Keyword Cannibalization | What It Is and How to Fix It


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Think about optimizing your website for search engines like google and yahoo utilizing the simplest practices and nonetheless not getting the outcomes you need. Your natural site visitors fee isn’t rising, and generally it even goes down. Your goal key phrases aren’t making any progress within the SERP, and your pages can’t get to the highest. You even publish new content material frequently! 

Bizarre, proper? 

There might be various issues taking place beneath the floor. Some of the doubtless culprits, nevertheless, is a tough little factor known as key phrase cannibalization.

On this article, you’ll uncover what key phrase cannibalization is, learn how to repair it, and which instruments are greatest for figuring out key phrase cannibalization when it occurs.


Determine textual content material points together with 100+ different errors that do not let your web site carry out because it ought to.

What’s key phrase cannibalization?

Key phrase cannibalization occurs when content material on totally different pages of your website ranks for a similar key phrase cluster and has the identical search intent. Key phrases “eat one another,” lowering efficiency and stopping your pages and your web site basically from driving actual outcomes. 

Let’s say you personal an internet furnishings retailer known as WoodLand. You promote hand-made eating tables, chairs, beds, cabinets, and so forth., fabricated from several types of wooden, together with oak, ash tree, beech, and extra. 

The suitable technique could be to optimize every web page of your website for one main key phrase and forestall every of those phrases from overlapping. The web page displaying oak eating tables ought to solely be optimized for the ‘oak eating tables’ key phrase, whereas the beech beds web page ought to be optimized for ‘beech beds.’

Too usually, folks optimize a number of pages for a similar key phrase regardless of the web page’s sort, the product’s materials, and the person’s objective. This strategy tells search engines like google and yahoo that all your pages are kind of the identical. It additionally places an excessive amount of duty on the system to resolve which one deserves to rank increased.  

Granted, search engines like google and yahoo will all the time rank pages which can be higher optimized for a given key phrase. The theoretical instance beneath explains why.

Think about you’ve a weblog publish that covers the variations between tree species, however you even have an oak eating desk product web page optimized for a similar time period. If you need the business web page to rank increased, drive site visitors, and improve gross sales, discover a solution to differentiate these pages. Search engines like google and yahoo will understand these two pages as being related they usually’ll struggle with each other. If the weblog web page is optimized higher (unintentionally), it can win. It’ll climb to the highest of the SERP whereas your product web page eats the crumbs it leaves behind. 

It doesn’t matter how a lot money and time you make investments optimizing your product web page in case your shopper can’t discover it within the SERP. You may even must sacrifice the competing weblog publish if you wish to stand an opportunity at promoting your wood tables.

Why search engine marketing key phrase cannibalization is dangerous

Beneath are 5 of the most typical penalties of optimizing a number of pages for a similar key phrase. Learn them fastidiously to raised perceive the dangers.

Search engines like google and yahoo get confused

It’s a standard false impression that optimizing a number of pages for a similar key phrase will increase a website’s probabilities of showing on the high of the SERP’. Although, this isn’t shocking as a result of the primary positions have a better CTR and everyone seems to be preventing to get them. The explanation why this technique is problematic is since you’ll not solely be preventing together with your rivals but additionally with your self.

Search engines like google and yahoo have a more durable time determining which web page deserves to indicate up following a search question if a number of of your pages goal that very same key phrase. As an alternative of exhibiting off all pages optimized for that key phrase, it’ll simply current the one which’s optimized the most effective. Search engines like google and yahoo will think about this web page to be probably the most related even when it truly isn’t. 

Search engines like google and yahoo may even sometimes swap the rankings of your pages, making it much more difficult on your main web page to achieve the highest and keep there.

It weakens off-page optimization

Getting backlinks requires loads of effort and time. It’s essential discover a platform that fits you, test its authority, match your matters, and so forth. As extra high quality exterior hyperlinks result in your web page, it has a better probability of reaching the highest.

Key phrase cannibalization decreases the worth of backlinks and diminishes their affect in your rankings. Let’s say you’ve two related pages and every has three high-quality backlinks from authoritative sources. Their collective worth, nevertheless, will pale compared to one web page with six high quality backlinks. 

Now, think about that one among your rivals has the sort of web page we simply described above. If search engines like google and yahoo had to decide on between your two pages (with low backlink profiles) and your competitor’s web page (with a powerful one), they’re extra more likely to prioritize the latter. In different phrases, this competitor will rank increased than you even if in case you have the identical whole variety of backlinks.

Inside linking weight diminishes

Inside hyperlinks assist customers and crawlers simply discover pages and point out the content material’s significance. John Mueller from Google even mentioned that inside hyperlinks are for extra than simply website navigation. They’re an effective way to speak with Google on a deeper stage.

