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5 Ways to Identify and Fix Keyword Cannibalization For Better SEO Ranking11 min read

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Keyword Cannibalization
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Keyword cannibalization (or cannibalization as some people refer to it), is quickly becoming one of the most abundant SEO issues for many websites.

Most businesses run their own websites. And the worst thing for a website is content redundancy.

When you first start your search engine optimization (SEO) campaign, you learn about keywords and why they are important. As you learn more about keywords, you will come across the term keyword cannibalization.

Keyword cannibalization is a negative aspect of SEO that can hurt your SEO performance.

But why is keyword cannibalization becoming an issue?

Well… If you’re actively creating lots of content around a particular topic or niche then it can actually be very easy for this to occur naturally.

You may find one day that your own pages are competing against each other in the Search Engine Results Page (SERPS). Thus, leading to a loss of rankings and traffic for both of your pages.

If you’ve been running your website for a few years, you’ll likely have multiple pages/posts targeting the same topic or keyword.

For example, if you google a particular word such as “Freelancing”; and you find two different posts from Your website. The reason for this is because both posts are targeting, and ranking for the same keywords.

You might think that isn’t this a good thing? You should potentially get more traffic this way.

Let us see why this might be (potentially) an issue.

In this article, we will be seeing exactly how you can identify and fix further cannibalization issues from harming your site’s traffic and rankings in the future.

Why you should watch out for keyword cannibalization

So, want to know why keyword cannibalization is bad exactly?
Let’s check these 3 main reasons why you should avoid it:

Confusion in Ranking

When your website suffers from keyword cannibalization, there is confusion on Search Engines. This is because you are competing with yourself for the same keywords. That way Google cannot identify which content they should rank more.

So, to avoid confusion and situations like this, keyword cannibalization is something you should watch out for.

Ranking unintended pages or content

Keyword cannibalization can cause Google to rank unintended pages over intended ones. This can invariably lead to lower conversion rates and profits. Having a content with lower page value rank higher on search engines is something you definitely wouldn’t want.

Reduces ranking

Having multiple contents on your website competing for the same keyword could reduce ranking. Keyword cannibalization can cause important SEO factors such as backlinks (quality and quantity) to get diluted over several contents instead of one. This can result in overall lower ranking.

When you don’t have to worry about Keyword cannibalization

There some instances where cannibalization doesn’t really matter.

If you have multiple pages ranking for the same keywords but are on the top or the SERP, you don’t have to worry much.

As long as these pages keep performing well and their rankings are not affected…

However, you should still keep watch to ensure negative effects of cannibalization doesn’t set in.

How to identify if your website has keyword cannibalization

In general, it is not very complicated to detect keyword cannibalization. This issue could be detected in a thorough SEO audit of your website.

Thanks to these four simple methods you can easily detect keyword cannibalization:

1. Use a good Keyword Research/marketing tool

Using a competent keyword research tool such as SEMrush, ahrefs etc. These tools usually give you access to find and export keywords your website is ranking for. The format is usually to a spreadsheet format which you can open with an app like Google spreadsheet or Microsoft Excel.

You can then sort and filter your keyword columns. This would help you determining if and all pages and URLs which are targeting the same keyword.

This can help you identify keyword cannibalization.

Keyword Sorting

2. Use your website search widget

Search for keywords that you think are competing and you might find that multiple URLs will appear for one keyword search.

When uploading a new page on your website, consider searching for the main keyword in the search widget to see if it appears elsewhere.

3. Use the “SITE:” command

Among the basic features of Google, there are different commands that help you analyze a website. For example, with SITE you can detect your indexed pages:

site: yourwebsite.com

If you add to that search term or key phrase in quotes, you will also see the content within that domain:

site: yourwebsite.com + "keyword"

The result will give you a SERP formed by all the URLs of that domain that are indexed and have the quoted keyword in common and fighting each other for a place in the same search.

It is now under your own criteria; you should carefully analyze if these pages have content that could be satisfying the user’s needs.

4.  Using Google Search Console

If you have your website registered on Google Search Console, you can also detect keyword cannibalization.

Just follow these simple steps:

• Login into your account and in the section “Search traffic > Search analytics”.

• Within the list of keywords that are shown below the graph, click on the one you intend to analyze in search of cannibalizations.

• From here, activate the “Pages” option. In this way, you will be shown which URLs that keyword is ranking for.

• If it is positioning for two or more different pages of your website, you likely have keyword cannibalization.

How to fix keyword cannibalization on your website 

Depending on the volume and size of your domain as well as the amount of content you have generated over time, you will have to use one of the below methods:

Here are your options:

Option 1. De-optimise

This is the best option when you have a page ranking for a bunch of keywords (and thus receiving lots of organic search traffic). But you’d prefer that it didn’t rank for (at least) one keyword because it’s “cannibalizing” another page.

You don’t want to delete the page because it still brings a lot of organic search traffic from other keywords.

