BlogUncategorizedExplaining Keyword Cannibalization- What Is It & How to Fix It

Explaining Keyword Cannibalization- What Is It & How to Fix It

Imagine two sale signs advertising the same bicycle. While it might seem good to have more signs out there, people might just get confused seeing two signs for the same thing. This is what keyword cannibalisation can do to your website.

Instead of signs, imagine you have multiple web pages that are trying to rank for the same keywords with search engines. This confuses search engines, and they aren’t sure which page to show for those keywords.

When the same term is targeted for optimisation across many pages, it often leads to negative effects. It will not help your SEO for that keyword; you may even be damaging it. Keyword cannibalisation is a scenario where different pages on your site target the same keywords and bid for the search terms. That is just the beginning of it all.

Here in this detailed article, we are going to unfold what precisely keyword cannibalism means. If you are wondering why it’s an issue and how to approach it properly, keep on reading. Hopefully, after this, you can increase your site’s exposure and make solid improvements to your SERP rankings.


What is keyword cannibalisation, and what should you know?

Keyword cannibalisation is when you have more than one webpage focusing on offering content using similar keywords. This may cause them to start struggling for positions in the same search engine results. This can reduce the authority of your site and make search engines confused about which page to rank higher.

For instance, say you might be focused on blogging about digital marketing. Now, if you have multiple articles targeting “SEO tips,” these pages might end up competing with each other instead of strengthening your overall SEO presence.

So, addressing keyword cannibalisation is crucial for your business. This is because it can hinder your ability to achieve optimal SERPs and drive organic traffic to your site.

To illustrate, let’s consider a practical example. Suppose you own an e-commerce website selling gardening tools. You have two separate blog posts targeting the keyword “best gardening tools.” One post was written two years ago, and another more recent one covers similar ground. Instead of ranking highly for the target keyword, both articles might end up competing against each other, diluting their effectiveness. This internal competition can prevent either post from achieving a top position in search results, making it harder for potential customers to find your content.

Recap? Here’s what to know:

  • It’s bad because you’re competing against yourself.
  • It can happen accidentally, by having similar content targeting the same keywords.
  • It weakens your SEO efforts, making it harder to rank well.

So, avoid having multiple pages shouting the same message to search engines. Instead, have clear, targeted content for each page.

Causes and Timing of Keyword Cannibalization

This phenomenon can occur for various reasons, often unintentionally. One common cause is the creation of multiple pages targeting the same keywords over time, especially in large content libraries. This can happen when different team members create content without a cohesive strategy or when old content is forgotten, and newer content covers similar topics.

Another cause is the lack of a centralised keyword strategy, leading to overlapping topics. Timing plays a role too; keyword cannibalisation might become evident as your content grows and you start to see multiple pages vying for the same search terms, thereby impacting your SEO performance.

These are also a few ways it can happen, and it doesn’t always happen right away:

  • Content Explosion: Over time, you create new content that covers topics similar to those on existing pages. Maybe you have a blog post on “hiking boots” and later create a product page for a specific brand, both using “hiking boots” as a keyword.
  • Content Refresh Gone Wrong: You update an old page with new info, but forget to redirect the old address. Now you have two pages competing for attention.
  • Website Structure Issues: Your website might have confusing pathways. For instance, you could have separate URLs for reaching the same product category, each aiming for the same keywords.

To avoid all this, it’s important to maintain a keyword map. Make sure that it outlines which keywords are targeted by each piece of content. And, regularly updating this map. This guarantees new content complements existing content rather than competing with it.

What is the Negative Impact of Keyword Cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalisation can significantly harm your SEO efforts. This is how:

1- Confusing Search Engines

It is like having two salespersons selling different things to a buyer and both defending their products at the same time. Keyword cannibalisation is a similar problem for search engines.

If the website has more than one page that focuses on certain keywords or phrases, the search engine becomes confused and is not sure which page will most appropriately meet the needs of the user. This can eventually lead to an overall drop in the ranking of all the pages involved in the competition to gain more visitors’ attention.

2- Scattered Ranking Potential

Rather than having one authoritative page that ranks for a given keyword, the ranking potential of your website is spread across the competing pages. This slows down your overall SEO progress and makes it more difficult to achieve that coveted placement on search result pages (SERPs).

3- Crawl Budget Waste

You might have a fixed budget on how many sites to crawl and index. If you have a lot of pages using the same keywords to target specific keywords, search engines may end up spending a lot of time running through these multiple pages rather than time on useful, original content within your website.

This makes it difficult for your quality content to generate the right sort of traffic and get indexed in the best ways it deserves.

4- Diluted Backlinks

Links pointing to your website may seem like votes for your website’s authority. However, as a result of keyword cannibalisation, backlinks pointing to different pages target the same keyword. This compromises the effectiveness of the backlinks that you make, and slows down the possibility of your site being ranked better in the search engines.

Consider the case of a popular online fashion retailer. If they have several blog posts targeting “summer fashion trends,” each with different nuances but similar keywords, this can lead to cannibalisation. As a result, instead of having one authoritative post on “summer fashion trends” that ranks highly, they might have several posts ranking poorly. This not only impacts their organic search visibility but also their overall site traffic and potential sales.

To mitigate this, it’s essential to periodically review and consolidate content. We will explain how to ensure each page targets unique and relevant keywords in the next topic.

