting articles, you can let Google know that your site is relevant to that subject. Sticking to the musical instruments example, you could have a few pages which target key phrases like this:

  • Page-1 – Musical Instruments
  • Page-2 – Professional Musical Instruments
  • Page-3 – Children’s Musical Instruments
  • Page-4 – Musical Instrument Discounts
  • Page-5 – Second Hand Musical Instruments

As you can see, each of these pages relates to musical instruments but talks about its own unique topic. To ensure that the Google search engine knows to rank Page 1 – Musical Instruments for the keyword, you can insert internal anchor text links from Pages 2, 3, 4 and 5 to Page 1.

By optimising the rest of the pages correctly, you can help them rank for their own key phrases rather than trying to target the same phrase with 5 different pages and causing keyword cannibalisation. It’s also important to check that there is no duplicate content between the pages.

Video Example

Here shows a great video explaining the Content Cannibalization Google Penalty :

This video was recorded at Brighton SEO in the UK which is a superb conference for the best SEO gurus to meet up and share ideas on PBNs, on-page conversion, SEO tools like Rankwyz and specialist SEO training courses available throughout the world.

This is certainly something everybody needs to be made aware of because it is starting to grow year on year. More people are attempting to carry out SEO themselves for their company but do not have sufficient knowledge to implement best practices.

An alternative is SEO Outsourcing with PromoSEO because these can make sure all your affiliate websites or money sites are clean and ranking better on Google search engine results.

Content Cannibalisation Case Studies

This post above was originally published in 2015 and now it is becoming the hot topic in the SEO industry. I hear in private WhatsApp groups and closed Facebook groups many internet marketers struggling with this issue. I am going to start creating some case studies of getting some affiliate websites out of this mess.

If you currently think you have a problem with this internal conflicting pages then comment on this blog post and I will help you for free as part of these case studies.

Internal Linking

Another option you have is to internal link to the page that you are targeting and intend to rank. By using exact match anchor text, you will essentially be showing Google which page you intend to rank for the specific keyword. This way Google will know which page to rank.

Remember to internal link from pages and blog posts that make sense and are relevant to the one you’re linking to. You want to keep your internal linking within the same topic to make sure you are telling Google which pages should be ranking. It’s always worth getting some relevant backlinks from external sites too.

How to Identify Content Cannibalisation

If you are interested in finding out how to identify Keyword Cannibalization, then please make sure you read the following steps and tips:

  1. Visit Ahrefs and type in your URL
  2. Click on Organic Keywords under the organic search section on the left-hand side
  3. Export keywords using full export
  4. Load into https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/15-7JcMtLrAUwfu12aByzt0r0c7Nd6U0f9M6gRJn8NQs/ (Append to the current sheet)
  5. Click on the ‘Results’ tab at the bottom
  6. You can then see clearly which pages are affected by keyword cannibalization
  7. Those that have duplicated keywords are the pages that are ranking for the same keyword or terms – you will have to decide which page you want to rank this keyword for and then de-optimise that keyword on the other page or delete and 301 to the main targeted webpage

Once you have identified keyword cannibalisation throughout your site content, it is important to fix these problems as soon as possible in order to help your intended pages rank better. This video by AhRefs shows how to identify the problems as outlined above.

Overall it is pretty simple to identify content cannibalisation when using the correct tools. We would highly recommend using tools like Ahrefs to find pages which are ranking for the same thing. It is very important to sort out content cannibalisation issues.

You need to ensure Google knows which page you are targeting for that particular keyword. The above process is quite easy to follow and should be carried out for all your websites.

How to Rectify Content Cannibalisation

There are a few things you can do to help fix these internal conflict issues on your site:

  • Deoptimise the keyword on the conflicting page – Remove a few mentions of your keyword from pages you don’t want to rank for it. Google then sees them as being less relevant to that topic.
  • Enter ‘site:www.yourwebsite.co.uk keyword’ into the Google search engine and see all the pages which mention that keyword or phrase.
  • When you’ve found all the pages that mention the keyword, simply do an exact match anchor text link from those pages to the page you do want to rank.
  • Build some exact match backlinks from external sources to the page you want to rank.

Completing these steps should help to remove the conflict with your content, and therefore push your primary page’s rankings higher for your desired search terms.

Tip: If the page topic is very close to another page and the intent in the search is the same then you really need to delete one and then 301 that URL to the main page you want to rank (just de-optimising is not enough if the intent is the same between webpages).

All SEO Related Posts

Check out the in-depth list of SEO posts.

The full list shows the various SEO strategies to help your online marketing knowledge grow fast in June 2020.

James Dooley

About James Dooley

Digital Nomad who loves travelling the world networking while working on my laptop. Life is a perception of your own reality. You have no excuses and should be making memories every single day #LearnSomethingNew #Develop #Synergy #Network

9 Comments

  • Internal links you can get away with much more exact match. But mix it up with LSIs, long tail keyphrases etc pal.

  • Towfiquir Rahman says:

    Great info. Thanks for sharing. A question, Suppose, Main Target Keyword is: “best vacuum cleaner” in a page, another target keyword is: “best vacuum cleaner for carpet” is published on a separate page. But Ahrefs showing both pages are ranked for the same keyword “best vacuum cleaner”. In this case, I’ve to choose the best page for the ranked keyword. Then I’ve to deoptimize another page “best vacuum cleaner for carpet” for “best vacuum cleaner”?

    • You can actually rank two pages if they are powerful enough. Basically your weakest page pulls down the rank of the better ranking page. But on this occassion if you wanted to keep both pages then i would exact match an anchor with “best vacuum cleaner” on the “best vacuum cleaner for carpet”. So you are making google aware which page you want to rank for that particular page. Or alternatively you could remove the other page and place the content on the main page as a h2 then 301 it to the main page to pass the power through to it.

      I have many pages ranking two pages for the same phrase ranking #1 and #2 so thats awesome. But when i look at tweaking is if i have two pages #11 and #15 that if i merged them would think one of them got into the top 5 positions then i would prefer to have one x #5 ranking than two pages at #11 and #15.

      Hope that makes sense??

  • Becca says:

    Really good article here, it’s definitely worth checking your sites for this. Are there any tools you can use to do this?

  • The problem is how to find a solution with the Google Dance? What are the action steps you should take to restore your rankings?

  • John Divramis says:

    Content cannibalisation is about landing page cannibalisation. For instance, James when you are ranking a site with the word plumber New York and the landing page is example.com/plumbers-new-york, if you have another page on the site with the keyword plumbers, (example.com/plumbers)m then it is possible the latter landing page to cannibalise the first.

  • glad you like it. You are welcome!

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