John Mueller

Search Advocate at Google

I believe…[internal linking is] one of many greatest issues that you are able to do on an internet site to sort of information Google and information guests to the pages that you simply assume are essential. […] You possibly can resolve to make issues essential the place you earn probably the most cash, or you may make issues essential the place you’re the strongest competitor, or possibly you’re the weakest competitor. With inside linking, you possibly can actually sort of focus issues on these instructions and people elements of your website.

If a number of pages are optimized for a similar key phrase they usually have inside hyperlinks pointing to them, search engines like google and yahoo may have a tough time determining which of these pages are a very powerful. The load of your inside hyperlinks will probably be distributed amongst all pages moderately than to 1 pillar web page. If you need that pillar web page to get the lion’s share of site visitors, this isn’t the way in which to do it.

Customers habits will get worse

If you enter a question right into a search engine, the engine analyzes not solely the phrases you typed but additionally your search intent.

Suppose a buyer varieties into the search bar, ‘purchase ash wooden kitchen cabinet.’ However since a number of pages in your website are optimized for this time period, the SERP may current a weblog publish you wrote on taking measurements for kitchen cabinets moderately than your classes web page.

Listed here are another situations to look out for:

  • Somebody sees your web page however doesn’t click on in your hyperlink within the SERP. This reduces this web page’s CTR.
  • Somebody clicks in your website however rapidly returns to the SERP with out finishing the goal motion. This alerts to Google that one thing about this web page was undesirable which value you a transaction alternative.

It’s implied in each situations that the shopper is pissed off as a result of the content material you’re offering doesn’t meet their wants. Since search engines like google and yahoo take note of person habits when evaluating web page high quality, so must you. Low-quality pages virtually all the time get low positions within the SERP.

Crawl price range will get wasted

Crawl price range is how usually crawlers go to your website and what number of pages they scan throughout every go to. Two related pages concentrating on the identical question will waste two ‘factors’ of your crawl price range as an alternative of 1. For small web sites, it will not be a problem. However it’s a giant drawback for ecommerce websites with 1000’s of pages.

Plus, as soon as Google finds duplicate content material in your website, this reduces your crawl price range for upcoming visits. A few of your pages could not even be listed in any respect.

To sum it up, web sites affected by cannibalization may not get sufficient natural impressions. If Google detects cannibalization on a website throughout the first go to, Google’s search crawlers are much less more likely to successfully scrape that very same web site throughout the subsequent go to.

What to search for: key phrase cannibalization crimson flags

Now that you understand what key phrase cannibalization is and why it’s dangerous for what you are promoting’s search engine marketing, let’s determine learn how to spot it. Listed here are some frequent indicators your pages are rating for a similar key phrase.

URL rankings continuously change

Monitor the pages in your website which can be rating on your key phrase. Ideally, just one web page ought to be rating for it. If you happen to discover that one URL ranked for it every week in the past, one other changed it two days in the past, and right now the third URL took its place, this can be a clear signal of key phrase cannibalization. Your pages are competing with one another. 

It’s frequent for 2 of your URLs to modify backwards and forwards between positions on the SERP. These might be weblog pages and business pages which can be optimized for a similar question. 

Rating fluctuations

Drops, plummets, or fluctuations in rankings for a given key phrase additionally signify inside key phrase cannibalization. Your pages can fall within the search outcomes by 5-15 positions. This decline can impact some and even all queries that your web page targets. A few of your pages could sporadically return to high positions within the SERP, however solely each once in a while. It is because they aren’t optimized appropriately, making the positions they occupy on the SERP random and inconsistent.

Rating queries don’t transfer up within the SERP

When you’ve determined upon the key phrase you need to rank for, you will need to monitor your progress. If you happen to discover that your goal key phrase isn’t progressing within the rankings regardless of your lively optimization efforts, a number of pages might be competing in opposition to one another for it. 

These pages may be lacking backlinks. Since their high quality is a crucial rating issue, spreading backlinks throughout a number of related pages is mindless. If you happen to do that, not one of the pages may have a powerful sufficient backlink profile to be thought of authoritative by search engines like google and yahoo.


Get a 360-degree view of any website’s backlink profile: assess its backlinks and referring domains in opposition to key parameters

The flawed URL is rating for the precise key phrase

Discover out which web page is rating on your goal key phrase. If the search outcomes present a distinct web page than the one you’ve optimized for this time period, the offending web page might also be optimized for that very same question. It steals the search bots’ “consideration” and actually evicts from the SERP the very web page you meant to achieve the highest.

