Keyword Cannibalization: What It (Really) Is & How to Fix It

Keyword cannibalization causes your content to compete with itself, hurting rankings and decreasing the effectiveness of your website.

Today, keyword research is so popular that the possibility of keyword cannibalization is given far less attention.

Even your greatest website content may perform less well organically as a result, which can be detrimental to your overall SEO strategy.

It reduces your chances of getting higher ranks by making that material more competitive. But how can you tell if your website is a victim of keyword cannibalization?

You can quickly determine which keywords, as well as any secondary keywords, are playing havoc on your SEO results due to cannibalization and get to work resolving each one by performing a rapid review of your placement, ranking, and organic performance.

Keyword Cannibalization

What is Keyword Cannibalization?

Today’s digital marketing techniques depend on choosing the optimal keywords to concentrate on when it comes to website content.

However, focusing on such keywords raises the possibility that they will be overused in ways other than keyword stuffing.

This error could cause keyword cannibalization and have a negative impact on your rankings.

When several pages on your website compete with one another for search engine rankings because they target the same or closely related keywords, this is known as keyword cannibalization.

It implies that different material on your website may rank for the same query on Google.

In other words, when two or more pages on your website share the same target keyword, they show up for the same searches, and as a result, it is difficult for them to rank, this is known as keyword cannibalization.

Why did this subject become so well-liked?

Specifically, because keyword cannibalization has rapidly become a widespread SEO problem that can prevent pages from ranking. Different pages that are (intentionally or unintentionally) optimized for the same search terms will probably affect each other’s chances of ranking.

This may seem like a fantastic way to attract search engine attention and show them that you are an authority on the subject, but it will almost always backfire and have a bad effect on your SEO approach.

Why is Keyword Cannibalism So Bad for SEO?

Your SEO may suffer as a result of keyword cannibalization. Here are a few specific ways in which it could occur.

Lowers Page Authority

Because they are more likely to lead to greater click-through rates and conversions, you want your most authoritative pages to rank at the top.

However, you are dividing the findings and ranking potential among two or more tangential pages rather than offering that one powerful authoritative website with keyword cannibalism.

As a result, you have reduced any page’s authority over other pages by making your various pages into competitors.

Related post: Ultimate Entity SEO Guide

Interferes with relevant pages’ ranking

Google uses keywords to determine the subject matter of your website content.

If you utilize the same or related keywords on many pages, Google will choose the one that best matches a keyword-containing search.

There is a good chance the search engine will be inaccurate.

The page with the greater conversion rate may frequently find up ranking lower on search engine results pages (SERPs), which means you lose out on high-quality leads and organic traffic that is more likely to convert.

Related post: Duplicate Content and SEO: The Ultimate Guide – How To Find And Fix It

Changes the Link Structure

Your link structure may be impacted by keyword cannibalization on both an internal and external level.

Internal links may be sending readers to a number of alternative pages rather than the most valuable, authoritative page.

Externally, your backlinks will frequently be distributed among pages with the same or related terms, which will not benefit your website the most.

When many pages compete for the same keyword, keyword cannibalism is bad for SEO since it divides the authority you’ve gained and makes each page less visible on Google.

Making your website as noticeable as possible for your chosen keywords is your aim as an SEO. You’ve made a mistake if two landing pages are competing with one another on page 2 of the results instead of just one landing page appearing on page 1.

Fortunately, it’s not a difficult issue to resolve. I’m going to demonstrate how to identify keyword cannibalization using a variety of standard tools.

Identification of Keyword Cannibalization

1. Agency Analytics

I put up an experiment to track a completely random site that obviously had keyword cannibalization difficulties for one keyword across numerous pages in order to provide a concrete example of keyword cannibalization.

We use Agency Analytics, a keyword tracking tool, to monitor the daily Google rankings of keywords on your critical pages. It can serve as a keyword cannibalization technique if utilized properly.

It’s also a terrific tool to monitor important on-page health and, when utilized properly, can identify many more cannibalization problems.

The average global Google positions over time for the full website are displayed in the screenshot down below.

Agency Analytics

The focus keywords we picked to track have continually declined since the tracking began, and on October 23rd, there was a significant change. Could keyword cannibalization be to blame? Explore further.

One of the best aspects of this tool is that it allows us to monitor the development of a single keyword over time rather than just the net result of all the keywords. So let’s explore the broad definition of “acoustic.”

Google has selectively rated a total of 3 different pages that target the same keyword since we started monitoring this keyword. If Bing selects another website, there may be a fourth page that is in competition.

Agency Analytics

The first and simplest technique to detect keyword cannibalization is to monitor one keyword every day and keep track of URL alterations.

2. Ahrefs 

If you don’t already have a membership, you should do so immediately. Ahrefs is unquestionably one of the most adaptable and potent digital marketing and SEO tools accessible.

