Keyword Cannibalization

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What is keyword cannibalization?

Keyword Cannibalization
Figure: Keyword Cannibalization - Author: Seobility - License: CC BY-SA 4.0

Keyword cannibalization is when multiple pages on a website compete for the same keyword, reducing both pages’ ability to rank. Keyword cannibalization impacts a site’s rankings since multiple pages compete for a spot in the same SERP, which causes search engines to have to choose a preferred version.

The impact of keyword cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization can have a big impact on a site’s performance on search engines, especially if there are multiple instances of keyword cannibalization. Below are a few ways in which it can impact a website.

“Page power” split

Your off-page SEO efforts have to be split between multiple pages, which reduces its effectiveness. This means that “link juice” is less targeted. It may also reduce the flow to other pages on your site, affecting their rankings too.

Wastes crawl budget & possible duplicate content issues

Multiple pages targeting the same keyword wastes your crawl budget by allowing search engine crawlers to crawl both pages. If the pages are very similar, there may even be duplicate content issues.

Lower CTR (Click Through Rate)

When your pages are competing with each other, clicks will be going to both pages which reduces your CTR. Since the pages are competing and likely both ranking lower than just one page targeting the same keyword would, less traffic will be going to your site.

The search engine chooses a page

When there are two pages targeting the same keyword, it’s up to the search engine to choose which page will rank higher. This gives you less control over your rankings and may result in a lower quality page showing up in the SERPs.

How to avoid keyword cannibalization

There are a few different things that can be done to avoid keyword cannibalization, namely:

Merge pages

By merging two pages that are targeting the same content, you improve the backlink profile of the page while also improving the content. This can lead to the page driving more traffic as well as potentially positively impacting the rest of your site.

Subdomain or second site

If the content is sufficiently different, moving one of the pages to a sub-domain or another domain could be beneficial. This comes with the benefit that two pages can rank for the same keyword, but still causes some of the same issues as keyword cannibalization does, for example, the need to focus on multiple pages.

Change the keyword targeting

If the content is sufficiently different then changing the keyword the page targets could be beneficial. By targeting a different keyword that is still relevant to the page but sufficiently different from the original, keyword cannibalization can be eliminated.

Delete one of the pages

It’s very rare for a website to do due to the possibility of adverse SEO effects, but deleting one of the pages can also remove the issue.

Importance for SEO

Keyword cannibalization can cause major SEO issues, reducing the effectiveness of your SEO efforts. By actively searching for instances of keyword cannibalization and working to eliminate it, the performance of the pages, as well as your overall site, should improve.

Although it can happen to most sites, it’s especially common for sites with a lot of auto-generated content and sites that grow quickly.

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