Dec 20, 2023

What is Keyword Cannibalization?

Vaishnavi Ramkumar
What is Keyword Cannibalization?
Vaishnavi Ramkumar
Dec 20, 2023

What is Keyword Cannibalization?

Understand SEO cannibalization and how to optimize your website for better search rankings. Learn about the potential pitfalls of keyword overlap and how to strategically choose the right words and phrases for your content.
What is Keyword Cannibalization?

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SEO cannibalization refers to a situation where multiple web pages on a website compete against each other for the same target keywords and intent. This confusion can lead to a decline in search engine rankings and traffic.

An Example of Keyword Cannibalization

In the above example, you can see Runner’s World is ranking for the same keyword, “best running shoes”. 

Both articles have the same intent, i.e., they list out the best running shoes to help readers make a purchase decision. And both of these blogs have been updated recently. 

However, these two articles can be combined, and the website can accumulate all the traffic to one page rather than ranking two different pages for the same keyword. This, right here, is a cannibalization issue.

How Keyword Cannibalization Affects Your Site? 

Keyword cannibalization can have detrimental effects on your SEO. 

While it may appear beneficial from the outside, having multiple pages targeting the same keywords often leads to diluted page authority, scattered site visitors, and reduced conversion rates. 

In addition, it results in loss of organic traffic, and in extreme cases, search engines may not rank the page that you would like to prioritize. 

#1. Loss of Page Authority

The most prominent issue arising from keyword cannibalization is the loss of page authority. 

Instead of having a single authoritative page, you end up with several pages competing against each other. 

Instead of collectively enhancing the site's authority, each page splits traffic, conversions, and backlinks among themselves, thereby reducing their individual page authority. 

#2. Dilution of Links

Along with page authority, link equity is another critical factor that gets negatively affected by keyword cannibalization. 

Link equity, often referred to as link juice, is a ranking factor based on the idea that certain links pass value and authority from one page to another. When multiple pages target the same keyword, they end up receiving links from different sources, leading to the dilution of link equity. 

Rather than having a single page with robust link equity, you're left with multiple pages with diluted link equity. This situation can impact your site's search engine rankings, as pages with higher link equity generally rank higher in search results. 

#3. Crawl Budget Issues

Another issue that stems from keyword cannibalization is the problem of the crawl budget. Crawl budget refers to the number of pages search engines, like Google, will crawl and index on your site within a given time. 

When multiple pages are targeting the same keyword, they end up wasting your site's crawl budget. This issue can particularly affect large e-commerce websites with several product pages. Issues caused by wasted crawl budget include:

  • Inefficient crawling and indexing of new or updated content.
  • Difficulty for search engines in discovering and indexing deeper pages on your site.
  • Wasted resources, which could have been better utilized for optimizing relevant pages. Effective handling of this issue requires efficient site structure, proper use of robots.txt, and avoiding duplicate content across the site.

Identifying SEO Cannibalization Issues

Identifying keyword cannibalization is an essential step in rectifying the problem. 

You can identify pages that target the same keywords by conducting a content audit, analyzing historic rankings, utilizing Google SERP, and using specific SEO tools. 

Once such pages are identified, deploying effective strategies to prevent further cannibalization and correct existing issues becomes easier.

Here’s how you can go about it. 

Site Content Audit

The first step in identifying keyword cannibalization is conducting a site content audit. This audit involves creating a spreadsheet that lists all of your site's important URLs and their associated keywords. 

Once created, go through your list and look for duplicate entries or pages that target similar keywords. This process will help you spot pages cannibalizing each other, giving you a clear idea of where the problem lies.

It's important to note, though, that the most effective way to avoid keyword cannibalization is by planning your content strategy properly and avoiding creating similar content for the same keywords.

You can also use SEO tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, Moz, etc., to conduct site-level audits and access comprehensive reports to find duplicates and cannibalization easily. 

Search Your Site using Google Search Operator

Another way to find pages that target the same keywords is to use the "site:" search operator called “site:” followed by the target keyword in Google. 

By entering "site:yourwebsite.com specific keyword" into the search bar, you can identify all indexed pages on your site that relate to the specific keyword. 

The search operator aids in recognizing any unintentional keyword cannibalization problems and allows for a quick check on similar pieces of content or duplicate pages. 

It is a simple yet effective way to gain an overview of how search engine results are displaying your content and could highlight any cannibalization issue that needs to be addressed. 

Leveraging this tactic alongside other SEO tools can provide a comprehensive view of keyword rankings and the performance of different pages.

Using SEO Tools

In addition to manual methods, many SEO tools offer features to detect keyword cannibalization. 

Tools like Semrush's Cannibalization Report, Moz's Site Explorer, or Ahrefs’ Site Audit tool can help identify duplicate pages. These tools monitor your site's rankings, provide insights, and highlight potential cases of keyword cannibalization. 

They offer functionalities such as keyword breakdown, ranking URLs, and identifying affected keywords, and pages. However, keep in mind that having multiple URLs rank for similar keywords isn't always a problem, particularly if the pages fulfill different user needs. It is only a cannibalization issue when they compete for the same user intent.

