keyword cannibalization

The Evolution of Keyword Cannibalization

If you have ever tried to fire your website up the search engine SERP rankings, you will almost certainly appreciate the importance of a strong keyword strategy. However, you may be less aware of the term keyword cannibalization.

Keyword cannabilism is an often overlooked aspect of digital marketing, but it will not go unnoticed by search engine algorithms and crawlers. Given that the SEO industry is set to show a CAGR of over 17% for the next few years, now is the time to fix keyword cannibalization and repair your website ranking.

This quick guide to the evolution of keyword cannibalization will clear up all of your queries on the subject, such as;

  • What is keyword cannibalization?
  • How does SEO keyword cannibalization impact website ranking?
  • What are the causes of keyword cannibalization in SEO?
  • How can keyword and content cannibalization be found?
  • How can keyword and content cannibalization be fixed?

Ready to boost organic traffic, leads, and conversions? The following advice from our experts will teach you how to do it by targeting keyword cannibalization.

Unraveling the Concept: What is Keyword Cannibalization?

Before you can correct the issue, you must first ask: what is keyword cannibalization in SEO?

If this is the first time that you’ve heard the term “keyword cannibalization”, you’re probably assuming that it’s a bad thing – and you’d be right!

The fact that 36.3% of SEO experts say they allocate most of their time to keyword research shows the importance of keyword mapping for gaining increased site traffic. However, keyword cannibalization is a process in which you ultimately eat away at your hopes of ranking for the intended search query. 

In other words, keyboard cannibalization is a self-created internal situation in which competing pages stop your website from ranking on relevant keywords. Given that you are already competing against over 1.1 billion websites to climb the SERP rankings, it’s vital that you identify and fix keyword cannibalization with immediate results.  

The Unseen Impact on SEO

Research shows that 91.5% of all clicks generated by Google are acquired by websites on the first page of the SERP rankings. Unfortunately, keyword cannibalism will have a very negative impact on your keyword strategy and overall approach to Search Engine Optimization.

Worse still, SEO keyword cannibalization impacts local SEO as well as organic SEO. When you inadvertently create competing pages that try to rank for the same target keyword, it can cause several issues such as;

  • The less important webpage ranks for the target keyword, thus meaning that users miss out on the content you want them to find.
  • Competing pages stop each other from ranking as high as they’d like, meaning competing sites can climb the SERP rankings instead.
  • Both backlinks and CTRs (click-through rates) become diluted, causing each of the competing pages to fall down the rankings.
  • It becomes harder to truly understand keyword analytics, which may cause website owners to make worse decisions.
  • Poor performance levels relating to the target keyword also means that a larger percentage of organic traffic will be from users that wanted something else. 

As the above examples show, some forms of keyword cannibalization in SEO aren’t as harmful as others. Ultimately, if a webpage continues to rank for multiple keywords while the other brings organic traffic from people using the search term, it’s not a major problem. However, it could still harm your Google E-A-T attributes or cause increased bounce rate figures as users land on the wrong content. 

The more damaging outcome, though, is when cannibalizing keyword habits actively dilute the website’s overall SEO performance in an already highly competitive digital marketing landscape.

The Root Causes

what is keyword cannibalization

Before analyzing SEO tips that can undo the damage caused by internal keyword cannibalization, website owners should understand the reasons for a potential keyword overlap or conflict of interest between several pages.

The average corporate website will now have 10-50 individual web pages indexed, so there is a good chance that you will have multiple pages currently trying to rank for the same target keyword or phrase. In most cases, the issue stems from a lack of knowledge on the subject. Some examples are as follows:

Overlooking Main Pages

When thinking about the prospect of optimizing keywords, most businesses naturally think about blog pages and content. In reality, the main navigational pages may be the cause of internal keyword cannibalization and holding you back from reaching your marketing goals. 

The home page, about page, and contact page may all detract from the keyword optimization of your service pages and content pages. If you have a different landing page for each location that you serve, this could create problems too. 

A Lack of Content Planning

Creating quality content should be a priority for all website owners and marketers. While you do want to establish yourself as an authoritative voice in the industry, too many posts on a similar issue can confuse the Google algorithm if you try to hit the same target keyword.

