Keyword Cannibalism – Complete Guide & How to Avoid it

Keyword Cannibalism - Complete Guide & How to Avoid it

Keyword cannibalism can cause significant problems in a page’s rankings. But what does keyword cannibalism actually mean? How do you recognize the signs? And above all: What measures must be taken? We explain everything you should know about this topic.

What is keyword cannibalism?

Keyword cannibalism basically means that several pages of a website compete for the same keyword. It’s often talked about when two pages on the same website rank for the same keyword. However, this view falls short. In general, it is not a problem if several pages rank well for the same keyword. Rather, it is always related to the search intention.

Keyword cannibalism depends on the search intention

Keyword cannibalism always becomes a real problem if the pages also cover a similar search intention. Let’s look at three fictitious examples:

1. Example: Hiking shoes

A company sells hiking shoes in an online shop. The company also publishes advice texts in a magazine section. The shop category page for summer hiking shoes and the guide text “Which hiking shoes are particularly suitable for summer?” rank for the keyword “hiking shoes summer”.

This case is unproblematic. Although two pages rank for the same keyword, the search intent is different (purchase vs. information). Accordingly, the pages pick up interested parties at different points of the customer journey and also receive different backlinks. Depending on how precise the search intention is by the user (e.g. “buy hiking shoes for summer” or “which hiking shoes for summer”), Google can easily differentiate the relevance of the pages.

2. Example: Grill accessories

A company sells accessories for grilling. In the associated blog, the company offers many tips and tricks for everything to do with grilling. A few years ago, the company published an article on the perfect steak. Since there have been some innovations in the meantime, another article on the keyword steak has been published.

This case is problematic. Because the pages on steak aim to spread information. So the search intent is the same. This can lead to problems with ranking and internal competition. So here is a difficult case of keyword cannibalism that needs to be fixed.

3 Example: TV

A company sells TV:s. There is a comprehensive article on “The perfect home cinema” and a sub-article on “The right projector for home cinema”. Both articles rank for the keyword “home cinema”.

This case is problematic. Because both articles serve the same purpose (information vs. information). At the same time, however, the in-depth article is more suitable for the keyword than the general home cinema article. After all, the person looking for it is specifically about projectors. Optimization is needed to eliminate this case of keyword cannibalism.

So you see:

There are different cases and each one has to be considered individually. Depending on the situation, two pages for the same keyword can coexist, as long as the search intention does not overlap. However, as soon as the articles start at the same point in the customer journey and target the same search intention, problems arise.

How does cannibalism affect ranking?

Keyword cannibalism can have many different effects. The same problems do not always arise. In general, however, it can be said that the following negative effects occur:

  • The pages have worse and changing rankings for the keyword
  • Overall, despite optimization, it is more difficult to rank really well for the keyword with one of the SEO texts
  • Internal links split up
  • both pages are separate, so the power of the internal links is shared instead of bundled
  • External links refer to both pages, whereby this power is also shared

Signs of keyword cannibalism

Experienced SEO professionals constantly monitor their sites and recognize the signs of keyword cannibalism at an early stage.

This is important because it allows quick action to be taken to counteract this. These signs follow logically from the effects. You should be alert if one of the following symptoms appears:

Multiple or changing URLs in SERPs: Do you keep showing up a different URL in the search results for a keyword? This is a clear sign that Google can’t decide which page is the more relevant one.

Fluctuating rankings over a long period of time: Short-term fluctuations in rankings are completely normal. However, if they drag on for a long time, then you should take a closer look.

The ranking does not improve: You optimize a page, land strong links, and create really special content – but the ranking still doesn’t improve. This is a common sign that Google doesn’t see the page alone for a given keyword, but is vacillating between multiple pages, dividing page authority.

Wrong URL in the search result: You created a specific page for a keyword, but another page of yours ranks there instead. This is guaranteed to be a case of keyword cannibalism.

How to discover sites dedicated to ranking for the same keyword?

