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What is keyword cannibalization and how do I deal with it?

Keyword cannibalization is one of the more common SEO mistakes that can be found on sites during an SEO audit. It significantly reduces the effects of website positioning, which can be frustrating. What is content cannibalization? Does this issue affect your website? How to deal with it? We answer these questions in our article.

What is keyword cannibalization?

Let’s start with the fact that we will define the term cannibalization of keywords. What is this? What is it about? This is one of the SEO optimization mistakes that happens when different pages on your website are targeting the same or twin keywords. The result is that two pages assigned to the same site compete against each other. The term “cannibalization” refers precisely to the fact that you are contributing to the fact that you yourself are “killing” your SEO results.

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To explain better what keyword cannibalization is, we will use an example. Imagine you run an online store that sells shoes. You decide you want to promote your site for the phrase “shoes”, so you use it on all your pages. Your message to Google at this point means that each of your pages is about shoes. Theoretically, there should be nothing wrong with that – it is true after all. The problem is that you are not providing Google with sufficiently detailed information about your offer and you require the algorithm to compare your pages on its own and choose the one that it thinks best fits the keyword. Instead, you should use more phrases that would better define what is on each subpage. Valuable keywords in your case could be phrases such as sneakers, hiking shoes, women’s running shoes, etc.

How does keyword cannibalization affect your website?

For many questions related to website positioning, you can hear the answer “it depends”. SEO is a complex process, which makes many issues ambiguous. However, the question of whether keyword cannibalization is bad can be firmly answered – yes. Cannibalization in SEO is a big mistake and should be avoided. Its presence can negatively affect your website in many ways.

Keyword cannibalization harms your website’s visibility

Keyword cannibalization means you have too many identical or same words used on your site. This is information for Google that the content will not match the keywords on each page. The effect of such actions may be that, being unable to distinguish the content from each other, Google will give a higher priority to this page that is not particularly important to you. On the other hand, the page that is important to you (eg in terms of conversion) will drop significantly in the SERP ranking. Moreover, it may also happen that Google will lower the ranking of all pages that share the same keywords.

Keyword cannibalization reduces the authority of the site

The big problem generated by cannibalization is the weakening of the authority of your website. Instead of creating one page that is very strong in terms of authority, you divide the CTR strength into multiple pages that are, in effect, weak. This is due to the fact that you have made your pages compete with each other and have to fight for the number of page views as well as the position in the SERP ranking.

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Keyword cannibalization weakens the power of your backlinks

One of the most important SEO ranking factors is the backlinks leading to the site in question. If your site has two pages with similar content, the links will need to be split between each of them. Therefore, instead of one strong page linked to 10 links, you will have two pages linked to 5 links each. Such action will not bring you benefits in positioning, and will require more work, time and money from you.

Keyword cannibalization wastes your crawl budget

Crawl budget, also known as crawl budget, means how often a bot will visit your page and how many subpages it can read during a visit. This affects, among other things, how many of your pages will appear in Google search results. The more pages you have on your site devoted to the same phrase, the longer it will take to crawl and index your site.

How to check if you have a problem with content cannibalization?

Are you wondering if your website may have a problem with keyword cannibalization? If you are having trouble achieving the SEO results you want, this could be one of the reasons. We’ll show you how to check it.

To see if you have a content cannibalization issue, you need to check if there are pages on your site that share the same keywords and the same / similar intentions. You can use the methods below to verify this.

Perform a content audit

You can take a look at the content posted and the keywords used on your site yourself. This is a good solution if your website is not very complex and any inaccuracies are easy to spot. In another situation, you can easily skip the cannibalization problem, so it will not be a solution for all entrepreneurs.

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Take a look at the previous results

You can use specialized tools such as Ahrefs to verify problems with content cannibalization. There is a Site Explorer feature that allows you to explore your site from different angles. If you want to check your website for keyword cannibalization, go to the Ahrefs platform and then follow the scheme:

– Enter your website address in Site Explorer.
– Go to the Organic Keywords report.
– Filter by the keyword you want to research.
– Click the ranking history list.

As part of the result, you will see pages that were visible for the same keyword, as well as their positions in the SERP results. You can then verify whether, apart from the keywords, they also had common intentions, i.e. whether there was a problem with cannibalization.

Use the command “site:”

If you want to check what pages on your site are assigned to the selected keyword, you can use the “site:” command. All you need to do is go to the Google search engine and type “keyword site:” in the search field. This way, you will see all the pages on your site related to this topic. Be careful in this case though – Google will most likely like a lot of the results, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you definitely have a problem with keyword cannibalization. Then analyze the intentions of the displayed pages.

How do I fix keyword cannibalization issues on the page?

Are you sure that your website has a problem with content cannibalization? Then it’s the best time to implement changes to your website. Then your SEO strategy will have the right basis to bring the intended results.

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Rebuild your website

When you have a problem with content cannibalization, the first thing you can do is consolidate your pages. This is one of the more effective ways to improve the organic performance of your website. Try to redirect the old page to a more recent equivalent, or combine pages that use the same phrases into one. You can also try to turn the page with the highest authority into a landing page that links to other pages that fall within the scope of your target keywords.

The use of redirects is an effective solution as they eliminate the presence of duplicates and also allow the consolidation of ranking factors such as backlinks and internal links. They will no longer separate into several less important parties, but will help build a strong authority on one side.

Find new keywords

Sometimes it is better to simply rebuild your content with new keywords. Take a look at your strategy and consider whether the keywords you use accurately describe the content of your website. Will the user who visits your website after entering the target keyword in the search engine be satisfied with the offer presented? If the answer to this question is no, rebuild your keyword strategy.

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What not to do for keyword cannibalization?

Many people, when they realize that they have a problem with cannibalizing content, panic and make hastily decisions that do not contribute to improving SEO results. Often, behind such ideas there are seemingly logical premises, which, however, in practice work to the disadvantage of the website. What solutions are better avoided when it comes to keyword cannibalization? We avoid the most popular cases.

Website deletion – Very rarely, deleting a page can be considered a good solution. Usually, such action will further reduce the SEO range of the site. This solution can only be considered if the page has no value for the site. Usually, a 301 redirect will be a much better solution.

Disabling page indexing – the lack of indexation means that the page will not have a chance to be displayed in the SERP results. Therefore, it can be concluded that it will not exist from the perspective of a Google user. Undoubtedly, it will not have a positive impact on your SEO strategy. Beware of such solutions.

Page canonization – this is a solution that is recommended for pages that are duplicates or are exceptionally similar to each other. However, this is not a solution recommended for cannibalizing content.

Attempting to undo page optimization – Many people try to deal with keyword cannibalization by lowering the authority of the problematic site. However, undoing a page’s optimization for just one keyword is virtually impossible. Therefore, if you start removing internal and external links related to a given phrase and leading to the selected page, you will lower the position of the entire website in Google search results.

What is keyword cannibalization and how do I deal with it? Summary

Keyword cannibalization is a big mistake that can significantly reduce the effects of a website positioning strategy. However, if you take a closer look at your site and implement the changes quickly enough, you can count on the fact that you will soon see the appropriate results of your website SEO work.

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