What Is Keyword Cannibalization and How Can I Avoid It?

When a website focuses on using the same or similar keywords across multiple pages, this can be incredibly confusing for search engines—and can make it difficult to accurately crawl the pages and rank for those keywords. Known as keyword cannibalization, this practice ultimately leads to the dilution of your website’s search engine authority, the visibility of your pages in search, and a decrease in click-through rates. 

To avoid keyword cannibalization, you must: 

  1. Identify pages targeting the same keywords.
  2. Make changes to those pages by combining or redirecting them to a single, authoritative page. 
  3. Use different variations of keywords on your web pages to ensure that each page targets a unique, specific search query.

To avoid keyword cannibalization, you need to untangle pages targeting the same or similar keywords and instead create single pages targeting singularly specific keywords. This will help lessen the confusion created when different pages across your website compete for the same keywords and ultimately harm your website’s organic SEO performance.

Whenever you generate new content, it should target specific keywords to improve ranks in search engine results pages (SERPs). As you continue to add new content to your website, you should avoid using identical keywords on different pages. Varying the topics you cover across your website can also be an excellent way to make positive changes. 

Aim to own your particular content niche and build authority by identifying the topic you want to focus on and subtopics you can build into specific pages. This approach will help you organise your content—and avoid repeating keywords and messaging across your website.  

To help you establish a successful SEO strategy that avoids keyword cannibalization and ranks pages high in search, let’s review what happens if your website may have keyword repetition and look at how best to fix or avoid it.

What Happens If My Site Has Keyword Cannibalization Issues?

As discussed above, keyword cannibalization happens when content across your web pages leverages the same keyword targets, creating competition between the pages within your site. This is highly detrimental to your site’s SEO. 

To better understand why you want to avoid keyword cannibalization, let’s look at a few issues when you reuse too many keywords. 

Decreased page authority

The goal of SEO is building authority for your web pages, which is how most search engines maintain a site’s reputation or trustworthiness rating. But, splitting up keywords across different pages reduces your authority as your pages will try to compare against other pages on your website. This competition between your site pages generally results in your website’s authority taking a hit because of the diluted effectiveness of your SEO efforts. 

When your pages compete with one another, none of them will do well. 

Poor conversion rates 

Keyword cannibalization can hurt your conversion rates, too. If users can’t find the information they’ve come to your pages in search of, they’ll leave without completing the desired actions. That translates to fewer sales for you, higher bounce rates, and reduced SERP ranking and page authority. 

Reduced click-throughs, relevance, and ranking

If your site suffers from keyword cannibalization issues, search engines may be unable to accurately distil the difference between your pages—making it impossible to catalogue their relevance and rank them accordingly in SERPs. Additionally, your click-through rate may decrease because users will be confused about which page to click. This can lead to higher bounce rates and lower engagement across your site.

Wasted search engine crawl budget

Search engines use spiders to crawl websites; this is how all the pages on the web are indexed. Since a seemingly infinite number of pages are created daily, different search engines must adhere to an allotted crawl budget. A crawl budget is the time a spider is given to scan your pages. If your website’s crawl budget is wasted due to confusion with keyword cannibalization, your pages won’t be indexed or ranked—making them invisible to potential customers.  

Bad UX (user experience)

Users want to navigate your website and pages easily. When they search for different terms, they expect a certain type of page result. If your website displays different pages for the same term, users won’t be able to access the info they need. This creates confusion and a poor user experience, which means your site visitors will likely leave quickly and not return.   

Six Ways to Fix or Avoid Keyword Cannibalization

As described earlier in this article, keyword cannibalization occurs when multiple pages on a website target the same keyword or phrase. This can prevent your web pages from being visible to search engines and prevent them from ranking in SERPs. To help avoid keyword cannibalization, you can take the following steps to help boost your SEO strategy and build stronger content:

1. Find Cannibalization Issues

The most effective way to check your site for keyword cannibalization issues is to conduct a keyword audit. There are several different ways to audit your site, but the following are the most common and can be the most helpful, too.

  • Manual keyword collection: Review each page’s titles, meta descriptions, and content to determine if they target the same keyword. Then, list all the keywords and phrases you use across your web pages and record them in a spreadsheet. You can group them by topic or similarities and track how often they’re used and across what pages.
  • Use an SEO tool. Google Analytics or Google Search Console are two popular tools to audit your site and review the search queries driving traffic to your website.
  • Try web crawler tools. Many site owners successfully use favourites like Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Screaming Frog to analyse website content and find pages that may be targeting the same keyword.