Check for multiple-ranking URLs

When analyzing your website's performance, it's crucial to check for multiple ranking URLs. 

Having various pages from your site appear in search results for the same query can lead to keyword cannibalization, dilution of links, and a decrease in organic traffic. 

Use Google Search Console and SEO tools to identify similar pieces of content competing for the same keywords. 

Alternatively, you can conduct a content audit to locate similar keywords and relevant content. Analyze your keyword rankings and ensure that the most authoritative page is ranking for the target keyword. By utilizing an internal linking strategy and optimizing anchor text, you can guide search engines to the most relevant and authoritative page for specific queries. 

Checking for multiple ranking URLs and resolving any cannibalization issues is a simple yet effective step in improving your site's SEO and user experience.

Tips to Prevent and Fix SEO Cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization, while harmful, isn't irrevocable. A thorough understanding of your site's content, effective planning of keywords, and monitoring of rankings can help prevent keyword cannibalization. Here are a few ways to help you tackle this issue. 

Content Consolidation

Content consolidation is a highly effective strategy to combat keyword cannibalization. 

If multiple pages on your site target the same keyword or cover similar topics, consider merging them into a single, comprehensive piece of content. 

For instance, if you have two blog posts covering the latest SEO trends, both targeting the keyword "digital marketing", you can consolidate them into one well-written, authoritative post. 

This approach eliminates competition, concentrates link equity, and appeals to user intent better, leading to improved SEO performance. Remember, it's crucial to redirect the consolidated (deleted) pages to the new page, maintaining the link equity and preventing 404 errors. 

Optimize Internal Linking and Anchor Text

A well-planned internal linking strategy can also help address keyword cannibalization. Internal linking not only aids in site navigation but also distributes link equity across your site, helping search engines discern the relevance of pages. 

When dealing with cannibalization, ensure that internal links direct traffic to the most relevant page for a specific keyword. 

For example, blog posts about "cleaning men's sneakers" should link to your "Men's Sneakers" product page, not the general "Men's shoes" page. 

Moreover, optimizing internal linking involves:

  • Using relevant anchor text: Anchor text, the clickable text in a hyperlink, should be relevant and keyword-rich.
  • Linking deeper: Instead of linking to just your homepage or about us page, link to deeper pages that can benefit from boosted link equity.
  • Using follow links: Ensure most of your internal links are "follow" to allow link equity to flow through them.
  • Avoiding excessive internal linking: Too many links can distract and annoy users, so only include internal links that are relevant and helpful.

Use 301 Redirects and Canonical Tags

For stronger cases of keyword cannibalization, you might have to use 301 redirects and canonical tags. 

If you have duplicate or similar pages, typically content-wise, a 301 redirect can direct traffic and link equity to the most relevant page, eliminating internal competition. 

On the other hand, canonical tags can be useful when you need to keep duplicate or similar pages but want search engines to consider only one page for ranking. 

By adding a canonical tag to the HTML of duplicate pages, you can inform search engines about the preferred (canonical) page, preventing keyword cannibalization while retaining all versions of the page.

Content Creation

By producing similar pieces of content with different intents and relevant keywords, you can solve the cannibalization problem. 

Additionally, conducting thorough keyword research and optimizing internal linking strategies to direct the search engine to the most authoritative page will help mitigate the cannibalization issue. 

This approach not only enhances user experience but also improves organic traffic and conversion rates. 

Conclusion

Even if your site is currently suffering from keyword cannibalization, it's never too late to fix things. 

With strategies like content consolidation, new landing page creation, internal link optimization, and strategic content creation, you can resolve existing keyword cannibalization issues and improve your site's performance. 

Remember, SEO, including keyword optimization, isn't a one-time task but an ongoing endeavor. Hence, regular checks, content audits, and updates are crucial to stay ahead of potential issues like keyword cannibalization.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to avoid SEO cannibalization during content planning?

Avoiding SEO cannibalization starts with careful content planning. Ensure each content piece caters to a specific keyword and search intent. Regularly audit your content, track page rankings, and avoid creating duplicate content to prevent pages from competing against each other.

How often should I check for SEO cannibalization on my website?

It's recommended to check for SEO cannibalization at least once every quarter. However, if your site is large, publishes content frequently, or has recently undergone content restructuring, you might want to check more frequently.

Are there any specific tools to detect SEO cannibalization?

Yes, several SEO tools, including Google Search Console, Ahrefs’ Site Audit, and Semrush's Cannibalization Report, can help detect keyword cannibalization. These tools offer insights into your site's keyword rankings, aiding in identifying potential cannibalization issues.

Vaishnavi Ramkumar
Content Marketer
ABout the AUTHOR
Vaishnavi Ramkumar
Content Marketer

Vaishnavi Ramkumar is a content marketer specializing in creating BOFU content for SaaS brands. She believes reader-centric content is the sure-shot way to generate high-quality leads through content marketing. As part of the Scalenut team, Vaishnavi curates content that drives brand awareness and boosts signups. When she's not crafting content, you can find her immersed in the pages of a good book or a course.

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