Finding relevant keyword alternatives allows you to schedule content to grow your site while avoiding SEO keyword cannibalization. It also helps you manage the SEO title and meta description of each post while preventing the threat of multiple URLs with the same keyword. 

Product Pages

When actively trying to avoid keyword cannibalization, the threat of duplicate pages will play on your mind. This can be a major issue when you have an eCommerce site with multiple product pages that will try to rank for similar keywords – especially if you don’t plan ahead.

A dedicated strategy that incorporates heavy keyword research is vital as it can help you rank for multiple terms. Meanwhile, you can use your category pages to focus on the target keyword while having individual product pages link back to it.

Keyword Cannibalization vs. Topical Relevance

When building a robust digital marketing strategy, search engine algorithms will often confuse you as different elements of SEO often seem to contradict each other. When looking to avoid keyword cannibalization SEO practices, it may seemingly create a conflict of interest with topical relevance. As with many aspects of Search Engine Optimization, something of a balancing act is needed.

Topical relevance is defined as “a process used by search engines that help determine if a web page is relevant to a search query” while it relies on a combination of keywords, backlinks, and content. It has a huge influence on the perceived authority and trustworthiness of a website.

Keywords are essential for topical relevance as they let search engines know what a webpage is about, which subsequently means users will find it when they enter a relevant search query. To avoid falling into the trap of keyword cannibalization SEO habits, you can;

  • Focus on long-tail keywords to give you the flexibility to change them.
  • Introduce different types of content (guest posts, interviews, etc.).
  • Use the meta description to highlight the unique elements of specific content.
  • Build topical relevance in related subcategories related to the main focus keyword.
  • Allow backlinks from other authoritative sites to remove the pressure on keywords. 

Diagnosing Keyword Cannibalization

keyword cannibalization in seo

Understanding what is keyword cannibalisation in SEO will give you a deeper insight into why you should try to avoid competing pages and why keyword density on the page you want to rank for on a focus keyword is vital. When hoping to fix keyword cannibalization, though, you must also know how to identify it.

The best way to diagnose keyword cannibalization is to look for examples where multiple pages have the same keywords and the same (or similar) intent. You can check for it in several ways, such as;

  • Run a professional site audit to receive the answers you need – you can also embed the tool onto your site as a way to generate more leads.
  • Use Google by searching site:[your domain name] “insert keyword”. If multiple competing web pages from your site are seen, you must address this. You can go one step further by adding “&filter=0” to remove host clustering, which means any relevant pages will be listed in context by ranking them against competing websites.
  • Use a site explorer to check for multiple URLs. Do this by entering the keyword in the Organic Keywords page and ensuring that multiple ULS are shown on the list.
  • From a site explorer, use the Organic Keywords page to look for historic rankings by adding the target keyword and checking the history dropdown menu. By analyzing the URLs listed, you’ll quickly see if the intent of multiple pages conflicts with each other. When they do, a situation of keyword cannibalization will have been identified. 

Keyword cannibalization facts show that identifying a problem doesn’t only enable you to ensure that the intended page ranks for the target keyword. Better still, it allows you to build a strategy where the secondary pages help boost organic traffic by focusing on related keywords that stay true to topic relevance. 

Healing Your Website: Solutions and Best Practices

seo keyword cannibalisation

If your website and business are still performing well, you may be tempted to ignore keyword cannibalization. However, the statistics show that SEO yields 20x more traffic than PPC and 10x more than social media. So, fixing keyword cannibalization is essential.

Before implementing the right practices to correct your keyword cannibalization issue, it should be noted that the following ideas are rarely advised;

  • Deleting pages – this stops any future search engine presence while also removing the beneficial elements of historical rankings. 
  • Deoptimizing pages – while this can tackle the source of keyword cannibalism, it also undoes keyword optimization for the phrases the page ranked on.
  • Nonindexing pages – attempting to fix the issues at a keyword level by removing the page from the index means it can no longer gain traffic from a search engine. 

Here’s how you can repair the damage of keyword cannabilism and get this important ranking factor back on track. 

