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What Is Keyword Cannibalization in SEO? And How To Fix It?

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Keyword cannibalization is a term used in SEO to describe when multiple blog posts or articles on a website are optimized for the same search query. This can be harmful because it means that those pages are fighting each other for position in Google search results, and the one that wins may not be the page you want it to be. If you have multiple pages optimized for the same keyword, it’s important to determine which one should rank highest and then optimize the others accordingly.

There are several ways to prevent keyword cannibalization: using different keywords, focusing on relevant topic areas, and writing successful content.

How does keyword cannibalization impact SEO?

Keyword cannibalization diminishes your page authority

When you stretch a keyword across multiple pages, it can indicate poor page quality to Google. It means that your pages are competing against each other. This can lead to diminished page authority and prevent your website from ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Keyword cannibalization interferes with your pages’ ranking

Using multiple pages on your website to target the same keyword can interfere with your pages’ ranking for that keyword, as well as decrease your conversion rates (because potential customers are confused about which page is the most relevant to their needs). To avoid this, make sure you’re only targeting a single seed keyword per page.

Keyword cannibalization affects your link structure

Keyword cannibalization can affect your internal and external linking structure.

Your internal links may redirect your visitors to too many different pages on your website, instead of one page that is most authoritative.

Also, your backlinks will be split between pages with the same keywords, which doesn’t bring much value to your website.

How can you fix keyword cannibalization in SEO?

Merge or combine articles

When you find two or more pages on your website which are targeting the same keyword, you should consider merging those pages into one authoritative page. Perform analysis and see which page has the most conversions, traffic, etc., and make that page authoritative.

Improve internal linking

One way to help with keyword cannibalization is by improving your internal linking. This means changing or adding internal links on your website so that the less valuable content pages link directly to the more relevant or authoritative source page on a topic. By doing this, you’ll be sending a signal to the search engine algorithms that the content being linked to most often is the priority.

Re-optimize your old pages

To prevent keyword cannibalization from negatively affecting your SEO ranking, you’ll need to re-optimize your old pages for new keywords and make sure that you’re using unique and strategic keywords. You can also try to find other domains that are targeting similar keywords and joint venture with them to increase your exposure.

Add noindex

Adding a no-index tag to your pages will help to protect your content from being cannibalized. This way your page will not be indexed by search algorithms, but your page will still remain on your website.

Canonicalization

If you’re seeing cannibalization issues where the same content appears on multiple URLs, you can use a canonical tag ( rel=”canonical”) to tell Google which version of the URL you want to appear in the SERPs. This is an effective way to prevent duplicate or identical content from appearing in the search results.

For example, if you have a blog post titled “How to make apple pie,” its canonical URL would be “https://www.example.com/blog/how-to-make-apple-pie/, even though that page’s content is available via other URLs (ex. “https://www.example.com/blog/apples/how-to-make-apple-pie/”), then simply add the canonical tag to any duplicate pages: <link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.example.com/blog/how-to-make-apple-pie/”>.

Remove duplicate content pages or redirect them

Removing or redirecting duplicate content pages to a different URL can help reduce keyword cannibalization because it will direct users to the most relevant page instead of a page with duplicative information.

Focusing on the same keywords with multiple pages can hurt your SEO efforts, so it’s best to clean up any duplicate content issues as soon as possible.

How to identify cannibalized keywords?

Use Google Search Operators

Google has a number of search operators that can be used to help you identify which keywords are cannibalizing your traffic.

By using Google Search Operators, you can identify which keywords are being used in tandem with your own and determine whether or not they’re causing any damage.

Google Search Operators

Search through your website

Identifying cannibalizes keywords is an important part of SEO because it can help you determine which keywords are causing your website to rank lower than expected.

When a user enters a keyword into Google, the search engine will show results for pages that have that keyword in the title or URL. If one of your pages has a higher ranking for that keyword than your other pages, then it’s likely that the page contains content related to that keyword.

To identify cannibalized keywords, use this formula site:yourwebsite.com “topic” on Google Search and see the results.

outranking cannibalized keywords

How to avoid keyword cannibalization?

Create topic and keyword strategy with Outranking’s Strategist

Topic and keyword research are essential parts of any SEO strategy to avoid keyword cannibalization.

Outranking’s feature Strategist is an AI content strategy tool that will help you build topics, automate keyword research and optimize old content.

Perform content audits

A content audit is a systematic process of evaluating the quality, quantity, and alignment of your website’s content across all channels.

Conducting a content audit is one of the best ways to find and fix any potential issues with your website’s SEO. Issues such as low readability, duplicate content, or keyword cannibalization can hurt your site’s ranking and visibility. Remember, a content audit is not just about optimizing page titles, headings, and meta descriptions – it’s about ensuring that your website’s overall content is high quality and effective.

Tools to help you with keyword cannibalization in SEO

1. Outranking’s Actions feature to find keyword cannibalization

Outranking is an AI-powered SEO content writing and optimization tool, and with its Actions feature, Outranking allows you to track key terms and see how they’re impacting your website’s search engine rankings. By understanding which keywords are being used to rank your site higher than the competition, you can take steps to avoid keyword cannibalization and ensure that your website remains competitive.

2. Ahrefs – Keyword explorer tool to spot cannibalization

When you have multiple keywords that are close in rank and traffic, it can be difficult to determine which one to focus on for your SEO efforts. Ahrefs’ keyword explorer tool can help you spot any instances of cannibalization, or when a keyword is being used too heavily on other websites.

When you log in to your Ahrefs account and enter your domain, click on Organic keywords.

check for keywords seo cannibalization with ahrefs

Then, click on See full history (you might be asked to upgrade your plan).

see results and fix keyword cannibalization

Now, let’s look at the chart. Each color in the chart shows a different URL that ranks on Google. If you see more than one color, then your keywords are being cannibalized. You can see one page’s ranking is dropping, and another page’s ranking is increasing.

example of keyword cannibalization

3. Semrush – Keyword explorer tool to spot cannibalization

Cannibalization is the practice of one term or phrase monopolizing the use of a keyword in a given search engine result page (SERP). When this occurs, it can have a negative impact on your website’s organic search ranking.

Semrush’s Keyword Explorer tool can help you identify any instances of keyword cannibalization on your website. By doing this, you can take steps to prevent your site from being penalized by Google for using too many competing keywords.

Log in to your Semrush account, enter your domain and click on Organic research. Then, you will see a chart with the rankings of your keywords. Click Export and save the chart in Xls format.

enter your site on search tab in ahrefs and study your keywords

After you do that, open your Excel sheet and analyze your keywords’ ranking for possible cannibalization.

FAQ about what is keyword cannibalization in SEO

Does keyword cannibalization in SEO highly impact my rankings?

Keyword cannibalization confuses both your readers and search engines. This can seriously impact your chances of ranking high on SERPs and increase your visibility and authority on Google.

Is targeting long-tail keywords good for avoiding keyword cannibalization?

When you are targeting long-tail keywords, it is important to remember that you don’t have to target every single long-tail keyword variation out there. You can actually avoid cannibalization by using separate long-tail keywords to optimize each post rather than creating multiple pieces of content that all rank for the same search query. This will help you stay focused and organized when it comes to your SEO efforts.

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