Avoiding Keyword Cannibalization for Better Rankings

6 comments

In response to When to Use Subdomains vs. Subfolders, reader Elena asked:

Would ducks.birdies.com compete with swans.birdies.com?What about birdies.com/ducks and birdies.com/swans?

To answer her in part I’m going to dig a bit into keyword cannibalization and then invite others to comment as I’m a bit stronger on the creative content and community interaction side of SEM than the technical :D

What Keyword Cannibalization is:
When your site competes with itself for the same keyword.

My Answer to Elena’s question:
Ultimately Elena, neither would compete with the other so long as the ducks pages of birdies.com don’t contain title tags, content and have links – on and off the site – pointing to them that emphasize swans.

They would certainly compete with themselves differently within the subdomains vs. subfolders context, but that’s way over my head so I’ll stick to avoiding cannibalization ;)

Title tags for birdies.com/ducks should go something like this:
Ducks and Duckies – Your Ultimate Guide to Ducks from Birdies.com

The text should include:
the terms duck, ducks and duckies

Link building for your ducks page:
The text you create internally or request externally that links to this page of your site should ideally include the word ducks, and/or come from sites or pages that also specialize in ducks.

And the term swan should appear as little as possible in the ducks section. Only in rare cases, such as the ugly ducking who became a swan, would you want to discuss both words on the same page for optimal rankings.

No birds were harmed in the writing of this post, but I did draw heavily for insight from Rand Fishkin’s recent How to Solve Keyword Cannibalization.

Fishkin describes succinctly the dangers it sounded like you were asking about here, Elena:

“It typically starts when a website’s information architecture calls for the targeting of a single term or phrase on multiple pages of the site. Many times this is done unintentionally, but results in several or even dozens of pages that have the same keyword target in the title and header tags.”

Avoiding Cannibalization on Your Site:
It comes down to keyword research at the outset of site design and a well built architecture that keeps the “ducks” away from the “swans” and still makes sense to ALL your site visitors.

(note: Luckily I’ve never been personally responsible for this kind of work – I’m usually the one making sure the ducks content really sings and that it’s getting links ;)

Checking your site’s LINKS for Keyword Cannibalization:
It would be a bit of a pain to use if you have a large site, but this site link analyzer will show you page by page what you’re linking to and the anchor text you’re using:

Site Link Analyzer

Does anyone know of more robust tools out there? What other tools would you recommend for analyzing a site for other aspects that create keyword cannibalization?

Oh – and Elena – did this answer your question?

About the Author

Garrett French educates SEO and PR teams on content and engagement-based link building strategies that drive targeted referral traffic and deliver SERP domination. Learn more about him and his services at CitationLabs.com.

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6 Comments

  1. Thanks. I am famous now!

  2. All jokes aside, this is very relevant to our problem. I'll share our plans with you: 1. consolidate ducks and swans: Place 301 redirect on swans.birdies.com pointing to ducks.birdies.com 2. dissolve ducks.birdies.com some time in the near future. Place 301 redirects pointing to birdies.com Neither swans nor ducks section is content heavy. Of course, several business drivers came into play when this strategy was adopted.

  3. Garrett French

    now that you're famous you might want to consider a change of attire: http://preshrunk.info/2005/05/im-internet-famous.php what kind of links exist for both subdomains? why the decision to consolidate? if you don't mind me asking :)

  4. haha, that's an awesome tshirt. The website is almost 10 years old, so there are allllllll kinds of links. Sacrifices will need to be made.. the trick is to minimize them, of course. If you look up our site, you will notice that our ducks and swans aren't all that different. In fact, most people who are interested in our swans could benefit greatly from our ducks (this is getting really confusing now!).. but because of the antiquated system they would require a separate log in. There are a few other usability challenges in the existing system. Of course, there was also some business logic involved. (lameness) By the way, if you think I am whining, you are wrong. This is a fascinating project on helping an ugly duckling become a beautiful swan. (/lameness) I would be happy to tell you more, if you are interested.

  5. I have a question I can’t find an answer for. Ok first of all I have successfully created subdomain and it looks everything is working ok, ex. the name is subdomain.maindomain.com but when I enter maindomain.com/subdomain it also appear in the search result. I’m confused because the second variant should refer to a subdirectories. Any hint? Here is the sub domain I’m talking about http://www.download.allacronis.com

  6. This might help explain the situation as it pertains to Google (the post is old, but it's from the same timeframe that Garrett is writing and it's from Matt Cutts of Google) - http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/subdomains-and-subdirectories/