Keyword cannibalization is an SEO issue that often goes unnoticed but has a huge potential impact on your rankings. Unfortunately, with many SEO tool sets, it can be a long, laborious, manual task to find and solve issues of keyword cannibalization. Not so with SEO Scout. Our Keyword Cannibalization tool automates the process, saving you time to spend optimizing your SEO elsewhere.
With that said, in this article, we’ll discuss how keyword cannibalization can impact your SEO, and how to identify and fix it quickly and easily with SEO Scout. But first of all...
What Is Keyword Cannibalization?
Keyword cannibalization happens when you have multiple pages on your site that rank for the same search query. It can be because the topic they cover is too similar or because you optimized them for the same keywords.
Because Google usually only shows one or two results from the same domain in the search results for each query, this means your pages are diluting each others’ chances of ranking. So, not only are you competing with every other site in your niche, but you’re also in competition with yourself. Not good.
Why Is Keyword Cannibalization An Issue?
You might think that the more pages you have targeting the same keyword, the better your ranking will be. However, that’s not true. Keyword cannibalization can have a negative impact on your SEO by:
- Confusing Google as to which page should rank highest. With two or more pages targeting the same keyword, Google can’t identify which page is more authoritative, so you may end up with a page ranking above one that’s more relevant to a user’s search intent.
- Diluting your authority. Instead of targeting a set keyword phrase with one page that Google recognizes as high authority, you split CTR between more, less authoritative pages.
- Diluting links and anchor text. Backlinks are a key ranking factor in Google’s algorithms. When you have two similar pages, the inbound links are split between them and so is the chance of ranking. If you consolidate those backlinks into one authoritative page, it’s much more likely to rank higher.
- Diluting conversions. If your users are landing on the wrong page for their search intent, they’re less likely to convert. Equally, they might convert but purchase something that results in a lower profit margin for you, because the wrong page is ranking higher.
- Misusing your crawl budget. Your crawl budget is how often a search engine crawls your domain. The more often your site is crawled, the quicker search engines recognize changes you’ve made and therefore the quicker your optimization efforts will take effect. With cannibalized pages, particularly for larger websites and e-commerce sites, search engines will crawl and index pages that aren’t needed, wasting your crawl budget.
When Is Keyword Cannibalization Not An Issue?
Keyword cannibalization is really about a user’s search intent. The page you want to rank is the page that answers exactly what the user is searching for. By meeting the user’s needs, you’re also showing Google your authority in your niche so it will rank you higher. Sometimes, though, seemingly cannibalized pages can meet different search intents without competing with each other.
Let’s look at an example:
Air France ranks in positions 8 and 9 on Google UK for “flights to Paris”. The lower-ranking page is targeted for booking flights to Paris and provides greater value to the user specifically looking to complete this goal.
Having said that, the first link directs to Air France’s homepage, where users who are considering booking flights to Paris can do so, while also learning more about other flight options available. In this case, keyword cannibalization isn’t really harming the site’s ranking.
Equally, keyword cannibalization is not an issue when targeting primary and secondary keywords within a page. Sometimes, as well as targeting a primary keyword term, a page might target several related secondary keyword phrases too.
While no two articles should target the same primary terms, the primary keyword target in one article can be a secondary keyword target in another. This is also a great opportunity to link between content and build on your internal linking structure.
How To Identify & Solve Keyword Cannibalization
Unlike many other leading SEO solutions, SEO Scout automates the process of finding and fixing instances of keyword cannibalization on your site, saving you huge amounts of time manually sifting through CSVs to identify duplicates. We use Google Search Console integration to give accurate insights into your ranking data. In this section, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to finding and solving keyword cannibalization with SEO Scout.
Finding Keyword Cannibalization With SEO Scout
On our Keyword Rank Tracker report, you can filter to cannibalized keywords. The far-right column showing “# pages” flags the number of pages on your site that ranked for the given keyword during the selected time period:
Click on that number to find which pages were ranking on which dates, as well as which page appears more frequently at a higher position:
Using this data, you can then identify which page you want to rank for those particular keywords, and which pages you want to target different keywords. In the above case, the top page has the most clicks and impressions. So, we would turn our attention to fixing the keyword cannibalization in the other two pages to increase its authority.
Fixing Keyword Cannibalization With SEO Scout
There are several different strategies to solve keyword cannibalization issues on your site depending on the content that needs fixing:
Delete & Redirect The Competing Pages
This is the simplest way to solve keyword cannibalization issues and works when you have multiple pages targeting the same or similar keywords but you really only need one of the pages to be live.
After identifying the most authoritative page using our Keyword Cannibalization tool, delete the other pages and “301 redirect” their URLs to that remaining page. Make sure you redirect all internal links too. The competing pages should drop out of Google’s index within a few weeks, leaving your strongest page to rank higher.
Consolidate/Canonicalize Competing Pages
This slightly more complex method is useful when you can’t delete the cannibalized pages and just keep one page. For example, if the competing pages contain content you need from a UX perspective, if they’re PPC landing pages, or if there are CMS restrictions on removing them.
Using canonical tags, select the strongest page as the primary one. All of the competing pages will remain accessible to users, however, the primary page will be the only one to rank on the SERP and all links will be attributed to it.
Note: while some SEOs may advise using noindex tags so that Google doesn’t crawl the competing pages, these don’t attribute ranking signals to the strongest page, so we recommend using canonical tags for this strategy.
Improve Internal Linking
Improving your site’s internal linking structure is essential to boost your ranking, keyword cannibalization or not. While it can stop link authority from being split across multiple pages, it’s best to implement this strategy alongside others, like re-optimizing content, as alone it may not be enough to fix cannibalization issues.
After identifying your strongest page of those cannibalized, place links to it in the content of your less authoritative competing pages. Then use SEO Scout’s Internal Link Analysis tool to find other relevant but less important pages on your site to link to the strongest page too.
Check our Internal Anchor Text feature to ensure you’re using unique anchor texts. Use SEO Scout’s NLP-powered Keyword Research tools to find synonyms and long-tail keyword modifiers to create natural, and relevant anchor texts for each link.
Rewrite & Optimize The Competing Pages
Often, keyword cannibalization occurs when you haven’t optimized a page for keyword variations. Rewriting competing content to target keyword synonyms and long-tail variations allows you to target - and rank for - a more diverse range of terms without diluting the authority of your strongest pages.
Run your cannibalized keywords through SEO Scout’s natural language processing-powered Keyword Intent Categorizer, Topic Research, Keyword Grouping, and Question Keywords tools to find new, long-tail phrases to target instead.
You can then view this new keyword research in our Content Optimization Tool, which allows you to create in-depth, authoritative articles that will dominate SEO.
Finally, use our Keyword Opportunities and Competitive Research tools to identify where you’re missing intent-focused content, where you’re ranking for keywords unintentionally, and where your competitors are ranking for keywords you’re not. Then use this data to create even more new SEO content to target what users are actually searching for.
Audit & Fix Your Site’s Ranking Issues With SEO Scout
Finding and solving keyword cannibalization issues improves your site’s performance by directing Google to the pages you want to rank highest. Using SEO Scout’s powerful range of SEO and analysis tools, it’s a quick and simple way to give your rankings a boost. See for yourself how many keyword cannibalization issues are affecting your site and how easy it is to fix them giving our 7-day free trial a go!