The keyword explorer in Ahrefs is one of its best features because it allows you to compare your keywords to those of your rivals.

Ahrefs 

To the right, however, is a frequently disregarded aspect:

You now have access to historical data on all of your keywords when you use Ahrefs’ Organic Keywords tool, allowing you to identify keyword competition issues right away.

My plan only includes historical data going back six months; perhaps I should upgrade. Tim Soulo, ahh?

To view your ranking graph, click “Show History Chart.”

If you see more than one color, you’re being cannibalized since each color on the graph corresponds to a distinct URL’s position in Google (as indicated by the legend in the lower left).

Ahrefs 

Observe how the keyword keeps disappearing from the index despite the fact that several pages have been ranked for it.

Those are the effects of keyword cannibalization on your rankings.

3. SEMRush

SEMRush is one of my favorite keyword cannibalization tools, and you’re about to understand why this tool is top notch for this job.

To do this, export a sizable portion of your keyword list, possibly only the main pages or the keywords with the highest search volume.

Here, you do it…

SEMRush

To get a complete picture of your website, select some of the top keywords with the biggest search volumes.

SEMRush

Put them all in a spreadsheet and arrange them so that it resembles the one below. If you’re unsure, you may replicate our template here.

SEMRush

After creating your spreadsheet, you should alphabetically arrange these five columns by Keyword (column B). Any cannibalized keywords will therefore be close to one another and have a different location and URL.

Then, you may perform a top-to-bottom scan to identify the keywords for which there are several competing pages. However, you don’t want to squander your time scanning, right?

If you apply the following formula and a little bit of spreadsheet magic:

=IF(B2=B3,”Cannibalized”,IF(B1=B2,”Cannibalized”,”Unique”))

If you successfully use this formula, you should be able to duplicate the cell and quickly create a long list of automatic checks in Column A without doing any work!

SEMRush

This means that in less than two minutes, you checked 10,000+ keywords.

Win.

4. SerpLab

One of the few freemium SEO rank trackers available is SerpLab. One of Serplab’s benefits is that it keeps track of which of your pages’ actual URLs in the Google SERPs has the highest ranking, making it a great tool for identifying keyword cannibalism.

Here are the steps to take in order to use Serplab for a cannibalistic analysis of your pages:

Step 1. Sign in to Serplab and choose the project you wish to analyze.

SerpLab

Step 2. Click any of your keywords that have been fluctuating wildly on the page that appears.

Step 3. Next, as seen below, click on “View Full Keyword Details.”

SerpLab

Step 4. On the page, there is a graph that displays the SERP overview for the keyword you are viewing. Your pages are likely being cannibalized by Google if you consistently observe too many fluctuations (as in the image below).

SerpLab

Step 5. When you reach the bottom of the page, scroll down to view a list of URLs that have previously been ranked for that keyword along with the ranks they held. In my case, I found three pages on my website that were competing for the same keyword ranking.

SerpLab

The main drawback to this approach is that you must go over each of your keywords one at a time, which could take some time.

In addition, you must have been monitoring your keywords for a long period before you can utilize it to detect keyword cannibalization.

5. Google Search Console (GSC)

The most astute search engine addicts will observe that the top 100 rankings are the focus of all four tools (Agency Analytics, Ahrefs, Semrush, and SerpLab). They only see cannibalization in these jobs and report it.

Google Search Console can also be used to spot possible keyword cannibalization.

You can access the first 300 search results by using GSC (previously Google Webmaster Tools) to identify this problem.

Google Search Console

Visit your performance report to view a default query list from which your website has most recently received clicks and impressions.

Click one of the questions from the Pages tab. Along with the relevant statistics, a list of the URLs that rank for that specific query is displayed.

When many page URLs exist, keyword cannibalization may be in action.

As compared to most SEO tools, GSC offers a far broader data collection to work with. You won’t likely miss anything because it is based on all searches for which your sites are returned in Google’s search results.

It’s also free.

How to get started is as follows:

1) Sign in at https://developers.google.com/search

2) Select your website from the list on the right.

3) Pick one of the following options:

Google Search Console

4) Use a keyword filter to limit the results:

Google Search Console

5) Your keyword should be entered as an exact match.

Google Search Console

6) Check out the pages that the filtered keyword has brought up:

Google Search Console

7) Scroll down to see all of the pages that appear in this keyword’s rankings.

Google Search Console

The one I’ve marked in red is in fact not among the top 100, as you can see.

6. Google Search Operators

There is a sixth proactive SEO approach that can also rank outside the top 100 results.

Although it takes some time, you can use Google site operators to search the whole Google index for duplicate pages. You can find several pages with content problems like duplicate content by using search operators.

You can use the standard “site:search” search to find these pages.

Go to Google Search and type in your domain and the subject you wish to research.

