Ever wondered why some sites rank well or get tons of traffic while others barely scrape together a handful of views? Well, they might have something to do with keyword cannibalization. This term refers to ranking high for two or more terms at once because those terms are too close to each other.

This article provides you with an in-depth understanding of keyword cannibalization and how to identify it. In the latter part of this article, you will be given tips on fixing keyword cannibalization.

What Is Keyword Cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization is known by that name because you are cannibalizing your results by splitting your CTR, links, content, and often conversions among two pages that you should merge into one. When you do that, you aren’t showing the search engine the breadth or depth of knowledge about your subject matter. You aren’t improving your authority for that topic, either. Instead, Google weighs your pages against each other and chooses which ones it thinks suit keywords best.

When Google sees multiple pages targeting the same search term, it’s forced to decide which page is more relevant. This confuses users and search engines and decreases your site’s chance to be ranked first.

Optimizing for one keyword across a website forces pages to compete against each other. Keyword cannibalization happens when too many pages are optimized for the same keyword.

Keyword cannibalization can ruin your SEO strategy. Some causes include having multiple pages that tackle the same topic, issues with your internal linking, and missing canonicals. Bottom line, as long as two or more pages compete with each other, chances are, you have keyword cannibalization.

What happens afterward? Your page gets a lower ranking, or worse, the pages switch ranking on a day-to-day basis.

How Will You Know You Have Keyword Cannibalization Issues?

There are several clues to know whether you have keyword cannibalization issues. Read on to know more about them.

When You Have Multiple Pages Competing with the Same Keyword and Intent

Multiple pages optimized for the same keywords are not cannibalized unless they are meant to be the same. This is because when you optimize your content for different keywords, you’re not competing against yourself. Instead, you’re doing good things for your site.

If you have a lot of pages with similar content, it’s going to compete with each other. You don’t want to water down your site’s value by having too many pages with the same content.

Keyword cannibalization happens accidentally when new content is added to the site over time without considering what already exists. If this is happening to your website, you need to fix it before it worsens. Both pages lose rankings because they’re too similar.

Your SERP Ranking Keeps Changing

Ranking fluctuations usually happen alongside URL changes. You may have noted that your ranking position for keywords fluctuates, often excessively. This could be because of keyword cannibalization when URLs change and conflicting signals mean that the rankings fluctuate accordingly. For example, if one page earns more links than another, but there is a clear conflict or intent, then this can mean that your traffic can also fluctuate significantly if one of the URLs ranks in a top position for terms with high volume.

Higher Ranking for the Wrong URL

Sometimes, you will find that an old article ranks higher than your new one. This may happen because cannibalization is the reason. As a result, your old article may be deemed more relevant than your new one. This, in turn, can negatively affect conversion rates if visitors land on the wrong page.

Your Pages Can’t Improve Their Ranking

You need to check if you’re using the same keywords across multiple pages. Your main focus should be to create unique content about each page. Using the same words or phrases as others may cause link cannibalization, lowering a website’s SEO rankings. Make sure your pages use different keywords to avoid this.

Your pages aren’t ranking as well as they could be because you’re splitting link authority from them across several other URL types. As a result, you may need to re-structure your pages so each page gets links to them from other types of content.

What Effects Does Keyword Cannibalization Have on Your SEO?

Keyword cannibalization can have devastating consequences for your SEO. It would help if you were careful about what you do with your keywords. Lost site traffic, queries leading visitors to the wrong pages, fluctuating SERP positions, and eventually lost sales could also occur as a result.

Declining Page Authority

Each CTR should be one high authority page. You want each CTR to be unique but also relevant to the topic. Some CTRs may take a bit longer to perform than others. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend time optimizing them! Just make sure they are truly unique. Don’t turn your pages into competitors. You’re better off using content to rank well and keep your visitors engaged.

Google Devaluing the More Relevant Content

Keywords are vital because this help Google understand what your page is about. If all of them are the same on both pages, it may think that both pages are about the same thing. So it would choose the best fit, albeit non-converting. This means that you’re losing valuable traffic to the converting page. The solution is to make sure that each page has different keywords.

Crawl Budget Waste

You should set your crawl budget as low as possible. For example, you should never have more than two pages per site dedicated to the same keywords so Googlebot won’t have to crawl identical content. Doing so could mean losing precious crawl budget, which will help you avoid duplicate content issues.

Decreased Conversion Rate

It would help if you always directed new visitors to the most authoritative page available. -This means that if there are two pages with equal authority, you should point people to the more popular of the two.

How to Check for Cannibalization Issues

Multiple pages targeting the same keyword show that you’re trying to cram too much information into a single article or web page. Search engines won’t index pages that aren’t well-written or targeted. Here’s how you can check your website for this issue.

Site Search on Google

Head to Google and use the Google search operator “site:[website name]” + “keyword cannibalization”. You’ll see all the pages on your site related to this topic.