Once your audit is complete, you’ll have information to help you make educated decisions about fixing any keyword cannibalization issues. 

After you’re able to identify keyword cannibalization issues, focus on what pages you may need to combine or where you may need to build redirects. And, to avoid problems in the future, make keyword auditing part of your content-creation routine so your pages are always well-maintained and achieve the best possible SERP rank. 

2. Avoid Overstuffing Keywords

As you might guess, “overstuffing” keywords are when content creators cram words that don’t make sense into their pages. Instead, these pages are “stuffed” with strong targeted keywords only in the hopes of ranking higher in search. This serves no good purpose for the reader and ultimately hurts SEO. 

Keyword stuffing is considered a negative, black hat SEO technique and is generally used by shady websites. They implement stuffing to trick search algorithms into finding their pages more relevant. But with the frequency with which search engine algorithms are constantly evolving, the chances of getting flagged for such practices are high. 

Bottom line: Avoid keyword stuffing. It’s poor content practice—and may also cause keyword cannibalization issues, which aren’t always easy to fix.

3. Find Important Pages

If you’ve already been creating content with SEO, you likely have a content tree that focuses on your niche topics, keywords, and customer needs. But your pages may have some overlapping keyword targets.

After your audit, you should be able to identify these overlaps and look for ways to combine or redirect pages that are competing with one another. Then, you may have to make tough decisions and look at which pages are more important for you—and which ones you can do without. 

Consider organising your content, so you have one long piece for each main topic. You can then use this content to introduce supplementary topics and dive more deeply into those topics in other content pages. This can help you organise your content pages—it can help lessen keyword cannibalization and create a more dynamic user experience that helps guide readers deeper into your web pages.  

4. Define Keyword Strategy

Defining a keyword strategy before building your site is the best way to avoid keyword-related issues. It will also help you to make a strong content plan.

Research and select keywords most important to you, your business, and your website to build a good keyword strategy. Then build these keywords into your content and meta tags to help strengthen your SEO.

Understanding search intents and your customers’ most popular queries will help you define a great keyword strategy that clearly defines what keywords belong to which pages.

5. Focus on the Topic

To rank high in SERPs successfully, focus your efforts on subjects you can “own” and be an expert in. In addition, your niche topic should align closely with your business goals and objectives and provide actual value to your customers. 

Just writing a keyword-packed article won’t cut it. So, you’ll want to avoid spending time and resources on trending keywords and building your content on that relatively soft foundation. Instead, hone in on your target topics and build from them. Think about your clients and what problems you can help solve with your products and services, and deliver ideas and solutions to them in a way they can understand and use. Remember that Google uses natural language processing to help ensure it provides top results relevant to users.

6. Track Keyword Performance

The best way for you to find success with SEO is to audit, iterate, and update constantly. Track which keywords are working well for your website, and shed those that are underperforming.

You can enlist the help of SEO tools, like Google Search Console, to help you examine what keywords are ranking best for you and helpful insights regarding your keyword performance metrics.

Any shifts to your rank or page performance can then be adjusted to help you strive for higher SERP ranking.

How Do I Fix Keyword Cannibalization in My Content?

Any business that operates online is highly reliant on a good SERP ranking. And there are a variety of factors to consider if you want to achieve those top rankings and build solid site authority. But making the mistake of keyword cannibalization can fast-track you in the opposite direction of reaching your SEO goals. Knowing how to avoid, identify, and fix keyword issues will help your business grow exponentially. 

Three key ways to resolve cannibalization issues include:

  • Merging Similar Pages: You can combine two or more conflicting pages into one. 
  • Delete content or remove keywords: Another method of getting rid of conflicting pages is to remove the content or even delete the whole page if it is not particularly valuable. You can also remove old keywords causing issues with your important pages. 
  • Modify your interlinks: Sometimes, changing the word that is interlinked may resolve the cannibalization issue. Search engines sometimes flag different interlinks in pages that use the same word. You should also review the URL structure to resolve any further problems. 

Keyword cannibalization can be an easy mistake to make. It may even be holding your website back and preventing you from reaching your SEO potential. Luckily, as discussed in this article, there are ways to find and fix keyword cannibalization situations across your site pages.