It will seem as follows: Site: “subject” at your website

For a specific illustration, it will resemble: site:VideoPros.com + subject like “live events”

All of your website’s relevant material will appear in a results list returned by Google.

Look over the list and decide what is at the top.

You want to check in particular to see whether some of your older material is ranking higher than your more recent blog posts, articles, or relevant sites.

If so, it indicates that keyword cannibalization may be taking place and tells you what to review next.

The list should not overwhelm you, though, as Google frequently returns numerous matching and partially matching results. Many of those page results will target different keywords, so not all of them are a concern.

Consider some keyword duplication on flashreviewz.com as an illustration. Here are a few of my own website’s duplicate keywords:

Google Search

I have 17 pages that all contain the term “pbn link” if I wanted to rank for that phrase. By comparing this to AHREFS, I can verify that this is one page that Google has been cannibalizing.

pbn link

So, if I wanted to lessen cannibalization here, I could deoptimize pages ranking for exact match terms using the data from this site search.

Although it takes time, Google uses TF-IDF-like algorithms to determine relevance. The use of the phrase more frequently on other pages of your website may result in keyword cannibalization.

This method’s drawback is that it only really functions for medium- to long-tail keywords. Therefore, broad phrases that naturally occur frequently throughout a website, like “pbn link,” can’t really be de-optimized.

However, if you run out of suggestions for lowering keyword cannibalization of pages, you can still apply this wonderful approach.

I assume that at this point you want to know how to remedy this.

Getting Rid of Keyword Cannibalization

You may now discover a remedy now that you are aware of what keyword cannibalization is, how it affects your SEO, and how to spot it.

You could wish to carry out a content audit to determine what you presently have and how it is presented to assist you get started.

Analyzing the effectiveness of your content and discovering both past and present rankings can also be helpful.

Then, take action by reworking your internal linking system, employing redirects, and consolidating or combining information.

I’m assuming that now that you know how to identify the problem, you’re on your way to identifying all of your websites and web pages that might be affected.

However, wait!

I should begin by stating that…

There are several benefits to keyword cannibalization.

It’s not SEO cannibalization when several blog posts or landing pages are aimed at the same keyword and all show up on page one. Actually beneficial and perhaps increasing your possibility of receiving clicks.

Consider whether or not you are actually stuck as a result of keyword cannibalization before continuing. The problem with it is when it prevents you from ranking on the first page.

Here’s how to tackle keyword cannibalization if it’s preventing you from ranking well for your keywords.

Streamline or Combine Content

If you discover that two or more of your website’s pages are fulfilling similar functions, think about combining or integrating the content into a single trustworthy page.

Your content marketing approach will become more straightforward as a result, and your site’s SEO will improve.

You must first determine whether the pages are distinct, offering something the competition does not, and so still useful, even though they are aiming for the same keyword.

If not, decide how to integrate or consolidate them in the best way possible.

Start by looking at your analytics to see which of the pages is performing better in terms of organic traffic, bounce rate, and other crucial data to assist with this.

The content that converts better is what you want to concentrate on, not necessarily the piece that gets the most traffic.

Then combine the two, adding the content with the higher conversion rate to the page receiving more traffic.

Find a technique to combine pages that have comparable information and are visited by the same people.

To improve your rankings and solve the problem of keyword cannibalization, rewrite them into a single post or article.

De-Optimization of Pages

Duplicate or similar content is one of the most frequent ways that website owners trigger cannibalization. In The Affiliate Lab, I bring up this topic repeatedly.

Like other search engines, Google basically functions as a web crawler that navigates the internet via links. It needs to comprehend the details on your page. When two pertinent portions contain the same content, confusion results.

Additionally, Google wants to stop sneaky SEOs like you and me from dominating every page one search engine result by duplicating the most effective content across numerous pages.

Checking all of your SEO title tags in your favourite search engine optimization plugin is the simple fix for this issue. After that, handle any instances you come across of comparable articles or web sites targeting the same keyword.

Many of our clients who participate in The Search Initiative choose to concentrate their efforts on one region, one keyword, or even only certain parts of their website.

It makes logical that the first place you should check is here because SEO titles are one of the most crucial ways to convey content relevance.

SEO titles

After that, check your heading tags—especially H1s—and keyword density to make sure you’ve created a page with truly original headings and content.

Is that it, though?

What’s that? The topic of a page is also shaped by links and anchor text.

Assume you have two landing pages with different but related subjects. A page focuses on “Acoustic Guitars,” and another page focuses on “6 String Acoustic Guitars.”

Despite the fact that these two product sites obviously have separate topics, it would be simple to mistakenly assume that they are both aiming for the same keyword. The juice can end up on the wrong page if that occurs.

One simple error is sending an excessive number of links (internal or external) to the “6 String Acoustic Guitar” page using the “acoustic guitars” anchor.

