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What is Keyword Cannibalization?

Keyword Cannibalization: How to Find, Fix, and Prevent It?

Saket Mittal
Keyword Cannibalization

There's a common misconception floating around that more is always better when it comes to SEO. Many believe that creating multiple pages targeting similar keywords or topics can amplify their presence in search results. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Adding multiple pages targeting the same keyword clusters often backfires, leading to what's known as keyword cannibalization. It can hurt your ranking by confusing search engines about which page to serve for a particular query.

In this blog, we will learn about keyword cannibalization, uncover its impact on SEO, and the strategies to resolve it.

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What is Keyword Cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization is a critical SEO issue when multiple website pages compete for the same search query. Instead of strengthening your site’s authority, they cannibalize or undermine each other's chances of ranking, effectively diluting the site’s SEO efforts.

Keyword cannibalization happens because search engines like Google may struggle to determine which page is most relevant for a particular query, leading to a situation where neither page ranks as highly as it could if it were the sole contender for those keywords.

Keyword Cannibalization Appearance on Your Website Performance Charts
Keyword Cannibalization Appearance on Your Website Performance Charts

Imagine preparing several dishes for a feast, but they all have the same ingredients. That's pretty much what happens when your website's content repeatedly targets the same or very similar keywords. Instead of providing a variety of dishes (or content) for search engines to serve up, you compete against yourself.

Keyword cannibalization can arise from various situations, such as:

1. Having multiple blog posts on similar topics

2. Product pages that are too alike

3. Not having a clear keyword strategy

Keyword cannibalization can lead to diluted authority and lower rankings for each competing page. This can result in reduced traffic and decreased conversions as the potential value of having a single, authoritative page is split among several competing pages.

Even if you're targeting branded keywords (like your company name), having multiple pages going after the same ones can be harmful if they don't offer something different.

Example of Keyword Cannibalization

Let us understand keyword cannibalization with an example.

Imagine an online store that sells sports shoes. This store has two different pages on its website. One page is for "Men's Running Shoes," and another is for "Running Shoes for Men."

These pages are filled with similar content, titles, and product listings. Because they're so alike, when someone searches for running shoes for men, Google struggles to determine which page is the most topically relevant for a given search query.

This confusion leads to the two pages competing against each other, leading to none of your pages securing a prominent position on the search results. It is important to note that slight variations like this might not always cause severe cannibalization if the content is sufficiently differentiated. The issue arises more prominently when multiple pages with very similar content target the same keyword without clear differentiation.

Why is Keyword Cannibalization a Problem for SEO?

Google's stance on keyword cannibalization is clear: it's not explicitly identified as a violating signal in their guidelines. However, it complicates the search engine's ability to select the most relevant page from your website for a query.

The internal competition can inadvertently sabotage your SEO efforts, leading to poor search performance. Let us understand why keyword cannibalization is a problem for SEO:

1. Diluted Page Authority: When many web pages target the same keyword, their authority gets diluted. Instead of one strong page, you end up with several weaker ones, and none may rank well because their influence is spread out.

2. Confusing Signals to Search Engines: If your site has multiple pages for the same keyword, search engines get mixed signals about which to show users. This confusion can lead to the wrong page showing up in search results or constantly changing rankings, making your site less reliable for users. It can also reduce click-through rates since the content might not precisely match search intent.

3. Wasted Crawl Budget: Search engines have limited resources to check & index your site, called the crawl budget. When you have multiple pages targeting the same thing, it wastes these resources on unnecessary content. It can cause your most important pages to get less attention or not be indexed properly.

4. Diminished Conversion Rates: When users find multiple pages on your site with similar content, it can be confusing, and they might leave without taking action. If a less relevant page shows up for their search, it might not lead them to what they were looking for, resulting in fewer conversions.

Tools to Identify Keyword Cannibalization

Let us understand how to identify keyword cannibalization using both free and paid tools:

Free Tools to Find Keyword Cannibalization

Free tools are excellent starting points for identifying keyword cannibalization without incurring additional costs. They typically offer basic features to analyze your website's content & search performance.

1. Using Google Search Operators

Google search operators are special commands that help refine and accurately specify search results. It can be an excellent starting point for businesses to identify keyword cannibalization issues.

