Optimizing your ROI is a challenging, seemingly endless, process in the highly competitive world of search engine marketing (SEM). In order to stay ahead of the curve, digital marketers must continuously anticipate and execute solid strategies aimed at uncovering new opportunities for growth through testing and experimentation. That of course includes implementing best practices around keywords, as well as staying on top of any unanticipated PPC roadblocks - like keyword cannibalization.
With modern technology solutions now empowering SEM professionals to observe, collect, store, and leverage increasingly large clusters of data, there is a growing -- and pressing -- need to embrace new ways of understanding the power of big data and how to leverage it to extract actionable insights.
This inconsumable amount of information has led many of today’s marketing teams to suffer from what Debra Bass, president of Global Marketing Services at JNJ, has termed as Infobesity. The emergence and rapid rise of accessible data has not been balanced by opportunities to support and properly analyze it, making it near impossible from a time and resource perspective to successfully manage thousands (or millions) of keywords in a given portfolio. A costly, oftentimes unrecognized, consequence of this can be keyword cannibalization across entire PPC programs.
Keyword Cannibalization is called such because, in effect, digital marketers are taking a “bite” out of their own results and margins, splitting CTR percentages, links, content, and those all-important conversions between two (sometimes more) pages that should be consolidated into one, while driving up CPC numbers in the process.
In a scenario in which you have the same keywords targeting the same audiences all competing against each other, Google will automatically show the ad that it deems more relevant based upon the ad rank assigned to that specific keyword (ad rank calculated by multiplying your maximum CPC bid by your Quality Score). When a search query pairs with multiple keyword match types, and there are various ads supporting these keywords, the flow of regular traffic for the original search term will markedly diminish as your control over matched keyword behavior becomes severely hampered.
Over time, you’ll begin noticing how select keywords will direct traffic to page x one week and then page y the following week. These unrelated and unexplained fluctuations will lead to inadvertent spikes throughout your program that can prevent you from reaching your PPC campaign goals. If ignored or incorrectly managed, keyword cannibalization will entail a slew of negative outcomes, from diminishing page authority to rising CPC costs and decreasing conversions.
Just how you deal with this headache depends on where the problem has its roots. Once that is determined, there are four possible ways to resolve this issue.
Create One Authoritative Page
The most straightforward solution is simply to convert your most authoritative webpage into a one-stop landing page that links to a series of variations that all fall within the same field of your target keywords. A highly effective, high converting landing page can become the foundation for creating a successful lead generation strategy.
Employ 301s Liberally
If you’re splitting your CTR between a collection of moderately relevant pages, essentially you’ve turned them into competitors. Not ideal. To counteract the problem, digital marketers can use 301 redirects to link the pages of lesser importance to a single definitive version that is no longer fighting for views and SERP ranks.
Build New Landing Pages
Creating multiple landing pages with only slight keyword variations might, at first, appear to be thinning content. While this may be true, ultimately the more landing pages you have on your site, the more opportunities there are for visitors to turn into leads. A recent study by HubSpot revealed that upon increasing their number of LPs from 1 - 10 to 11 - 15, companies reported a massive 55% lift in leads. Go the extra mile and develop 40+ LPs, and you could be looking at a 300% uptick. Those are compelling numbers.
Get Creative With New Keywords
This is where SEO comes in. Content-rich pages should be utilizing a highly diverse set of keywords that can broaden your reach, with particular attention paid to the long-tail. Naturally, you will draw less traffic with a long-tail keyword, but the audiences you do capture will be extremely valuable: more focused, more committed, more targeted.
With companies today trying to dominate SERP real-estate in their respective fields, keyword cannibalization is more common now than ever before. In an ironic twist, it is the savvy marketers attempting to harness the potential of optimized SEO campaigns who are falling victim to its traps, unable to comprehend Google’s myriad technical languages.
Through a combination of implementing the right technological systems and exercising best practices, keyword cannibalization can be eliminated, though, and you can ensure your ads are reaching your desired audiences. Google is very smart when it comes to identifying, deciphering, and then appropriately ranking content on its pages, so if you’re not on top of your keywords, your business could be suffering - missing out on leads and wasting valuable marketing spend. While it might seem negligible, finding tricks to avoid keyword cannibalization will likely ensure that you see higher ROI, lower CPC costs and more conversions -- and continue to benefit from all of the tangible rewards of your PPC efforts.