What is keyword cannibalization? How to find & fix it in 2021 [An easy Guide]

Hi, I’m Praneeth Kumar.

In this post, we will look at what is keyword cannibalization, understand the concept of keyword cannibalization with examples, Why it is an important issue to deal with, we will see how to find and fix the issue on the website.

Driving traffic to your website from SEO is hard, If you do this mistake of keyword cannibalization, SEO can be even harder for your website.

If you avoid this single mistake, it can save you up to a year of time in making mistakes and learning them and speed up your success, It is my own personal experience.

So without further ado, let’s get started.

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What is keyword cannibalization?

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Keyword cannibalization is an issue where if you have several or more than 1 blog post or page at least targeting a similar or same search query and Keyword with the same search intent on your website.

In simple words, It is an issue of having the same information and content on multiple pages of a website.

To help you better understand the concept of Keyword cannibalization, let’s take a look at a few examples.

Examples of Keyword cannibalization.

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Let’s take a look at two scenarios where you will understand what is the keyword cannibalization and what is not.

What is not keyword cannibalization?

Keywords can be confusing sometimes, if you have many pages targeting the same keyword it is not called keyword cannibalization.

Take a look at a few examples,

Search ‘’SEO’’ in Google.

You can see Moz ranking in the top 1&2 results.

what is keyword cannibalization

Another example,

Search ‘content vs backlinks’ keyword in Google.

You can see the search engine journal is ranking in the top 1&2 positions.

what is keyword cannibalization

Even though both the websites are targeting the same keyword,

They are not Keyword cannibalization, because the search intent and content for 2 websites pages for that specific Keyword are different even if the target keyword is the same.

It is not Keywords but if the search intent is the same in multiple pages of a website, it is called a Keyword cannibalization issue.

What is the Keyword cannibalization?

Don’t look at the keywords now,

To better understand what is keyword cannibalization here are a few examples.

If you optimize multiple blog posts on keywords like these,

Or, 

Or,

  • What are backlinks and how can you build them?
  • Link building strategies ultimate guide.

Because these examples are Keywords that are different from each other, You might think it is not a cannibalization issue.

But, it is keyword cannibalization even if the keywords are totally different.

Because the search intent and content are the same in all the blog posts.

Search intent is what the searcher is looking for [what information] when he or she searches that query in the search engine, you can learn more about it here.

Now that you know what is Keyword cannibalization, let’s see why it is an issue to be solved.

Why is keyword cannibalization an issue?

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Keyword cannibalization is one of those serious issues that can hold your website rankings and performance in search.

To better understand why this is an issue, let’s consider an example.

If you have a blog about SEO and digital marketing.

Let’s assume, you have written a couple of blog posts regarding any topic let’s say,

Link building like this,

  • What are backlinks and how you can build them?
  • Link building strategies ultimate guide.

This is clearly a Keyword cannibalization issue.

Because you have optimized 2 blog posts for a similar search intent and have the same content in 2 blog posts.

Here are 5 important reasons why it is an issue.

  1. Google’s algorithms will be confused in deciding which of the two blog posts is of high quality and which one to rank in search results.
  2. Because you have 2 blog posts targeting a similar query, these two blog posts will fight with each other for CTR, page views, and user engagement in search results instead of fighting with other websites’ blog posts for higher rankings.
  3. Because keyword cannibalization creates confusion for Google algorithms, Google is more likely to ignore the most relevant page on your website for that keyword and rank pages which it thinks are good and relevant but this can seriously affect your business conversions and user engagement because the organic traffic visits the wrong or poor page for that topic on your website and content is what drive people to convert into customers and leads.
  4. This can seriously impact your website authority in Google and users because having multiple pages optimized around the same intent keywords can let users know that the content in the blog post is probably stretched thin and it tells Google that blog posts optimized are not matched with the keywords or don’t have any good and ultimate resource for that query in any one of the posts.
  5. It is just bad for users because while internal linking between these 2 pages, creates a bad user engagement because users are directed to the same information in different blog posts without any unique value provided and it can dilute the power of backlinks, anchor text, and internal links.

Don’t take my word for it,

John Muller who is the senior Webmaster trends analyst in Google answered about Keyword cannibalization question in Reddit that,

what is keyword cannibalization

He says with Keyword cannibalization the issue is similar to having a bunch of kids wanting to be first in line.

What he personally recommends is that,

To have few stronger pages than lots of weaker ones which is what happens in Keyword cannibalization.

So you now know keyword cannibalization is an important issue to be dealt with immediately because it impacts the conversions of businesses.

Let’s see how you can identify and fix keyword cannibalization issues.

How to find & fix keyword cannibalization?

In this section, we will learn, How you can find and fix the issue.

Let’s get started.

How to find keyword cannibalization issues?

what is keyword cannibalization

Look, 

There are 3 main ways to find Keyword cannibalization issues on your website.

