What Is Keyword Cannibalisation and How to Fix It

Erin Payne

Jun 22 .

Keyword cannibalisation is something many marketers don’t even realise they are doing but can impact your rankings significantly. Don’t worry though, it’s not cannibalisation in the traditional sense of the word! (We’re looking at you Hannibal) When it comes to SEO, the term refers to having more than one page on your site targeting the same keyword and search intent.

For example, if you wanted to rank for “board games for parties”, you might create a blog titled “5 of the Best Board Games for Parties”. Fast forward a few years, and there are lots of great new options on the market. You create a new blog with the same keyword to highlight the new greatest list. This is keyword cannibalisation.

Although they are years apart, they have the same keyword and focus and are on the same site. They likely have similar content overall, maybe even some of the best board games are the same. So how will Google rank these? One must be sacrificed for another, and one won’t perform as highly as the other.

The problem

Some of the most common problems keyword cannibalisation can create include:

  • The URLs that rank for particular keywords keep changing as Google doesn’t know which one serves the purpose best
  • Rankings fluctuate from these conflicting signals and improving the ranking for them is difficult
  • Google instead ranks the wrong URL entirely, rather than the one you were focusing on
  • You lose all the SEO benefits you worked so hard for!



What to look out for

The above issues are obviously all signs of keyword cannibalisation, but how can you spot these? There are a few tools you can use to confirm this is what is happening.

Two free Google products you can use are Search Console and Search Operator.

Google Search Console (GSC) can quickly show you what URLs rank for certain queries. Start by heading to Performance. The report will automatically show the last 3 months of data. Scroll down and click on one of the Queries, then click the Pages tab to see what pages show for that search term. You can also manually search for a query by clicking the + New and selecting Query, then typing in the keyword you want to look at.

If there are multiple pages for the keyword, this could be due to cannibalisation. Note that GSC’s results are an average of the data they have, so filter down the results as much as possible for more accurate data. Having multiple URLs for a keyword also does not always mean cannibalisation, so collate these for more thorough review.

You can also check what pages are ranking for keywords by heading directly to Google and plugging in site:[domain] keyword. For example, site:iterateagency.com seo. Similarly to GSC, collate any double ups.

Once you have this list of pages with overlapping keywords, you can check the intent of the pages to see if there is an issue. If the pages have the same intent, you can confirm there is some cannibalisation and start to work on fixing this to ensure only one page is targeting a specific intent and keyword.

Fixing it

While there isn’t a specific set of steps for fixing cannibalisation on a site and the fix might be different depending on the situation, there are a few things you can do:

Re-optimise content

Perhaps the most obvious solution (although far from the only one!) is to look at how a page is optimised for the cannibalised keywords, and update it. Ecommerce is a great example for this – imagine you have a few pages for the same product in different colours but the content is, essentially, the same. Make sure the URLs, headers, and metadata are all different to show how each is unique and ensure they don’t overlap in SERPs.

Consolidate pages

If there are multiple pages showing for the same search intent but you don’t need them all, consider consolidating them into one spot. Rather than two weak pages that are fighting for rankings, you can create one stronger page with better content. Don’t forget to redirect the old pages towards the new, consolidated page.

Use canonical links or noindexing

It’s not always possible to remove pages ranking for the same things, but you can tell Google what page you want them to consider the “original”! Canonical links allow you to tell Google the right page to rank and to assign authority to that content as the original, or best, version. Examples where you may use this include PPC landing pages or CMS restrictions that cause duplicate content.

While using canonical links is preferred, the other option is to implement noindex tags. This allows all pages to exist on the site, but tells Google to crawl only one of them. However, this is an option you should only use in very specific cases, like a tags page on your blog that isn’t really a page you want to rank, but still need on your site.

Create new pages

Sometimes, you have very specific pages, but no overarching page. For example, pages advertising individual products like dresses, ranking for a more broad term like “womens dresses”. This is an opportunity to create a range category page to capture those terms, and ensure the product pages rank for their own, specific terms.

No one likes cannibals

I mean… this is pretty much a given, right? But truly, there’s a good reason it’s called keyword cannibalisation! Google hates it and in a lot of cases, so will the visitors to your site – it’s a bit of a cyclical thing. The best option is to monitor your keywords closely to keep an eye on any cannibalisation, as well as reviewing the content on your site already before creating a new page.

If you need help, or just want to understand what the heck keyword cannibalisation is a little better, get in touch below!

Combat keyword cannibalisation

Talk to our SEO experts

Pick your goals…

    Woo hoo!

    You have successfully sent your message.

    We'll revert back to you as soon as possible.
    Back to Home

    Erin Payne

    Written By
    Read previous post Read next post