Running a site: search can give you some ideas about cannibalization. However, it lacks a sense of place, and it doesn’t tell you what to do. You need to figure out which pages should be merged and which ones should stay.

Prioritize High Ranking Pages

When prioritizing pages, focus on the most relevant ones first. This allows you to improve the quality of the page without sacrificing traffic. Redirecting old blog posts to new ones is also a great strategy. However, when using this method, update the original post with the redirected URL.

Check for Duplications

Titles are very important within SEO. They help provide more information about a site or product. This helps people decide whether they want to read a certain article. Pages with good descriptions also get higher engagement rates and increased rankings.

How to Solve Keyword Cannibalization Issues

Keyword cannibalization occurs when people attempt to rank by too high up keywords on various search engine listings. Google may remove those listings when this happens because they’re seen as manipulative. In other words, some pages are being ranked unfairly.

Content Consolidation

You should analyze each page to see what information should be included in the landing page. This process includes finding out which pages contain relevant information about the topic. Consolidating the two (or more pages) that rank for the same keyword into one in-depth post is the best way to fix cannibalizing keywords because it creates one in-depth post.

You can repurpose what doesn’t work into another post or slightly shift the angle to target a new keyword. Also, combine pages if they perform poorly. Finally, ensure there are no broken links or missing pages.

Reoptimize Your Pages

You can retarget the weaker page to a different keyword. This includes changing the meta tags title description and rewriting the content to target a different phrase. This strategy may require some additional work, such as keyword research to identify other phrases that you could optimize the page to. However, if you want to keep both properties and stay in the SERP, this is the best option to consider.

Redirect Duplicate Pages

After you’ve merged pages to prioritize your SEO efforts on just one page, don’t simply delete those pages you aren’t prioritizing. Instead, use a redirect to tell a browser that a URL is no longer available and should go somewhere else. You can also use this technique to redirect pages you previously deleted, but search engines may still be indexing.

The most common remedy is using a 301 redirect from the weak page to the strong one. You will tell Google that the weak page is an old version of the content, ranking only the new and updated page.

You should use 301 redirects when multiple pages rank for relevant keywords. This will help you consolidate your cannibalized content by linking the less related pages to a single, most authoritative page.

Remove Low-Value Pages

You should remove irrelevant posts as soon as possible. Keep in mind that if a page has low value, it might be better to delete it than to leave it there because it could potentially harm your site.

Use rel “canonical’ Tags

A canonical tag is used to point to another page when there is a duplicate piece of content. In this case, you’re pointing to the original page. Of course, you don’t want to take down the original page, but if you were to change the canonical link, then you’d be pointing to the new page instead. Search engines use this information to identify what page should be listed first when someone searches for something related to the page or site.

Create Landing Pages

A simple solution is often to create a landing page using the most authoritative source page as a starting point. This landing page could then link to other pages within the same niche. Then, you’ll be able to target both broad keyword phrases with your consolidated pages and also target long-tail keywords on each variation.

Evaluate Your Hreflang Tag

It would help if you considered analyzing any potential hreflangs tag issues. This is the sole reason why keyword and content cannibalization may occur. Run a crawl to analyze any potential issues causing your cannibalization.

Improve Your Internal Linking

Internal linking is very important when building a website. It helps search engines understand what a page is about, and it also makes it easier for users to navigate the site. Links should be made to pages related to the main topic of the page. Use keywords to make sure that the internal links are relevant. Also, use anchor text to make sure that the link is clear and easy to read.

One solution that tackles the cannibalism problem is interlinking from the stronger, preferred page to the weaker page. Be certain to use the target keyword phrase as the link’s anchor text. Doing so within the pieces of content will aid the site structure even more.

Plan Your Content

The best solution is to prevent keyword cannibalization in the first place. That being said, you need to plan your content accordingly. Create a spreadsheet for your keywords with the following details:

  • Keywords & Rank
  • Page URL
  • SEO Title
  • Meta Description Word Count
  • Bounce Rate
  • Conversions

This will help you spot pages targeting similar keywords. From there, consolidate them into one or two pages and check back later to see if any of those pages have dropped off. When looking for new keywords, use your keyword research tool.

There is no need to optimize for a broad term when ranking for a specific long-tail keyword. However, it would help to optimize for the exact phrase. Update your spreadsheet with this new information.

Be sure to make pages or posts updated frequently as new information comes out. Readers will appreciate this, and the search engines will reward you. Also, be sure to create an outline of what you want to write about before you start writing.

Use Intent-Based Research for Your Keywords

Google recognizes the search intent using keywords. In addition, Google creates a knowledge graph representing the relationships among web pages by analyzing user interaction patterns.

Keyword research and content creation should go hand-in-hand. Make sure to create landing pages that match the specific intent of each keyword or phrase. Creating new content for an existing page shouldn’t be done without first knowing which specific keywords drive organic traffic to that page. Landing pages without specific focus tend to confuse searchers instead of helping them make decisions.