What Is Keyword Cannibalization In SEO

content cannibalization

Do several pages/posts on your website unintentionally target the same keyword or topic? This may be doing more harm than good to your SEO.

What Is Keyword Cannibalization?

When multiple pages on your website rank for the same keyword/search query in Google, they eat away at each other’s chances to rank.

As a result, when your site gains traction in SERPs, your content ends up competing with itself for the same topic/keyword. This is called keyword cannibalization.

How Does Keyword Cannibalization Happen?

  • Your website’s entire information architecture relies on a particular topic or keyword
  • You use keyword stuffing strategies for a specific term across multiple pages

Why Is Keyword Cannibalism Bad For SEO?

There’s a common misconception that the more posts you have targeting a particular key phrase, the better your chances to rank for that keyword. After all, you’ll be improving the odds of Google picking up on your keywords and elevating your rank in SERPs, right?

Actually, that isn’t true.

In fact, targeting the same keyword has the exact opposite effect. Here’s why:

You Damage The Authority Of Your Pages

Let’s say you have two posts that target the keyword “baseball caps.” In this case, if both your pages rank in nearby searches, such as rank #7 and rank #8, the click-through rate (CTR), backlinks, and conversions are split between two pages.

As a result, both pages lose authority, in addition to lower conversion rates and low CTR compared to what you would achieve from targeting one consolidated page.

Google May End Up Devaluing The More Relevant Page

When you’ve got several pages targeting the same terms, Google may rank the less relevant page on top while devaluing other up-to-date pages that offer better advice.

In other words, your pages compete with each other, fighting for page views. Instead of ranking one highly-relevant page, you have two (or more) moderately relevant pages.

So, in effect, you’re “cannibalizing” your own search traffic. What’s more, keyword cannibalization signals Google that your content may be stretched thin and may actually not be relevant to the target key phrase at all.

How To Recognize Keyword Cannibalization Issues

You can check whether your website suffers from keyword cannibalization by conducting a simple search for the keyword that you suspect has multiple results.

Google site:domain.com “keyword” to check your findings. You can also type the same keyword in a local search result checker or private browser to see the ranking for your articles. If you see them in nearby positions in SERPs, it’s time to sort things out!

Furthermore, you can make a spreadsheet of your most important URLs and associated keywords to ensure there aren’t any duplicate entries.

SEO rank tracking tool like Rank Genie makes this whole process a breeze as it allows you to track keywords across different devices and regions, get search volume data and cost per click (CPC) for each keyword, and lets you download ranking data in spreadsheets.

A keyword tracker can help you create a baseline for your keyword ranks and actively monitor the changes.

How To Solve Content Cannibalization

It’s important to mention here that there isn’t always a need to “fix” keyword cannibalization; depending on the root of the problem, you need to look at it on a case by case basis.

  1. Audit your website content
  2. Analyze content performance
  3. Decide which ones to merge, redirect, delete

Create New Landing Pages

If you don’t want to delete a page because it’s still valuable and brings a lot of organic traffic, you should turn your most authoritative page into a landing page that consolidates and links to the unique variations of your targeted keywords.

Merge The Content

If you have two very similar pages that attract the same audience and already rank for the same keyword, the best option is to merge the two resources into a “master” resource. After all, Google loves well-written, lengthy content.

Moreover, taking two underperforming pages and turning them into an authoritative source also helps solve thin content issues.

Make sure you redirect the article you plan to delete to the URL of the new consolidated article. Using 302 redirects preserves “link juice” and ensures there are no broken links leading to bad user experience.

Improve Internal Linking

A decent and well-thought-out internal linking structure signals to Google which page/post is most important and relevant. Use keyword-rich anchors to link from less relevant posts to most relevant and updated posts to help Google figure which one you wish to prioritize in search results.

Learn more about linking to your ‘cornerstone’ article in our ultimate guide on how to create content for your website.

Noindex pages

The noindex meta tag works best for pages that are useful to your visitors, but you want to prevent them from appearing in Google search results. For instance, most website owners add noindex to blog category pages.

Implementing noindex offers the following benefits:

  • Avoid cannibalization issues
  • Avoid visitors from landing on a particular page. If someone searches for the term ‘link building’ and the SERP result is of a blog category page, your visitors would hit the back button immediately and never come back.

Canonicalize

If there are two similar content versions that you need to keep but you want the search engines to rank one version over the other, utilize the canonical tag (rel=“canonical”) to tell Google which is your preferred version. By using canonical URLs, you can have different versions of the same content on your website, without harming your rankings.

Final Thoughts

Keyword cannibalization is more prevalent today.

While some SEO experts keep a close eye on keyword cannibalization issues, others don’t consider it an issue at all, arguing that Google already does a good job of understanding searcher intent.

Fortunately, even if your site is cannibalizing its own keywords, the solutions are easy, and the SEO damage isn’t permanent.

As your website grows over time, your chances of keyword cannibalism increase if you unintentionally write about the same subjects and focus on the same keywords. Therefore, SEO experts recommend tracking keyword ranks to ensure you’re on the right track.

Rank Genie’s rank tracker tool not only helps you effectively optimize your content, but it also allows you to turn rank tracking into actionable insights for a well-rounded SEO strategy. Check out our blog on how a keyword rank tracker can help improve your rankings.

Rank Genie also offers backlink tracking and website SEO audit features that give your SEO a well-deserved boost! Start your 7-day free trial today!

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