Merge Articles

Perhaps the best way to combat keyword cannibalization in SEO is to merge related articles. For starters, long-form content performs very well. In fact, pieces of 3,000+ words gain over 77% more backlinks. Of course, they have the opportunity to delve deeper into a topic, thus providing greater value to the reader. In turn, this will boost SEO rankings.

You can take this post as an example, it could have technically been split into several pieces, such as;

  • An introduction to keyword cannibalization.
  • A look at what causes keyword cannibalization.
  • Examples of keyword cannibalization.
  • How to identify and rectify keyword cannibalization.

Unfortunately, all four pieces would become competing pages. As well as the content itself, there would be multiple URLs and conflicting SEO title solutions. Turning it into a comprehensive guide – just as we did with the guide to keyword research – provides the best chance of ranking for the target keyword. This is because there is quality content while Google crawlers will not be at all confused about which webpage is most relevant to users who enter the relevant search query. 

Edit Where Necessary 

Another way to ensure that the desired content (such as newer or more relevant blog posts) ranks higher than secondary pieces is to edit the related pieces. Manually changing the keywords within the body, alt tags, meta descriptions, and other keyword optimizations can make a difference. As well as pushing the intended page into the spotlight, it allows you to boost overall SEO by ranking for related target words on the additional pages.

Get Backlinks Updated

It may be a little more difficult, but addressing the links to your site can be a very beneficial step to take. Tracking your backlinks allows you to see which pages other websites and creators are directing their readers towards. 

If you would rather have links made to more relevant pages, the following steps will help;

  • Contact the website owner.
  • Advise them that it might be more relevant to link to the new URL.
  • Or make alternative suggestions of how they could link to the newer post.
  • Politely ask them to remove the original link.

It is also an opportunity to gain new backlinks, which are an important SEO metric or even establish new partnerships. Interviews or content collaborations with authoritative creators will bring added value to your site.

Prevent Future Problems 

In addition to fixing keyword cannibalization, it’s important to guard against future situations. The best way to do this is through strategic planning. You should know what keywords you already rank on before conducting keyword research to find further opportunities. A shift towards focusing on topics and quality content will also help. Finally, you should track keyword performances and update relevant pages on a regular basis to stay ahead of the crowd.

Case Study: From Cannibalization to Consolidation

cannibalization seo

Keyword cannibalization facts are one thing, but seeing real results is what provides the real incentive to fix issues. Once you can see the impact that correcting this aspect of keyword optimization brings, it will instantly become a priority over making additions to your keyword strategy.

The case study from ORKA Socials is a great example. Working on behalf of an eCommerce site in the UK that sells hand-made rings manufactured from various metals, the company found several examples of keyword cannibalization. This included several pages shooting for the same keywords, irrelevant pages targeting keywords, and a lack of focus on money-generating keywords.

Following the full audit, the specialists focused on content consolidation. This was achieved by consolidating two pages into one while also improving meta tags, content, and FAQs. Meanwhile, a 301 redirect was implemented while a new collection page was made to target new primary keywords. The rewards could be seen within one month, including;

  • A 200% increase in traffic.
  • Significant increase in total impressions.
  • A huge increase in the number of keywords ranked.
  • Traffic value increased.
  • Some keywords up to positions #1-3.

More importantly, it set a platform for continued growth thanks to the emergence of new keyword opportunities. Likewise, the benefits of the merged content could be maintained through simple updates over the months and years to come. Crucially, with a shift in focus to money-generating keywords, fixing keyword cannibalization translated to increased sales. 

With the right approach, similarly quick results and significant improvements can be achieved in any industry.


Internal keyword cannibalization is a problem that can significantly disrupt your hopes of securing a strong website ranking, which will subsequently harm site traffic and potential leads alike. Moreover, the longer it is left untreated, the more likely it is for further pages to exacerbate the problem.

However, the fact that it is a common issue means that fixing keyword cannibalization can quickly boost your traffic potential while simultaneously allowing you to improve multiple pages of content through improved keyword optimization. Frankly, implementing the necessary changes to heal your website in this sense is one of the best SEO tips you’ll ever receive.

To discover the severity of your keyword cannibalization issue and start the process of putting things right, join MySiteAuditor and get a free 10-day trial today!