Avoiding Cannibalizing Your Keywords

One of the most common errors made by niche site builders of all levels is building their site around exact match keywords.   This is where each article on site is targeted at a specific keyword related to the niche – usually based on the results of either Google’s Search Suggestions, or a keyword software tool like Market Samurai.

Two years ago this was a sound strategy to go after long trail traffic – but now is actually working against the site with something called Keyword Cannibalization.    This isn’t a new term by any means – in fact as far back as 2007 SEO types were talking about it – but after the recent hummingbird update, there has been renewed interest and focus on the topic as on site SEO is no longer as important as it once was and Google is now focused on user intent rather than keywords and other transparent metrics.

Keyword Cannibalization is when a site’s posts don’t have enough variance in content on each post to justify Google ranking a page for the given keyword term.   For example, a niche site focusing on Snowboards and had 4 posts all related to the buying snowboards would only have one of those pages indexed for inclusion when the keyword is searched for and unless is substantially different will be the same page across all the queries.

For example, here would be four search phrases all considered the same in the eyes of Google.

  1. Best prices on snowboards
  2. Buy Snowboards
  3. Where to Buy Snowboards
  4. Snowboards for Sale

The problem is that even if you wrote great content for each of these keyword phrases, only one of the pages would rank on Google as they will only show 1 result from your site for any given query ( hopefully your primary page )  So the natural first assumption is that you shouldn’t waste your time writing articles that are similar in keyword content based on the belief that the posts won’t draw any traffic.

The reality though is that with the Hummingbird Update – on a niche site which focuses on a keyword – the entire site is being judged on the content and not just the primary ranking page. As you already know, the most important page on your site is the primary article – and all the secondary articles lend editorial authority to the primary article. As the sites grows, and gets out of the new site purgatory that Google puts all new sites in ( called a sandbox ), more pages will start to rank for their individualism.

In contrast, only building a site on exact match keywords chops the site up and makes the content repetitive and the overall rank of the site will be hurt by a increased bounce factor – which is a key metric on how Google determines the value of your site to the searcher – simply because the reader doesn’t bother staying on the site to read more about what you have to say as all the articles are really about the same idea.

The Solution

In the early stages of creating your niche website ( 15 posts and below ) focus on writing a great primary article and then view all of your other posts as value added to the primary content.   Then be sure to point each article back to the primary post – so that as Google spyders your site – it keeps focusing on the main page you are wanting to draw traffic to ( this is called Silo-ing ).

It is then the job of the primary page / post to create revenue through either the product table on that page – or distribute the viewers once they arrive to revenue pages.   Once you complete your 15 article base – then focus on new posts that have distinctive long tail value such as exact matches with product reviews – or a unique twist on the subject.

Does This Mean You Shouldn’t Target Google Suggested Searches in Post Creation ?

The answer to this isn’t black and white.  In the early stages of your site – focus on being a comprehensive guide to your niche and not as much on suggested searches or exact match searches.   As your site ages and grows, then start targeting keywords that are unique from the primary article of your site so that they are not excluded from your indexed pages.

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