And you don’t want to redirect it because the page is still valuable.

So again, the best option here is to try to de-optimize that page for that specific keyword.

Here’s how to do that:

A. De-optimise the content itself:

Look through the content and remove any references to that undesirable keyword. This won’t usually make a huge difference (Google doesn’t just rely on exact keywords, after all) but it won’t hurt.

B. Change any internal links (especially those with keyword-rich anchors):

If you have any internal links pointing to the undesirable page, it might be worth either swapping out the destination of the links to that of the desired page, no-following them, or removing them entirely.

Links with keyword-rich anchors are the top-priority here, as any links containing the undesirable keyword in the anchor text may be helping the undesirable page to rank for that keyword, so change the anchors to something else.

C. Request for change on your backlinks:

Apart from checking your internal links, you should also check backlinks leading to your website. If there are backlinks pointing to that particular keyword being cannibalized, you should try changing it. You can use a tool like Ahrefs and make use of the Anchors report in the Site Explorer to find these.

Option 2. Merge

This is the best option when you have two very similar pages that are already ranking for the same keyword.

For example, on your blog, there might be two posts on it that ranks for the same keyword. These posts might contain fairly similar and unique contents.

You might not want to delete either of them as they both carry valuable backlinks.

The next best thing you can do would be to merge and combine both posts into bigger content or master resource.

Afterwards, you can setup a 301 redirect to the new URL to automatically go to the newly created content.

This would actually be the best option as you reduce the keyword cannibalization, have a better content and still preserve your backlinks.

So now you have the keywords pointing to same (even better) content efficiently and effectively. This may make  it rank better on Search Engines.

Option 3. Delete

This is the best way forward when:

1. You have a low-quality page potentially “cannibalizing” (i.e., stealing traffic from) a similar but better page;

2. That page doesn’t offer any value whatsoever to your visitors.

But hold on!
Before deleting any content at all, always make sure to check whether the page has any inbound links coming through it.

There are various SEO tools to check and analyze each page for inbound/backlinks. This would ensure you either make that content/URL better or create appropriate redirect before deleting.

If it does, you can still delete it. But you should always add a 301 redirect from that page to a similar one (or to the homepage if that makes sense).

If there are no backlinks at all on that page/content, then you can just delete it without worry.

Option 4. No-index

No-indexing is basically telling search engine not to crawl a particular URL on your website.

This works best for pages that are useful for your visitors (so you want to keep them).

But you don’t also want them to rank in the search engines and potentially cannibalize another page.

Common pages in this category in this category includes Thank you page after a purchase and Blog category pages.

For example, on our blog, we have a category for “Web Design”. This is very visible as a navigation in the menu above. Setting it to be no-indexed is for reasons such as:

1. To avoid (potential) cannibalization issues:

We have a huge link building guide. And we want that to rank for terms like “link building.” We don’t want our blog category page to rank for such keywords. (Yes, the chance of this is very slim, but there’s still no harm in making sure).

2. To avoid people landing on this page:

Blog category pages are useful for navigating a website. But they’re not so useful as landing

Option 5. Canonicalize

Canonicalization is simply telling search engines which content is the original and should rank better when having duplicate or similar piece of content.

A canonical tag (rel= “canonical”) is a snippet of HTML code that defines the main version for duplicate, near-duplicate and similar pages.

This means if you have duplicate or similar content in various posts, pages or other content types, you can use canonical tags to specify which version is the main one and thus, should be indexed.

This is the best option to use when you have two similar pages that you need to keep (because they’re both useful for your visitors), but you want search engines to rank one of these pages over the other.

Here’s what a canonical tag looks like:

<link rel="canonical" href="https://ahrefs.com/blog/sept-2017/” />

Rounding Up

Keyword cannibalization is an important topic in the SEO world.

Keyword cannibalization started to be the bad guy in the contents and SEO world when web spammers exerted it defectively to increase positions for lots of pages with the same content on the same keyword, reasons for doing this maybe because connection construct didn’t seem to be interesting for them.

We all know how important content and links are (Google said they are in top 3 ranking influences), and spammers discovered that in the early days.

Some SEO experts think it’s a big issue, while others don’t believe it’s an issue at all (due to the fact that Google does a pretty good job at understanding searcher intent

The good part in all this terrible place is that keyword cannibalization isn’t and publication or the actual bad guy (it doesn’t have to be” ). It can be Batman. It can be an opportunity for strong pages.

Otherwise, all of your cannibalization issues can be resolved if you mingle the contents, remove the old blog positions and redirect it. On the long run, a keyword policy and a content delineate for your websites will avoid similar situations.

And never forget User Experience because the user is the prince that fixes relevant rules. 

In conclusion

Knowing how to identify and correct keyword cannibalization is very important.

All of the methods we recommended are very good to be taken into consideration.

This would help to improve content rankings, acting on those that are dispensable and promoting those that can offer more relevant content.

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