What Is Keyword Cannibalization?

What Is Keyword Cannibalization?

There’s this common saying “the more pages you have targeting a specific keyword, the better your chance of ranking.” That’s incorrect!

If you optimize several pages for the same keyword, you can expect the opposite result – poor ranking.

The reason is simple: you’re competing with yourself. And that’s referred to as keyword cannibalization. In this article, I’ll explain why keyword cannibalism is bad for your SEO, how you can identify it, and possible ways to solve it. 

What Is Keyword Cannibalization?

What is Keyword Cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization means that you’re splitting links, contents, and CTR between various blog posts or pages that should be 1. It happens when you optimize 2 to 3 pages on your site for the same search query or keyphrase.

When this happens, Google considers your site to have shallow information. In other words, the 2 or 3 similar pages will need to compete for ranking. And ultimately, all of them struggle in search engine result pages (SERPs).

Usually, Google will pick just 1 of the several pages you’re ranking for the same search query.

For example, if your website sells female clothes, and “ladies clothes” is the only keyword on your pages, you’re telling Google that every page is about “ladies clothes” regardless of whether they’re large, XL, XXL, etc.

5 Reasons Keyword Cannibalism is Bad for Your SEO?

Keyword cannibalization can be potentially harmful to your SEO strategies, and make them seem struggling.

It’s just very straightforward; you compete with yourself! Sometimes, people don’t even know when they do keyword cannibalization.

Practically, the effects are now clear, however, keyphrase leading to the wrong page, lost site organic traffic, fluctuating SERPS ranking, and of course, lost in sales.

Here are four reasons keyword cannibalization is bad for your SEO:

  1. Lower Page Authority

As expected, keyword cannibalism will result in lower page authority. Since you’re splitting CTR to several pages, you’ll have shared authoritative pages instead of 1 solid page.

Essentially, all the pages, say about 3 of them, are fighting for pageviews and ranking.

  1. Google May Devalue the More Relevant Page

One of the best ways of signaling Google that your page is relevant is to optimize it with a user’s keyword. Imagine what happens if you’ve just one keyword for multiple pages – Google gets confused!

  1. A Sign of Poor Page Quality

Several pages trying to rank for similar keyphrase tells your audience that your content is probably mediocre. Also, it tells Google that your content may not be relevant to the search query of your potential users.

  1. Diluted Backlinks and Conversion Rate

Inevitably, important factors like conversion rate and backlinks will get diluted over multiple posts.

Instead of directing your audience to an authoritative page and making the best of it, you’ll lose potential leads. And the pages will rank lower because they compete with each other.

  1. Internal Anchor Text

Since multiple pages on your website focus on the same subject, you lose out on the value of internal anchor text targeting one of the pages.

How to Recognize Keyword Cannibalization?

Fortunately, identifying cannibalization is easy.

Follow these detailed steps:

  1. You can simply use online tools like Ahref Site Explorer to search for your site’s specific keywords.
  2. Export the result in a spreadsheet and sort alphabetically. This way, you can easily identify any two pages targeting a similar keyword.
  3. Identify manually. This is the bit that becomes time-consuming but it’s worthwhile

That’s just it!

How to Solve Keyword Cannibalization?

Now that you’ve learned how to identify one, I’m guessing you’d like to jump to resolving a cannibalization problem.

Depending on the root of the problem, here are some options for you:

Restructure Your Website

This is the simplest option available to resolve a cannibalization problem.

Here’s how it’s done: take your “master” page and convert it into a landing page that links to other relevant pages that target similar keywords.

Simple as that!

Merging & Using 301 Redirects

It’s possible to merge two underperforming pages and turn them into a more juicing source. However, this option is best for two similar pages that are getting traffic for the same keyword.

For instance, let’s say you have a page “10 Best Gaming Laptop of 2020” and which is cannibalizing with another page “10 Best Gaming Laptops of 2020 Under £1,000”.

The best option here is to merge the content on the two pages into one “authoritative” resource. Merge the “under £1,000” page into the “10 Best Gaming Laptops of 2020” page. This way, you avoid thin content – and rank even better than before.

Then, you can use 301 redirects to send juice from the former page to the “master” one.

Doing this, the receiving page inherits the traffics and anchors of the sending page. Your visitors will land on the right page and Google will give preference to the most valuable page.

Canonical Tags

Instead of using the same key phrase on several pages, you can deploy kinds of it and link back to the canonical source for the specific keyword. This way, you’re telling Google that one of the pages is important than the others.

When used properly, canonicals do not only resolve keyword cannibalism but also keeps your users in mind. So, in return, you’re resolving two problems with one solution: cannibalization and better user experience.


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