These links’ anchor texts inform Google that you also want the 6-string website to rank for “acoustic guitar.”

Increase your content marketing instead. Increase the number of links that target the longtail keyword’s variations, such as “6 string acoustic guitars” and “acoustic guitars with six strings.”

While doing this, stay away from or delete the links and anchor text that are aimed at the general phrase.

And be sure to give your internal links and their anchor text a close inspection. You’re setting yourself up for a ranking catastrophe if you’re sending a lot of internal links with target anchors to the wrong page.

Removal of Pages and 301 Redirects

After doing your best to de-optimize the content of one page, you might want to consider whether the duplicate product pages genuinely address the same topic.

Search engines hunt for topics that are relevant to them. You could want to eliminate certain sites that are targeting the same keyword if several pages on your site are topically identical.

If you discover that multiple pages on your related topics are appearing in search results for the same terms, you may wish to occasionally use 301 redirects.

These redirects may route readers from those related pages to the most reliable and effective information.

Update any material that has links to the pages that are currently being redirected as well.

My advice is to make a 301 redirect from your old website to the new page after you delete relevant pages, then modify all of your internal links to refer to the new page.

By taking this easy step, all of your internal link juice will flow naturally and you won’t have a 404 page floating about.

If the content on the page to which you diverted is strong, you might want to add it to the page to which you are redirecting.

Consider that you have a page titled “Best Laptops of 2022.” Consider that this page is presently consuming a page that has the following content: “Best Laptops of 2022 under $1,000.”

This can be fixed with a straightforward surgical procedure.

Take the information from the “under $1,000” page and include it into the “Best Laptops of 2022” page as a subcategory. Although you no longer have many product pages, your main page might still rank for the keywords associated with the discount.

Simply remember to change the injected information to avoid alienating your audience and decreasing conversion rates.

It is insufficient to merely delete the page from your website. Additionally, you don’t want the redirected sites, therefore delete them from the index as soon as possible using the URL Removal Tool.

Removal of Pages

301 redirects can cause a website’s architecture to change dramatically. They occasionally succeed, occasionally fail, and they frequently cause a brief upheaval before things return to normal.

Why?

Keep in mind that the receiving page inherits the links and anchors from the originating page when using 301 redirects (or canonicals, for that matter).

This is why I always advise beginning with de-optimizing the website content.

However, they do work when they work.

Additionally, it’s beneficial because the links from your previous page pass their juice across to the current one.

Here is one instance of how a member of The Affiliate Lab dealt with keyword cannibalization via 301 redirects.

Consider restructuring your website.

Go ahead and restructure your website if you decide it would be advantageous after reviewing the material.

For instance, combine your product pages on a landing page to establish a more reliable source. The new landing page will then need to be linked to the various product pages.

Change or add internal linking so that the less important content pages on your website point straight to the more important or reliable source page on a certain topic.

In turn, you’ll be telling search engine algorithms that the material that is linked to the most frequently is the most important.

Examine the backlinks on any related pages as well as those in the material that is ranking better.

Are all of the incoming links going to the reliable page, or only one of the less reliable ones?

You might need to contact people who are linked to your website and request that they update the link.

Canonical Tags

People are hesitant to use canonical tags because they are frequently confused with noindex tags. However, a canonical tag can be a powerful tool for preventing keyword cannibalization problems when used correctly.

As an example of cannibalization, consider two money pages on your affiliate website that are similar to one another and vying for the same key phrase.

You may inform Google that despite some content duplication and similarity between the two pages, the more significant page is the one you choose by adding a canonical tag from your less-important page to the other.

So give that one more weight.

Canonical tags will give preference to the money page of your choice in situations where keyword cannibalization occurs in some portions of the content of two or more separate pages.

Here are the outcomes we got out of it:

Tags canonicalConclusion: Prevent Keyword Cannibalization and Boost SEO

There you have it, then.

In this article, we addressed the topic, “What is keyword cannibalization?” We also examined five excellent methods for identifying keyword cannibalization problems on your website and provided you with three excellent solutions.

The key is to recognize the issue, decide whether it is detrimental, track down the offender, and then develop a suitable response plan.

Now it’s up to you to make use of this knowledge and design a plan to improve your content in order to regain your Google rankings and, eventually, conversion rates.

It’s best to check with an expert if you’re unsure because not every cannibalization issue is caused by the same issue and not every website will benefit from the same solution.

As a result of keyword cannibalization, which frequently goes undetected, you are practically in a competitive situation when it comes to Google results. It can consequently reduce your SEO success, marketing ROI, and the likelihood that your target audience will find your most pertinent material.

Keywords are crucial to your internet marketing and website content, regardless of whether you own a small local business or a large global enterprise.

Every SEO plan in use today must include picking the ideal ones for your company and being vigilant about preventing keyword cannibalism.

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