Simply go to Google and type " keyword" into the search bar. Replace "" with your actual website address and "keyword" with the specific term you're investigating.

Using this search style will show you all the pages on your site ranking for this keyword. If multiple pages target the same keyword, you need to strategize your content to avoid competition between your pages.

2. Google Search Console

Google Search Console provides valuable insights into how your website performs in Google's search results. It allows you to view the keywords your site ranks for & identify any instances of keyword cannibalization.

To check for keyword cannibalization, you can analyze the Performance reports to see which pages rank for similar queries. Look for fluctuations in rankings & observe if multiple pages frequently swap positions for the same keyword.

3. Google Analytics

While primarily a web analytics tool, Google Analytics can also help identify keyword cannibalization by examining traffic patterns & performance. By analyzing organic search traffic & the pages receiving the most traffic for queries, you can identify potential instances of cannibalization & optimize your content strategy.

Paid Tools to Find Keyword Cannibalization

Paid tools offer more advanced features & comprehensive analysis capabilities compared to their free counterparts. They provide in-depth insights into keyword performance, search trends, and competitive analysis. Here are the top paid tools to identify keyword cannibalization issues:

1. Quattr

Quattr is an SEO Platform that combines paid & organic traffic trends to identify keyword cannibalization effectively. It aggregates daily organic and paid performance data, allowing marketers to analyze keyword overlap.

Its comprehensive reporting features enable them to drill down the performance by various dimensions. These actionable insights help them make informed decisions to mitigate keyword cannibalization and improve overall search visibility.

2. SEMrush

SEMrush offers SEO tools, including features for identifying keyword cannibalization. Its Site Audit tool can analyze your website's content & identify instances of keyword overlap. It helps you optimize your site structure for improved SEO performance.

3. Ahrefs

Ahrefs is another comprehensive SEO tool that can help identify keyword cannibalization issues. With its Site Explorer feature, you can analyze your website's backlink profile & keyword rankings to uncover areas for optimization & consolidation.

How to Avoid Keyword Cannibalization?

Once you've pinpointed the pages affected by keyword cannibalization, the next critical step is to resolve them. Addressing these issues can streamline your site’s structure and enhance your content’s performance in search engine results. Let us look at the methods to rectify keyword cannibalization issues.

Content Strategy to Avoid Keyword Cannibalization
Content Strategy to Avoid Keyword Cannibalization

Consolidating Content From Similar Pages

Consolidating content involves merging similar or competing pages into a comprehensive resource. This method is especially effective when multiple pieces of content target the same or similar keywords, but none perform exceptionally well.

1. Choose the page with the highest traffic or best conversion rate as the primary page to consolidate content onto.

2. Ensure the consolidated content is comprehensive, covering topics from all merged pages.

3. Use 301 redirects from the less important pages to the primary page to preserve link equity and direct traffic appropriately.

4. Update internal links to point to the new, consolidated page.

By consolidating content, you significantly increase the relevance and authority of the primary page. It can lead to higher rankings for the targeted keywords, improved user experience, and a more streamlined website architecture.

Implementing Canonical Tags

A canonical tag (rel="canonical") tells search engines that a specific URL represents the master copy of a page. Using the canonical tag prevents problems caused by identical or "duplicate" content appearing on multiple URLs.

1. Set the canonical tag on all duplicated pages to point to the primary page you wish to rank.

2. Ensure the content on the canonical page is the most comprehensive and high-quality version.

3. Monitor & update canonical tags as your website evolves and new content is added.

Doing so reduces the confusion for search engines & can improve the visibility of the chosen canonical page in search results.

Refining Your Keyword Strategy

Refining your keyword strategy involves re-evaluating & segmenting your target keywords to ensure that they are aligned with specific, unique pages on your website. It can include targeting long-tail keywords that more accurately describe the content of each page or adjusting the keyword focus based on user intent & search demand.

1. Conduct comprehensive keyword research to identify variations & long-tail keywords that can be uniquely assigned to different pages.

