What is keyword cannibalization and why it is bad for SEO

Keyword cannibalization is the practice of optimizing multiple pages on your website for the same keyword. It’s often a byproduct of trying to rank for a certain term multiple times, but it can also occur when two different pages naturally target the same keyword without anyone realizing it.

Keyword cannibalization is bad because it can confuse search engines and cause them to inexplicably overlook pages that would otherwise be relevant. This means if you’re unintentionally indulging in keyword cannibalization on your website, you could be preventing some of your content from ranking as well as it should. How do you know if this is happening? And how do you fix it?

Why It Happens

Keyword cannibalization often occurs when a website tries to rank for the same keyword on multiple pages. Why does it happen? It is actually quite common, particularly on large sites, and most of the time it is completely unintentional.

Maybe you have a website about dog training and you have a blog post about “how to stop a dog barking in the car”. You may also have another blog post that you write a year ago titled “5 ways to stop dogs barking in the car”. Although both posts might have valuable content they are essentially targeting the same topic. This will confuse Google and they will be unsure about which page they should show in the search results.

How to know if your website is suffering from keyword cannibalization

It can be difficult to determine whether or not your website is subject to keyword cannibalization without doing regular audits of your pages and keywords. You can use Google Search Console data in conjunction with tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs to see if you’re using the same keywords too often on different pages.

How to fix keyword cannibalization

If you find that your website is suffering from keyword cannibalization there are a few different things you can do to fix the problem.

If you have two pages targeting the same keyword there are two approaches you can take depending on the content:

  1. You can merge the content from both pages into one page. This is the most common approach as it has the added value of making your new combined post even more valuable to the user, which is always a good thing! If you do this method make sure that you also add a 301 redirect to the page you are removing so any links or existing authority to that page will be passed on.
  2. You can edit your content or split up the content so each page targets a different keyword. This is a good approach to take if you have a lot of content and your keyword is very general as it gives you the opportunity to split it up and target each page to a more specific keyword.

Keyword cannibalization is also common with large websites or e-commerce sites where there might be multiple url structures for each product (for example under different categories). You shouldn’t remove these pages as they are often there to improve the user experience. Instead, you can use rel=canonical tags. This will tell Google which version of the page they should use in the SERPs (search engine results pages).

Conclusion

If you’re a content creator, editor, or SEO specialist working on a website with multiple pages and lots of content, it can be hard to keep tabs on every single page. You may even think that it’s not worth your time to go through each page individually and make sure that they don’t cannibalize keywords from one another. However, we hope this article has shown you how important this practice really is. It can mean the difference between your website ranking well on search engines or not at all!

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