To discover the signs it is of course necessary to monitor the site accordingly. There are several methods to detect the symptoms of keyword cannibalism.

Google Search

You can just use an ordinary Google search. Enter a keyword (preferably in an incognito tab) and look at the search results. Are there several pages of yours appearing here, or is it always the wrong one? Then you should be careful.

Site: Keyword (example: site: SEO) in the Google search. This will give you all the pages in your domain that are sending signals for a specific keyword. This allows you to compare search intent and see where problems may arise.

Google Search Console

In the Google Search Console, you can monitor the rankings of your site. Here you get insights into the performance area for which keywords your individual pages record impressions and clicks. If multiple URLs appear for a keyword, this is a sign of keyword cannibalism.

SEO Tools

There are different paid and free SEO tools, all of which have a corresponding range of functions: Ahrefs, Semrush, Seobility…

The list could go on endlessly. All of these tools are suitable for detecting the signs of keyword cannibalism and deriving appropriate measures. Whether you use one of them and which one depends on various factors such as the size of your website, etc. It is worth comparing the tools carefully beforehand and testing which one suits you.

What to do if Keyword cannibalism occurs and is discovered?

Ideally, it doesn’t even get that far. Because if you follow a clear SEO and content strategy and thus always have an overview of the content, your planning preventively prevents keyword Cannibalism occurs. But now let’s assume that this has happened and that you have discovered the signs.

Then you have to look carefully. After all, you now have to carefully consider which side offers the higher added value. This can be difficult because you have to see all the content. In addition, pages occasionally rank for topics for which they were not intended. Ultimately, you have to decide between two possible cases: Can one of the pages be removed or not?

Removing a duplicate page

Two equal sides face each other (Example 2: grill accessories), then you have to compare exactly which page ranks better, has better values, and has more backlinks.

This is the page to build on in the future. You optimize this page and – if it makes sense – add the content from the other page.

For example, 2, would mean that you just keep a page about the best grills and merge the contents on the page with the stronger values.

Then deleted the other page and set up redirection. After that, you should remove internal links pointing to the deleted page and replace them with the correct page. Because even if there is a redirect, the signals are clearer for search engines. By doing so, you have already solved the problem of keyword cannibalism. This is the simplest case.

Both pages should remain

However, it is often not easy to identify a page with higher added value. Sometimes it makes sense to keep both pages because one might rank for a topic it wasn’t intended for. It does not always make sense to merge both pages together.

Instead, you should at the content level do a revision. You may shorten the text section on the overview page and make a clearer reference to the subpage from there. It is worthwhile to use the anchor texts for internal links on your own website and make sure that the term beamer always leads to your subpage. With that, you should already be able to solve the problem.

In other cases, so-called canonization is useful. One page per tag is set as the primary page and the other is subordinate to it. The content can still be found on the website, but the SEO power only benefits one of the articles.

Another possibility is to visit one of the pages to Noindex so that it is not indexed at all. However, this is only the last solution. Rather, one should work with canonization, because in this way the positive signals of the second page benefit the first page.

Conclusion: keyword cannibalism

Did you spot the signs of keyword cannibalism? Then the general rule is: Keep calm. After all, this can happen quickly – and in most cases, it can be easily fixed. Just follow this roadmap:

  • If you have the If you see signs of keyword cannibalism, take a closer look at the affected pages.
  • Check the search intentions of the affected pages. If the goals are clearly different (purchase vs. information), everything is okay. Otherwise, you must take action.
  • Consider removing the duplicate pages or not. You take a close look at which page ranks better, offers the greater added value, has more backlinks, and whether your website works without any of the pages.
  • A page can be deleted? Then merge the content on the stronger page, set up redirects, and replace the internal links.
  • Both sides should remain. Then optimize the content and, if necessary, use canonization or no-index.

By following this plan, you will be prepared for any case of keyword cannibalism.

By Ephatech

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