  1. Run a content audit.
  2. Use Google search operator.
  3. Use Google search console.

Let’s see how you can find the issue with each step.

  1. Run a content audit.

what is keyword cannibalization

You can run a content audit of the website and check the cannibalization issue using premium SEO tools like SEMrush.

After running a content audit, make a table of 2 columns with 1 being the URL of the page of your website and the other one being the target keyword optimized for the page.

You can also include the title and meta description of those pages in your report if you want.

what is keyword cannibalization

Now to find the keyword cannibalization issue on your website,

Check for multiple pages which have the same keywords optimized for them.

This way you can find and see manually whether the search intent of the keyword and the content or information present is the same or not in all those pages.

  1. Use the Google search operator.

This is simple,

To find keyword cannibalization issue with your website,

Go to google search engine,

Search the following thing,

Type,

Site:your domain+keyword

For example, let’s take some website like my own blog and the Keyword I want to choose is backlinks,

I search something like this in google search,

Site:entrepreneurshipera.com backlinks

Now Google will show me all the results that have “backlinks” Keywords in the title or content and meta description in that website.

Like this,

site-entrepreneurshipera-com-backlinks-Google-Search

Now you see if any one of those results are duplicates and have the same information or appear to answer the same question through the titles in at least 2 Results.

This way you can easily identify the keyword cannibalization issue on your website within a matter of minutes through Google.

  1. Use the Google search console.

Google search console doesn’t just help you to see how many impressions and clicks you have received on your website.

You can use this amazing tool to find keyword cannibalization on your website as well.

Here is how you can do it.

Just visit the tool, open the performance report, and by default you can see the queries section in the first column.

Check the queries, click on any one of the queries, and then click on the pages tab to see what pages rank for that query and get traffic.

If you see more than one page or URL ranking for a query in the Google search console, you know it’s a keyword cannibalization issue that you need to fix.

Now that you know how to find the keyword cannibalization issue on your website,

Let’s see what are strategies you can use to fix the cannibalization issue safely.

How to fix keyword cannibalization issues?

There are three important strategies that you can use to fix the cannibalization issue on your website.

They’re these.

  1. Merge multiple posts into a single post and redirect all the URLs to this post.
  2. Use Canonical tags.
  3. Create a new page and improve internal links.

Let’s see the strategies in detail.

  1. Merge multiple posts into a single post & delete/redirect all the URLs to the main post.

what is keyword cannibalization

Because you have found that multiple blog posts have the same information and content, it is better to make a single best quality informative page merging all the posts into one rather than having multiple pages with half-half information like John Muller said.

But before working on this strategy you must do an important thing, 

Before merging all the content in a single post, list down all the pages which you found have cannibalization issue, and see how the pages are working in the search,

Check the following things,

  • Current rankings of those pages.
  • CTR of those pages in Google search.
  • How many backlinks the individual pages received?
  • Word count of those individual pages.
  • User engagement like dwell time, engagement rate in Google analytics on the individual pages.

It is the simple sense if you found 2 pages like the example I have taken earlier,

  • What are backlinks and how you can build them?
  • Link building strategies ultimate guide.

Any one of these pages would be slightly better than the other one and why mess up with pages which are already doing good in search results.

Let’s consider in my example, page 2 which is 

  • Link building strategies ultimate guide.

This page is performing better than the earlier one as it has good backlinks, higher word count, higher rankings, and good user engagement.

Now, to make this page the ultimate resource for link building strategies on your website,

Merge the content that is present on the other page which is not performing well into this page that is performing well.

The goal is to fill all the gaps and make the final page the best resource of information on that topic on your website and update the stats and information.

Now delete other pages and 301 redirect the other URLs to the main page so all the people and search engines can visit your target page.

  1. Use Canonical tags.

If you don’t want to delete other pages because they have a good word count and backlinks or user engagement or because it is important for your website for any reason. 

You can use canonical tags. Canonical tags are a form of telling search engine crawlers that a particular page is a copy of another page.

This helps prevent duplicate content and cannibalization issues on your website without deleting pages. 

  1. Create a new page and improve internal links.

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If you don’t have any of your cannibalized pages performing well in the search engine in terms of user engagement, rankings, and backlinks.

It is better to create a new unique page and URL and include all the information and content in the new page from all the existing pages and

Delete and redirect all the existing URLs of cannibalized pages to the new one so the backlinks and traffic and move to the main page.

Request indexing the new page in the Google search console and deindex the existing URLs in the search console.

And improve internal linking from other blog posts to this new page with better anchor text to let Google understand that this new page is important and priority so start ranking the new page.

Well these are all the popular strategies you can use to fix the keyword cannibalization issue on your website

Ending remarks.

There you go these are all the things you need to know about keyword cannibalization.

Do comment down what you think about the blog post and keyword cannibalization in the comments section below.

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Till then keep learning and keep growing.

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