Skip to main content

Keyword Cannibalisation - What It Is, and How to Fix It

Written by James Tudge on .
Magnifying glass over blocks that spell keyword

Keyword cannibalisation; it’s a funny old term, but it’s a concept that has significant importance for good quality content, which impacts the success of a website’s SEO. Fortunately, this article is here to explore what keyword cannibalisation is, how it can harm SEO efforts and how to avoid it happening altogether.

What Is Keyword Cannibalisation?

The term keyword cannibalisation refers to a situation in which multiple pages on a website are targeting the same or similar keywords. When this happens, these pages compete against each other in search engine results which can dilute the overall visibility of a website’s pages and the effectiveness of any SEO efforts. Google loves fresh content that is informative and useful, so by offering new, unique content, you stand a better chance of being seen on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Admittedly, keyword cannibalisation can occur unintentionally; often when a website lacks a strong strategy, site coordination is affected. When a website is managed by others and they create content without considering the wider SEO strategy, content can often be repetitive and search engines like Google can become confused.

Whilst it is commonly referred to as “keyword cannibalisation”, it happens more because of repeated content than just repeated keywords.

Keyword Cannibalisation vs Keyword Stuffing

Both these terms are often confused with each other, but they are different and are both harmful to the effectiveness of SEO in their own right. Keyword cannibalisation refers to repeated content, perhaps done through two pages targeting the same primary keyword and sharing similar content, creating unwanted competition between them. Keyword stuffing focuses more on the overuse of keywords on a single page, inappropriately placing them in bodies of content or in ways that read unnaturally.

An example of keyword cannibalisation; if a website features two blog posts targeting the keyword “healthiest fruit”, both posts may compete with each other for rankings in SERPs, reducing their visibility.

An example of keyword stuffing; if a website decides to repeat the keyword “cheap trainers” an unnecessary amount of times throughout content, meta tags and hidden text, especially when it is not contextually relevant, it is engaging in keyword stuffing and may be penalised by Google.

How Does Keyword Cannibalisation Harm SEO?

Cartoon of virus

There are 3 main ways in which SEO is harmed by keyword cannibalisation, all of which are similar in the outcome for a website. Keyword cannibalisation;

  • Reduces a website’s authority
  • Confuses the search engines
  • Lowers click-through rates

Reduces Authority

The first way in which SEO is harmed is through a reduction in authority since inbound links are split across multiple pages. Usually, authority is consolidated on a single page, but instead, the overall relevance of the page is diluted; this reduced authority can lead to a lack of trust in the website.

Confuses Search Engines

This harmful impact on SEO has been mentioned in the article already, but it is an important factor to consider. Search engines may have difficulty determining which page to rank highest for a given keyword if the content is too similar on multiple pages, leading to lower rankings overall. This has unfortunate consequences for your website; almost 70% of clicks come from the top 3 organically ranked search results.

Confused User Experience

Keyword cannibalisation does not just confuse search engines; it can confuse users too. Multiple pages that appear in search results for the same query can confuse users and diminish their trust in the website's credibility. This confusion may lead to decreased click-through rates and engagement.

Does This Mean That I Can’t Use the Same Keywords Across Multiple Pages?

In short, no. You can appropriately use the same keywords on multiple pages relatively risk-free, but content needs to be unique and you need to understand the user intent for each page. If you have multiple pages using similar language, answering a very closely related question and/or with a similar intent, the chances are that this content is cannibalised.

A good example of avoiding keyword cannibalisation but focusing on similar/same keywords is through some of the SEO-related articles we write at Beyond Your Brand. We cover similar topics relating to SEO, but make sure the intent of each article is different; this article and the keyword stuffing article share similar keywords, based on harming SEO, but we have made sure that different intentions are clear, helping our readers differentiate.

How Can You Identify Keyword Cannibalisation?

There are a few ways in which you can identify content that could be cannibalised. By trying each of these to assess the content on your website, you can reduce the chances of keyword cannibalisation happening again, or rectify it early on before it harms your online presence. Let's explore some of the ways to identify the signs of keyword cannibalisation;

Running a Google Site Search Analysis

Site search analysis

“Google Site: Search Operator” is a useful tool for finding what pages on your website rank for the same keywords. By entering your domain name, you can quickly identify any pages that could be competing for the same things, confusing the intent. If any of your pages are doing so, it is important that you take action to prevent any further damage to your SEO.

