When it comes to SEO, more doesn’t always equate to better.
Having several pages targeting the same keywords can negatively impact your SERP rankings.
When multiple pages fight for the same traffic and devour each other for Google’s attention, this idea is known as keyword cannibalization.
Whether you’re intentionally or unintentionally targeting the same keywords across multiple pages, you’ll want to identify and fix it.
In this article, we’ll cover what keyword cannibalization is, the negative impact it can have on SEO, and the steps to fix it.
What is Keyword Cannibalization?
Keyword cannibalization occurs when a website targets the same search query across multiple pages. These pages end up competing against each other, which hurts the sites’ organic performance.
Naturally, this lowers the traffic coming through since it’s divided between two pages.
John Mueller, the senior webmaster trends analyst at Google, says you’d be diluting the value of your content by creating multiple pages around the same keyword.
Reasons that Cause Keyword Cannibalization
Many people make the mistake of optimizing a few subpages for the same search term believing it’ll help their domains rank higher for this specific keyword.
However, this only confuses the search engine since the algorithms won’t be able to tell which blog should be displayed to users.
Most keyword cannibalization occurs when:
- Keyword-oriented blogs are optimized for the same search phrases as their category pages
- Different subpages, such as the home page, category pages, or about us page, are optimized for the same keyword
- Multiple pages devoted to a recurring topic, such as similar products with different colors or industry-specific blogs
- Incorrect internal linking by applying the same anchors on multiple subpages
- Online stores that sell a narrow product range
Now that you know the basics of keyword cannibalization let’s look at why to avoid it in the first place.
Why Should You Avoid Keyword Cannibalization?
Keyword cannibalization causes you to turn your own website’s pages to competitors, where your pages are battling for SERP ranks and page views. As a result, you’re spreading your CTR across relevant pages instead of having one highly authoritative page.
It can also confuse search engines. Let’s say you have two pages that rank for the same keyword. Search engines could make a mistake and have your higher converting page rank lower; thus, you’ll be missing out on potential traffic.
Furthermore, backlinks that could’ve gone to a centralized source of information are now spread out to two or more pages.
A comprehensive, in-depth page is more likely to receive backlinks than less extensive blogs. If the same anchor texts and internal links direct them to several pages, that’ll dilute your efforts and weaken the amount of organic traffic received.
One of your pages will inevitably convert better than the other. Thus, you’re losing potential leads and customers. You want to guide new traffic visitors to the most authoritative and highest-converting page.
Consequently, keyword cannibalization is killing your SEO rankings, thus decreasing the quality of leads and traffic you’re getting.
While you can keep a spreadsheet of all your page URLs, this can quickly become complicated as you scale your website. For example, an eCommerce site with multiple types of shirts can easily overlap in keywords.
Fortunately, some tools can streamline the process and reduce human error in missing potential keyword cannibalization. Let’s look at them in detail.
Semrush is a popular SEO keyword research and tracking tool that provides access to a Cannibalization report.
This report provides a cannibalization score for your keywords. A 100% score means no cannibalization has been found, while lower scores indicate potential issues, and it’ll specify which keywords and pages are affected.
They also provide recommendations on optimizing your pages to give you the best odds of reaching the top of the SERP.
Seo Scout offers its cannibalization checker, which creates a report that details any duplicate keyword rankings.
It lets you track down these keywords and pages without managing complicated keyword spreadsheets.
Simply enter your domain and receive an instant report of potential cannibalization issues.
Keylogs makes finding cannibalization as easy as clicking a button. However, it does more than identify the issues. Here’s how it works:
- Detect Cannibalization: Use the checker to identify competing search queries with a single click
- Analyze Competing Pages: Analyze the pages competing in the SERPs, and Keylogs will determine the best strategy to resolve the problem
- Fix the Issue: Make the changes to your website and check on Keylogs to see its effects on your rankings
Ahrefs feature a keyword explorer tool that helps you spot any cannibalization or when keywords are used too heavily.
Viewing your rankings through their ‘Organic Keywords’ tab will display a chart showing where you rank for a particular keyword.
