Getting organic traffic to your website is hard enough without keyword cannibalization adding to the difficulty. Are you committing this keyword crime on your website without even knowing it? As a business owner, you want your website to rank as high as possible in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
You likely have multiple pages on your site that you hope will rank for different keywords. But what happens when two or more of those pages are competing for the same keyword? In this blog post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about keyword cannibalization—what it is, why it’s a problem, and how to fix it.
What Is Keyword Cannibalization?
When you write two or more pieces of content for a single keyword on your website, you run the chance of keyword cannibalization. This can happen intentionally (if you’re trying to target the same keyword with multiple pieces of content) or unintentionally (if you’re unaware that you’re targeting the same keyword with multiple pieces of content).
Keyword cannibalization is a problem because it can split your link equity and domain authority between multiple pieces of content instead of concentrating it on one page. This can make it harder for any of those pages to rank well in the SERPs.
Keyword Cannibalization Examples
Here are a few examples of keyword cannibalization. You have two blog posts about the same topic and target the same keyword with both posts. This is an obvious example of keyword cannibalization.
But there are other, more subtle examples, too. For example, you have a category page and a product page that are both optimized for the same keyword.
Another example is having two pieces of content that target different keywords but are very similar in terms of subject matter (for example, “acne treatments” and “acne remedies”).
Or, you have a blog post that’s optimized for one keyword, and your homepage is optimized for a closely related keyword. In this case, you might be unintentionally cannibalizing your own content thanks to your keyword selection.
Why Is Keyword Cannibalization a Problem?
Now that we’ve answered the question “what is keyword cannibalization,” you might be wondering why it’s a problem. After all, if you have multiple pieces of content that are optimized for the same keyword, doesn’t that just increase the chances that one of those pieces of content will rank in the SERPs?
The answer is no. When you have keyword cannibalization on your site, it’s like splitting your link equity between multiple pieces of content, which we’ve explained above.
Keyword cannibalization can also lead to confusion on the part of both search engines and users. If you have multiple pieces of content that are optimized for the same SEO keywords, it’s not always clear to search engines which piece of content is the most relevant. This can lead to lower rankings for all of the affected pages.
What’s more, if users click through to a piece of content and find that it’s not relevant to their needs, they’re likely to click back to the SERPs and try a different result. This increases your bounce rate, which is another ranking factor.
A high bounce rate is an indication to search engines that your content is not relevant to what users are looking for, which can lead to lower rankings.
How to Fix Keyword Cannibalization
The first step in fixing keyword cannibalization is identifying which pages on your site are competing for the same keyword. Here are a few ways to do that:
Check Google Search Console
Go to Search Console > Search Results > Queries. Then, filter by impressions (so you can see which keywords your pages are showing up for in the SERPs) and clicks (so you can see which keywords people are actually clicking on when they see your pages in the SERPs).
If you see multiple pages from your site ranking for the same keyword, there’s a good chance you have keyword cannibalization.
Use Competitor Analysis Tools
If you’re not sure which keywords your pages are ranking for, you can use competitor analysis tools like SEMrush, Moz, or Ahrefs to find out. Just enter your URL into one of these tools and check out their “Top Pages” report. This will show you which keywords each page on your site is ranking for.
Do A Manual Search
You can also do a quick manual search in Google to see which pages from your site are ranking for a particular keyword. Just enter the keyword into Google and scroll down to the bottom of the SERP. If multiple pages from your site appear there, chances are good that you have keyword cannibalization.
How To Fix It
Once you’ve identified which pages on your site are competing for the same keyword; there are a few steps you can take to fix it. Here are some options:
Pick One Page and Optimize It for the Primary Keyword
Once you’ve identified which page has the most potential to rank well for the desired keyword, optimize that page for that keyword using best practices like using the keyword in the title tag, meta descriptions, H2 tag, etc.
You should also make sure that this page has more unique content than any other page on your site that’s targeting the same keyword options—Google will penalize duplicate content!
301 Redirect Other Pages to This Page
Once you’ve optimized one page for your desired keywords, use 301 redirects to send traffic from any other relevant pages on your site to this page.
This will help ensure that all link equity (and traffic) is going to one place—the page that’s optimized for your desired keywords—instead of being split between multiple pages.
Noindex Other Relevant Pages
In some cases—particularly if there’s no way to 301 redirect traffic from one page to another—it might make sense to add a no-index tag to any other relevant pages on your site, so they don’t appear in Google’s index at all.
This should be considered a last resort because it means those pages won’t show up in Google at all—not just for your desired keywords but for any keywords!
If All Else Fails… Consolidate!
In some cases—particularly if there are only one or two other relevant pages on your site—it might make sense to delete those other pages altogether, so they don’t compete with each other (and with yourself!) anymore!
If possible, just consolidate all relevant information onto one central page so there’s no confusion about which piece of content people should be reading when they land on your site from the SERPs.
Get Expert SEO Help for Your Website
Keyword cannibalization is just one of many potential SEO problems that could be holding your website back from its full potential. If you’re not sure whether your website is suffering from keyword cannibalization or other technical SEO issues, contact our experienced SEO agency for help.
We’ll do a complete audit of your site to identify any potential issues, then work with you to develop a plan to fix them so you can start ranking higher in the SERPs and driving more traffic—and revenue—to your site.