Using Google Search Console

Google Search Console, also known as GSC, is another helpful website for tracking what keywords feature on different pages. From this, you can see how the pages are performing in terms of click-through rates and impressions. If pages are performing poorly, it could be because of keyword cannibalisation. To effectively use GSC, enter your website domain, click on “Search Results” under “Performance”, select “Queries”, and then filter by “Pages” to spot what pages share the same keywords.

Create an SEO-Targeted Spreadsheet

Create a spreadsheet involving the different URLs of your web pages to analyse keywords and metadata used on each one; match each URL with the keywords used, so you can review related pages with ease. By keeping track of this, and updating it every time a new webpage is created, any duplicated content and keyword overlapping can be easily identified. This is perhaps the most simple way of tracking content but isn’t as detailed as using GSC or Google Site: Search Operator.

Strategies to Address and Reduce Keyword Cannibalisation

Cartoon of man inspecting laptop

If you have completed the above and found cases of keyword cannibalisation, don’t panic - all is not lost. By using some of the suggested strategies below, you can soon get your website back on the right path;

  • Consolidate similar content
  • Implement proper internal linking
  • Use canonical tags
  • Update meta tags and headers
  • Regularly audit content
  • Ensure all your content creators are aligned with the same strategy

Consolidate Similar Content

If you have multiple pages sharing the same content and targeting similar keywords, you may want to consider consolidating them onto a single, authoritative page. By combining the content from multiple pages, you can ensure that the consolidated page provides comprehensive coverage of the main theme whilst maintaining relevance to the target keyword and intent. It’s a good idea to use your data to first determine which page has the most value in terms of traffic volume and authority.

Implement Proper Internal Linking

By reviewing the internal linking structure of your website, you can reinforce hierarchy and relevance to your content. You should use anchor text strategically to indicate the primary focus of each page and help guide search engine crawlers to the most relevant content.

Use Canonical Tags

Canonical tags can be placed on pages with similar content to indicate the preferred version to search engines. These tags help consolidate ranking signals while preventing search engines from indexing and ranking duplicate content separately.

Update Meta Tags and Headers

By optimising meta tags, such as title tags and meta descriptions, and headers, such as H1, H2 and H3 tags, pages that target similar keywords can be differentiated. Create unique and compelling meta descriptions to encourage more clicks and improve user engagement.

Regularly Audit and Update Content

This is a simple but effective way of ensuring that you don’t have multiple pages confusing each other. By conducting regular audits of your website’s content you can see what content no longer serves a purpose and which content competes with other pages unnecessarily.

Ensure All Your Content Creators Are Aligned With the Same Strategy

Keyword cannibalisation often happens because there are multiple different content creators making content for the same site, overlapping and duplicating content. By ensuring that all your content creators are on the same page, and aligning with the SEO strategy, you can reduce the risk of content duplication, keeping each page with a unique intent.

Things to Avoid When Fixing Keyword Cannibalisation

It is just as important to know what to avoid when it comes to addressing keyword cannibalisation, as opposed to fixing it. By ensuring you understand each factor below, you’ll be on your way to creating compelling, unique content that stands a higher chance of being ranked well on search engines;

  • Ignoring user intent
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Ignoring data and analytics
  • Focusing solely on short-term fixes

Ignoring User Intent

Focusing solely on keyword optimisation without considering your users’ intent can lead to a poor user experience and ultimately harm your SEO efforts. Instead of solely targeting keywords, prioritise creating high-quality, valuable content that meets the needs and preferences of your target audience, adding authority to your website.

Keyword Stuffing

As mentioned earlier, keyword stuffing can create unnatural content, resulting in penalties from search engines, and damaging your website's credibility. By focusing on high-quality content that naturally uses relevant keywords, your content will enhance user experience.

Ignoring Data and Analytics

If you fail to monitor and analyse the performance of your site, you will hinder your ability to identify and address keyword cannibalisation effectively. Regularly monitor the performance of your web pages and keywords, using the strategies mentioned in the previous section.

Focusing Solely on Short-Term Fixes

Whilst it is important to address keyword cannibalisation promptly, by focusing solely on short-term fixes without considering long-term implications, recurring issues can become a problem. By having a holistic approach to SEO, considering factors such as content quality, user intent and user experience, you can prevent the same problems from occurring.

We Make Your SEO Easy

At Beyond Your Brand, we take pride in being SEO experts with a range of expertise in content creation. We want to optimise your website to get you more clicks, and ultimately, more interactions with new clients. Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help.

Get in touch

Find out about our work in all things marketing! Let us help you and your business grow.