Each color represents a single webpage that ranks for the search term. If you see multiple colors on the chart, it means more than one page is ranking for the same keyword.
With Ahrefs, removing keyword cannibalization becomes a piece of cake.
TrueRanker features an SEO cannibalization detector to find pages fighting for the same keyword. Here’s how it works:
- Create a project using your domain
- Add keywords that you want to monitor
- TrueRanker monitors your keyword table to see the daily positioning of those keywords; if there’s any cannibalization, it will send you an alert
With TrueRanker, you can monitor an infinite number of search terms, which makes it a perfect tool for freelancers and agencies.
How to Use Google Search Console to Find Keyword Cannibalization
You can identify keyword cannibalization if your site is registered on Google Search Console. Follow the steps below to detect which pages could be targeting the same search terms.
Step 1. Open Search Performance Report
Open the search console and click on the full report to see how your website’s doing.
Step 2. Choose Report Date Range
Select the 12 or 16 months data range to capture as much data as possible.
Step 3. Exporting Data
You can export the search console keyword and page data to a Google Sheet to analyze the data further.
Step 4: Analyzing Keyword Cannibalization
You can finally start analyzing the sheet for keyword cannibalization by looking at the keywords with the most impressions and clicks.
Ways to Fix Keyword Cannibalization
Now that you know the negative effects of keyword cannibalism and how to identify it, you can take a proactive approach to combat the issue.
#1. Perform Keyword Research
Proper keyword research will help you determine your pages’ search terms. It’s common for website owners to have keyword cannibalism due to a poor keyword strategy.
Use tools like Ahrefs, Google Keyword Planner, and Semrush to conduct keyword research. Make sure to focus on long tail keywords, meaning the search term contains at least three or more words.
Long-tail keywords drive higher-quality traffic since these words are more specific, which results in people searching for a more in-depth topic.
Also, long-tail keywords help you build better subpages by creating variations of your targeted keyword.
#2. Update Your Content
If several pages rank for the same search query, the easiest way to fix the problem is simply merging them.
One post is likely more comprehensive than the other. Try to add the content to the more authoritative blog and make it flow naturally.
If you don’t want to merge content, you can also update your content by changing the keywords, reducing them, or restructuring the content. As a result, one of the pages should begin to rank for a different keyword variation.
💡 Pro Tip: When updating the content doesn’t work, you may consider deleting the overlapping content. However, don’t delete posts or content if the blog or page generates decent organic traffic and leads.
#3. Restructure Your Website
You’ll want to restructure your website if you have quite a few pages with keyword cannibalization.
This can be done by picking the pages you want to direct users to. These will be the authoritative page for that particular search term.
The other pages with that keyword will need to be changed to have variations of that term. These pages can be linked as subpages to the authoritative post, ensuring your visitors go to the right place when they want more in-depth content on similar topics.
#4. Improve Internal Linking
By setting up a strategic internal linking structure, you can help the search engine determine which blog posts are more important.
For example, the less-important article should be linked to your most important pages so that the search engine knows the authority of the page you want to rank.
#5. Add No-Index Tag
Adding a no-index tag to any page that isn’t the authoritative page will protect your content from being recognized as cannibalism. This ensures search engine algorithms won’t index your page. However, your page remains on your site.
#6. Add Canonical Tag
Adding a canonical tag tells search engines which version of the URL you want to appear on the search rankings. It’s a great way to prevent identical content from appearing in the SERPs.
All you have to do is add rel = “canonical” after your link.
For example, http://abc.com/blog/keyword-research-tools/rel= “canonical”
Keyword cannibalization is a common problem that many website owners are oblivious to. With that said, learning the tips on identifying and fixing cannibalization can help you prevent it, giving you the advantage of having highly competitive SERP rankings.
As your site gets bigger, your chances of facing keyword cannibalism increase.
Make sure to check and follow the steps laid out in the article above periodically. Doing this will help increase your rankings and boost your organic reach.
Next, you can check out Google News SEO tips.