2. Understand the user intent behind each keyword & align your content accordingly to meet those needs.

3. Regularly review & update your keyword strategy to adapt to changes in search behavior & competitive landscape.

A refined keyword strategy ensures that each page on your website has a distinct purpose and targets a specific query or set of queries. It minimizes internal competition & clarifies to search engines which page should rank for each keyword, potentially increasing organic visibility & traffic for each page.

De-optimizing Your Pages

De-optimizing involves reducing the emphasis on specific keywords for pages that you no longer wish to rank for those terms. It might include removing or altering keywords in the content, meta tags, and internal linking anchor texts.

1. Identify pages that unnecessarily compete for the exact keywords and decide which ones should no longer target those terms.

2. Carefully remove or replace the targeted keywords with more relevant, unique terms that align with the content's focus.

3. Adjust the content structure, headings, and metadata to de-emphasize the old keywords without compromising the content’s quality and relevance to its new focus.

De-optimizing certain pages makes it clearer to search engines which pages are most relevant for specific queries. While this method involves dialing back efforts on some pages, it can enhance the overall SEO performance by improving the rankings of the pages you prioritize.

Increasing Internal Links to Priority Pages

This strategy involves boosting the internal link count towards the pages you want to prioritize. It increases their authority & signaling to search engines their importance within your site's hierarchy.

1. Identify key pages that should rank higher and assess the current internal linking structure.

2. Create high-quality, relevant content on other pages that can naturally link back to your priority pages.

3. Use descriptive, keyword-rich anchor text for these internal links, but avoid over-optimization.

4. Ensure that adding internal links makes sense from a user perspective and improves the overall user experience.

Increasing internal links to priority pages can significantly bolster your authority and relevance in the eyes of search engines. This strategic link equity distribution across your website can drive more targeted traffic to where it matters most.

Prevent Keyword Cannibalization with Quattr

To effectively navigate the digital landscape & optimize your website's SEO performance, addressing and preventing keyword cannibalization is crucial. Preventing keyword cannibalization starts with comprehensive site audits & content planning. When overlaps are identified, consider consolidating content, using canonical tags, or applying internal linking to ensure Google accurately understands your page hierarchy & intent.

Doing all this by manually checking each page can be time-consuming & error-prone. This is where Quattr transforms the game and helps you prevent keyword cannibalization.

Quattr provides advanced tools for reviewing both paid & organic traffic trends simultaneously. It allows marketers to understand whether keyword cannibalization is occurring and where it is happening. It also enables them to drill down into various dimensions and understand the top search intents for each content group or sub-group.

With Quattr, you can identify any instances of keyword cannibalization and take proactive measures to rectify them.

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Keyword Cannibalization FAQs

Does keyword cannibalism affect website growth?

Keyword cannibalism hinders website growth by confusing search engines, diluting page authority, and splitting click-through rates. It makes your pages compete for the same traffic, diminishing overall site visibility & effectiveness in SERPs.

How often should you check for keyword cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization should be checked regularly, ideally every month, to ensure your website's SEO health. However, frequency may vary depending on the size and dynamics of your site. Utilize tools like Quattr or Google Search Console to identify overlapping keywords & strategize accordingly for optimal search performance.

Can you have multiple pages targeting the same keyword without causing cannibalization?

Yes, you can have multiple pages targeting the same keyword without causing cannibalization by ensuring each page offers unique value & serves distinct user intents. Differentiate the content focus, depth, and approach angle across pages to avoid redundancy. Additionally, employ strategic internal linking to guide search engines & users to the most relevant page for their query.

About The Author

Saket Mittal

Saket Mittal is a Marketing Analyst at Quattr and helps drive traffic to the website by improving user experience. He is a an expert Quattr platform user and takes charge in improving product experience and conversions. Saket writes about content marketing, website optimization, and expert tips on how to use Google Search Console for content SEO.

About Quattr

Quattr is an innovative and fast-growing venture-backed company based in Palo Alto, California USA. We are a Delaware corporation that has raised over $7M in venture capital. Quattr's AI-first platform evaluates like search engines to find opportunities across content, experience, and discoverability. A team of growth concierge analyze your data and recommends the top improvements to make for faster organic traffic growth. Growth-driven brands trust Quattr and are seeing sustained traffic growth.

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