Keyword cannibalization is a common search engine ranking issue that occurs when a website’s individual webpages are competing against each other for valuable keywords. When similar keywords are used across several pages of a website, Google can no longer identify what the most relevant pages are, which can lead to a decrease in overall web traffic and organic search rank. Below, we walk you through how to identify and fix cannibalized keywords on your website.
How to Identify Keyword Cannibalization
If you suspect your website is suffering from keyword cannibalization, there are several ways you can check for this common SEO issue.
Check Your Google Search Analytics
Your website’s performance metrics can offer a lot of insight into how your target keywords are performing and driving results (or lack thereof). To check for cannibalization, look at your website’s analytics on Google Search Console and see which keywords each page ranks for. If multiple pages are ranking highly for the same keyword, this could indicate your website content is competing with itself in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Use Keyword Cannibalization Tools
If you don’t want to search for SEO issues manually, there are a number of paid online tools specifically designed to identify cannibalized keywords on your website. Keylogs’ Keyword Cannibalization Checker identifies problem areas on your site with a single click. SEOScout’s Cannibalization Checker gives you a convenient report of duplicate keywords that appear on your site to help you find instances of keyword cannibalization. And Semrush Position Tracking Tool offers comprehensive insight into your website’s search engine rank, including data that can highlight cannibalization issues. There’s also Ahref’s Keyword Rank Checker that can help you monitor keyword rank for free!
How to Fix Keyword Cannibalization
After identifying where keyword cannibalization is impacting your website, there are a few steps you can take to fix this issue and improve your overall SEO strategy moving forward.
Consolidate or Remove Webpages
Multiple webpages that satisfy the same user intent or provide similar information commonly lead to keyword cannibalization issues. In these instances, you might consider combining content into a single page. This addresses the issue of cannibalized keywords and can even help you build stronger, in-depth content on your webpages. Now, in cases where content is repetitive but doesn’t add value or cannot be combined with another page, it might be worth getting rid of the page altogether. If you do delete a webpage, make sure to set up 301 redirects.
Going back through old content and reoptimizing keywords is another way you can address keyword cannibalization. By outlining which keywords your webpage content already ranks well for and looking for opportunities to target other keyword types you may have missed, you can differentiate that page’s content so that other webpages on your site aren’t direct competitors.
Set Up Canonical Tags
One common reason for keyword cannibalization is a lack of canonical tags—that is, lines of code that designate a specific webpage to be the preferred version for indexing and ranking when other pages with similar or identical content (such as foreign language translations) exist. Without these tags, Google will decide for itself which page it believes to be most relevant. Since these pages share content, including keywords, this can lead to keyword cannibalization. To fix this, specify which webpage you want Google to index as the original content by setting a canonical URL.
Avoid Duplicate Content Ideas
When creating content for your website going forward, keep track of what information you’ve already shared on your webpages and what target keywords you used. This can help you avoid creating too-similar content and running into cannibalization issues in the future. This doesn’t mean you can’t ever create content that overlaps or shares similar points, but you should be mindful of adding content with the same topics. Consider new approaches to these topics, keywords you previously haven’t targeted, or even different marketing goals for those pages.