Fat Stacks quote from Breaking Bad by Jesse Pinkman

How to avoid cluster cannibalization (sad story)


Charles Darwin (1809-1882), at age 31 in 1840 (L), age 72 in 1881 (M), age 45 in 1854 (R).
Charles Darwin (1809-1882), at age 31 in 1840 (L), age 72 in 1881 (M), age 45 in 1854 (R).

I’ve done the dumbest stuff imaginable in an effort to scoop up Google traffic.

Let me tell you about one example that if there were a Google penalty Darwin awards, I might just win.

The year was 2011.

I owned a couple niche sites making decent money. I even won a free treadmill for selling the most treadmills as an affiliate.

I’ve used it twice.

I spent more time spinning content for link building software than publishing good content.

Flush with success with spinners ad software, I decided to tackle something bigger. I was invincible; a visionary SEO.

The reverse phone lookup niche.

CPA affiliate offers were plentiful. All people had to do was fill in a form to look up cell phone numbers and I earned money. In theory that is.

I had a plan.

My eyes were bigger than my stomach.

My plan was to target every town and city in the US With 50,000 or more people. That amounted to hundreds of pages which you guessed it, would have the same content.

Surprise surprise the entire site was deindexed before it made a nickel.

That’s my sad story for the day.

That is also how NOT to publish article clusters.

Yesterday I revealed my simple 5-step cluster process.

3 minutes after hitting publish, a reader asked me a great question.

Here it is:

Keyword cannabalism. You say to carpet bomb a popular topic. So if I have a post on, say, X, would it hurt to use the same keyword X in multiple posts? Do I need to use long tail keywords?I am confused because I have heard from others NOT to reuse the same keyword or your overall ranking for that post will drop.

​Keyword cannibalization is bad.

Duplicate content (similar articles on the same site) is bad.

Publishing the most thorough, in-depth series of articles on a topic is good.

Short answer: It is perfectly okay to include the same seed keyword in multiple articles. The long tail aspect of it will determine whether the articles are the same or different.

How do you determine if two long tail keywords are the same or different?

The answer is you must assess user intent. Fancy words for a simple concept.

When I’m considering two long tail keywords and whether they are essentially the same or different I ask myself “when people search both phrases, are they essentially seeking the same information or is it totally different?”

Here’s an example.

Seed keyword: Ice cream

That’s a big keyword weighing in at 328,000 monthly searches. There are many long tails that could and should form many different articles.

But let’s start with an example of two ice cream long tail keywords that are essentially the same based on intent:

  • Ice cream recipe
  • How to make ice cream

​While those two phrases are different, the meaning is the same. One person searching for “ice cream recipe” is looking for the same thing as another person searching with “how to make ice cream”.

Now, here are examples of long tail keywords, all with ice cream in it, that could be individual articles with no threat of cannibalization because they are very different topics.

  • Ice cream recipe
  • The history of ice cream
  • Ice cream brands
  • Gelato vs. Ice Cream
  • Ice cream vs. Sorbet
  • The best vegan ice cream
  • Ice cream truck song lyrics
  • How long does ice cream last?
  • Can dogs eat vanilla ice cream?
  • Can you have ice cream on keto?
  • The best ice cream maker

​You get the point.

Each of those topics are totally different but revolves around ice cream.

And that’s how it’s done.

I take all this to the next level with content ordering briefs for many types of articles. The list of different types of articles alone inspire different articles for the same seed keyword. It’s my go-to list when planning out a cluster.

Check out my content course here.


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