How to Identify Keyword Cannibalization Issues?

Finding keyword cannibalisation issues requires a thorough analysis of your website’s content. You can just start by:

1- Leveraging SEO Tools

Keyword Mapping: Conduct a keyword audit to create a map of your website’s content and the keywords each page targets. Tools like Google Search Console, SEMrush, and Ahrefs can be immensely helpful for this. They analyse your keyword rankings and pinpoint overlaps, highlighting instances where multiple pages appear in search results for the same query.

2- Manual Search Confirmation

Self-inflicted Search: Search for your primary keywords directly on search engines and see which pages from your website rank. This provides a real-world perspective on potential cannibalisation.

Performance Metric Analysis

Now, you might have identified pages competing for the same keywords. Just compare their performance metrics, like click-through rates and conversion rates. This can reveal how cannibalisation might be affecting your overall website traffic and lead generation.

For instance, if you have an online fitness website, you might use Ahrefs to conduct a keyword audit. Similarly, various tools like Google Search Console can also provide insights into how search engines perceive your content. It might help you pinpoint pages that might be cannibalising each other. Regular keyword audits are essential to maintain a healthy SEO strategy. This can prevent cannibalisation from undermining your efforts.

Steps to Resolve Keyword Cannibalization Problems>

Fixing keyword cannibalisation involves several strategic steps.

1- Identify Keyword Cannibalisation

Consolidate similar content into a single, comprehensive page that covers the topic thoroughly. This can be done by merging articles or creating cornerstone content that acts as an authoritative source.

2- Analyse Content and Intent

Once you’ve identified the cannibalising pages, take a closer look at their content and intended purpose. Here’s what you need to understand:

  • Content Similarities: Read through both pages. Try to find how much information and value proposition is overlapped. Just check if they are expressing the same thing.
  • Target Audience and Goals: Consider your TG for each page. Review to see if it is targeting and what it aims to achieve. Is one aimed at beginners, while the other targets experienced users?
  1. Consolidate or Redirect Content

Depending on the level of overlap, you can take one of two approaches:

  1. a) Content Consolidation: If the pages are highly similar, merge them into a single, comprehensive resource. This consolidated page should cover everything in-depth and provide the best possible user experience. Ensure it has a strong title tag, and meta description optimised for the target keywords.
  2. b) Redirects: If the pages have some unique content or target slightly different audiences, consider using a 301 redirect. This tells search engines that the weaker page has permanently moved to the stronger one. This ensures your SEO value isn’t lost.

Additionally, update your keyword strategy to ensure each page targets unique keywords, avoiding overlaps. Tools like Yoast SEO can assist in managing keywords and preventing future cannibalisation.

For example, you might have multiple articles on “smartphone reviews” written over several years. So, this is what you need to do to avoid keyword cannibalisation:

– Identify Keyword Cannibalisation

Use SEO tools or Search Console data to find pages competing for similar keywords.

– Analyse Content and Intent

See how similar the content is and understand the target audience and goals of each page.

– Consolidate or Redirect Content:

Merge highly similar pages into one comprehensive resource. Use 301 redirects for pages with some unique value or targeting slightly different audiences.

4- Update Internal Linking

Point internal links from weaker pages to the consolidated page. Review your overall internal linking strategy for better flow.

5- Monitor and Refine

Track keyword rankings and organic traffic to see how your changes impact SEO performance.

Common Mistakes in Addressing Keyword Cannibalization

1- Deleting Pages Without Proper Redirection

This can lead to 404 errors and lost traffic.

2- Using No index Tags

Prevents pages from appearing in search results but doesn’t solve the content overlap issue. 

3- Keyword Stuffing

Attempting to differentiate pages by excessively using keywords can lead to search engine penalties. 

4- Ignoring Content Quality

Focusing on quantity over quality can harm user experience and SEO.

What is an example of keyword cannibalization?

  • A health and wellness website decides to delete several blog posts targeting “healthy eating tips” without setting up proper 301 redirects, resulting in broken links and lost traffic.
  • Trying to fix the issue by stuffing keywords into the remaining posts leads to poor user experience and potential search engine penalties.

Recommended Approach

  • Merge Similar Content: Create a comprehensive page that covers the topic thoroughly.
  • Implement 301 Redirects: Redirect old URLs to the new, consolidated page to preserve link equity and traffic.
  • Update Internal Linking: The links inside the site should point to the first page to boost its authority and help the users.
  • Maintain Quality: Concentrating on developing high–quality and indispensable content. This could meet the demands of the audience, solve problems, and match your SEO plan.

Concluding Notes

Keyword cannibalisation is a common but often overlooked issue that can undermine your SEO efforts. After you understand the basics in this article, you can significantly improve your site’s SERPs. Focus on:

  • What it is
  • Why it occurs
  • How to identify and fix it

There is always a chance that the contents of two websites are related to one and the same topic. Organise those into one super useful guide for the visitor. Once you have cleaned things up, choose new keywords for your diverse web pages so that this does not recur in future. This way, you can organise your website better and help search engines to rank it faster and more effectively. This leads to more clients finding what they want or need on your site, meaning more business.

With a team of highly experienced digital marketers, we have developed some of the best results driven campaigns for all size agencies and businesses.

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