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What is keyword cannibalization and how to deal with it




What is keyword cannibalization? Learn about how it occurs and what it means for your website SEO performances. This article will talk about its causes and provide strategies to identify and resolve the issue effectively.

What is keyword cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization refers to a situation where multiple pages within a website target and compete for the same keyword. This can create confusion for search engines and hinder the website’s overall performance.

The competition for high rankings is fierce, and it is not ideal to have your own pages competing against each other. As a result, the website’s organic traffic can suffer, and it may struggle to rank well in search engine results.

keyword cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization meaning and causes

Common causes of keyword cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization SEO can occur due to several factors and instances within a website. Here are a few common scenarios that can contribute to this problem:

  • Putting out similar content pieces
  • Not redirecting the old version of a page to the new one
  • Optimizing multiple pieces for the same keywords
  • Making different paths to the same product category
  • Not having subcategories pages
  • Having different URL variations of the same content

By identifying what is keyword cannibalization causes, website owners can mitigate keyword cannibalization and improve their site’s overall SEO performance.

However, not every case where many pages from the same site competing on the same SERP is bad.

You are free to target the same keyword with multiple pages if the search intent is different. For example, you can target the keyword “European tours” with two pages. One of them can be an informative article about tour examples, and the other can be a listing for booking.

The second instance is branded keywords. It is actually very common to see multiple high ranking pages from the same business for the branded keyword. Same with the first instance, you will not have keyword cannibalization problems if the search intent is different. The homepage, customer service page, and contact page can all rank without any problems.

How is keyword cannibalization bad?

Keyword cannibalization has negative implications for a website’s SEO and overall performance. Here is why keyword cannibalization is considered detrimental:

keyword cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization can decrease website traffic as a whole

  • Reduced organic traffic: When multiple pages compete for the same keyword, search engines might struggle to determine which page is the most relevant and authoritative.
  • Diluted page authority: Each page’s individual authority for the targeted keyword is weakened, making it challenging to rank competitively.
  • Inefficient keyword targeting: Overlapping or duplicate website content reduces the effectiveness of the SEO campaign.
  • Poor user experience: If users land on different pages targeting the same keyword, they may not find the information they are looking for.

Do you have keyword cannibalization issues?

To see the issue, you need to understand what is keyword cannibalization referring to. For example, you have two pages ranking for the same keyword. However, the one ranking higher is not the one you want. You may think that this is the issue, since one page is cannibalizing traffic from the other.

However, the word cannibalization refers to the overall traffic of the whole site. A page can rank for multiple keywords, so the instance above may not affect the site in general at all.

You can use tools to check if your overall site traffic increases when combining the two pages into one. If it does, then you have a cannibalization issue. If it does not, however, you do not need to worry.

How to check keyword cannibalization

Finding keyword cannibalization issues should be easy and there are quite a few ways you can go about it.

Audit your content

If your site is not enormous, you can do a content audit to find duplicate content or similar issues.

Search your site on Google

First, to see if there is any issue, you can run the site: search. Enter site:(your website) “keyword” into Google search bar to find all pages of your site related to the keyword.

keyword cannibalization

Search your own site on Google is a manual way to check for cannibalization

Do not worry if you find more than one result, as you also need to consider the search intent of each page. Even if the search intent is similar, you still need to see if those pages affect the overall website traffic. This is where you should enlist the help of tools.

Keyword cannibalization checker tool

With the help of these tools, you can check the traffic of these sites and see its significance to the website. Furthermore, they can also audit your site or point out cannibalization problems directly.

  • Google Search Console: This tool provides valuable data and insights about a website’s performance in Google search results. It offers information on keywords that drive organic traffic and the specific pages that appear in search results.
  • SEMrush: SEMrush allows you to discover which keywords your website is ranking for and which pages are targeting those keywords. Aside from that, its site audit feature can help identify duplicate content and overlapping keyword optimization. Most importantly, SEMrush provides a cannibalization report function in the Position Tracking tool.
  • Ahrefs: Ahrefs also offers features like site audits and keyword research to help you find keyword cannibalization problems. You can utilize the “Multiple ranking URLs” function in the Site Explorer tool to spot potential keyword cannibalization.

Tips for fixing keyword cannibalization

There are many solutions to fix keyword cannibalization issues, each suitable for different situations.

Consolidate and redirect

This is the best solution for a common scenario, two similar pages ranking for the same keyword.

If both pages address different aspects of a topic, you should write a new post combining their content. Afterward, choose the page with better rankings, backlinks, and other ranking factors to post the new content. Lastly, redirect the other page to the new one.

keyword cannibalization

Consolidate and redirect your pages is an ideal solution

This strategy is highly effective because they preserve the ranking signals of both pages alongside the content. If properly executed, you can expect way more traffic to the new page than before.

If you have two duplicate content, you can skip the rewriting part and move on to implementing 301 redirects. Make sure to update any internal links and your sitemap after redirecting.

Use canonical tags

Using canonical tags is a great alternative for the duplicating content scenario if you want to keep the cannibalizing pages.

You will need to add the following tag to the cannibalizing pages’ HTTP header:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.website.com/preferred-page/” />

Doing so will tell Google your preferred page and you want it to appear in search results. This method can also combine the ranking signals of the pages instead of diluting them.

Delete or noindex a page

These two should be the absolute last resort for keyword cannibalization. Deleting or implementing no index tags will remove the page from search results altogether.

While this will resolve the issue, it is not ideal for two reasons. One, you will forgo all ranking factors of that page. And secondly, you will pass on the amount of traffic that page gets from other keywords.

Overall, you need to assess the situation to choose suitable methods and only rectify the problems when they affect your site.

How to avoid keyword cannibalization

The methods presented in this section can also fix keyword cannibalization, but they work better as prevention.

  • On-page optimization: Review and optimize the on-page elements of each page to ensure they target unique keywords and have distinct content. Adjust meta tags, headings, and content to emphasize different keyword variations.
  • Internal linking: Implement strategic internal linking to guide search engines and users to the most relevant and authoritative page for a keyword. Use anchor text variations that align with the target keywords of each page.
  • Keyword mapping: Develop a comprehensive keyword mapping strategy to allocate specific keywords to different pages. Ensure that each page targets a unique set of keywords, avoiding overlap and cannibalization.
  • Content updates: Regularly update and refresh existing content to ensure its relevance and uniqueness. Enhance the value of each page by incorporating new information, insights, or media elements.

Related insights: What are the most important website meta tags to optimize?

Final thoughts

Understanding what is keyword cannibalization and its impact on a website’s SEO is crucial for improving organic traffic and rankings. Keyword cannibalization occurs when multiple pages within a site compete for the same keywords, leading to diluted page authority.

With effective strategies, you can effectively identify and resolve keyword cannibalization issues to enhance keyword targeting, improve user experience, and achieve better visibility in search engine results.

Interested in learning more about what is keyword cannibalization and other SEO insights? Keep your eyes peeled for more guides on our website. If you are starting an SEO campaign, SEO services from On Digitals can help your website achieve higher rankings and get more traffic. Contact On Digitals to learn more about our services and how we can help your business and brand grow digitally.

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