The way to catch key phrase cannibalization

There are a number of approaches to figuring out key phrase cannibalization. Utilizing Google Search Console is one among them. This free instrument will enable you decide if a number of pages are rating for a similar key phrase.

Right here’s what you’ll want to do: 

  • Ensure you’ve added your web site to GSC to entry essential analytics. If you happen to don’t understand how to do that, take a look at our step-by-step information on learn how to arrange GSC appropriately.
  • Open the Search Outcomes tab within the Efficiency report.
Search results in GSC
  • Choose New filter and click on on Question.
Add new query
  • Enter the question suspected of cannibalization in a brand new window and click on Apply.
Enter query in GSC
  • Go to the Pages tab to see a listing of pages in your website that rank for the chosen question. 
Search result pages in GSC

If you see two pages moderately than one getting probably the most impressions or clicks for the chosen question, that’s an indication of key phrase cannibalization. These two pages have shared outcomes. Different pages might also obtain impressions and clicks for this key phrase, but it surely’s not an issue if the numbers are minimal.

Use SE Rating to identify key phrase cannibalization

On condition that Google Search Console isn’t the most effective instrument for place monitoring, you shouldn’t rely solely on it. Use extra third-party assistants to get higher insights and examine the issue additional. 

SE Rating’s key phrase rank checker was designed to disclose how main search engines like google and yahoo rank your key phrases. It additionally sheds gentle on which of your pages every search engine shows for the search queries you’re attempting to rank for. However it’ll additionally enable you determine cannibalization points by highlighting all pages that rank for a singular key phrase.

Right here’s learn how to use the instrument to detect conflicting pages:

  • Select the challenge from the dropdown menu.
Rank Tracker's dropdown menu

If you happen to don’t have a challenge but, add one by following the directions from our assist information.

  • Go to the Rank Tracker’s Detailed tab, the place you’ll see key phrase rankings in several places, units, languages, and search engines like google and yahoo.
Rank Tracker's Detailed tab
  • Scroll right down to the Key phrases part and test the URL column.
Ranking URLs in Rank Tracker

It reveals which URL the search engine shows within the SERP for the goal question. If you happen to solely see a blue hyperlink icon, it means the SERP reveals only one web page for this key phrase (your goal one). This implies there are not any cannibalization points. Hover over the icon to see which web page it’s.

URL changes history in Rank Tracker

If you happen to see a crimson quantity subsequent to the icon (two or extra), it means a number of pages rank for this key time period. By hovering over the icon and quantity, you’ll see not solely these pages but additionally the time they changed one another within the search outcomes.

Several URLs rank for the keyword

On this case, two pages seem within the SERP for the ‘print test on-line’ key phrase. Slightly decrease on the display screen, you possibly can see six of this website’s pages competing for the ‘learn how to write a test’ key phrase.

You can even set a goal URL for any key phrase. This makes it simpler so that you can monitor what web page the SERP reveals for a given question. 

  • Hover over a key phrase and click on on the button with extra settings. Choose Goal URL.
Target URL in Rank Tracker
  • Sort within the goal URL within the popup window or choose one from the record.
Enter target URL

A key phrase with a set goal URL may have an extra hyperlink icon subsequent to it. If the web page within the SERP doesn’t match the desired goal URL, the info will seem crimson.

Additional link icon in Rank Tracker

By specifying goal URLs in SE Rating’s Rank Tracker, you possibly can monitor cannibalization circumstances extra successfully and rapidly reply to them.

The way to repair key phrase cannibalization

You possibly can keep away from cannibalization whereas constructing your website’s structure. Do that by selecting probably the most related key phrases, and cluster and distribute them throughout pages correctly. Even in the event you assume your website’s web page construction is a large number and your key phrases are all over, don’t fear. All is just not misplaced.

Listed here are some ‘surgical procedures’ to check out:

  • Analyze the content material on pages you believe you studied of cannibalization and decide what intent they cowl. 
  • Consider every web page’s variety of clicks, impressions, and its place to find out which web page Google considers probably the most related. 
  • Determine your pillar web page and resolve what to do with pages which can be competing with it.

Imagine it or not, you don’t all the time must get rid of cannibal pages. Beneath are another methods to deal with them.

Take away, merge, and redirect non-primary pages

Earlier than deleting a web page, totally analyze it and evaluate it with different pages in your website. It might be helpful if repurposed. Examine the web page’s content material and take a look at to determine the objective you had for it. Examine its efficiency and high quality scores with different pages, and determine your main URL. After getting a clearer image of your website’s structure, delete weaker pages and redirect them to “stronger” pages utilizing 301 redirects.

If you happen to simply delete a web page, you’ll lose treasured exterior and inside hyperlinks. Making use of redirects redistributes hyperlink juice from drawback pages to newer and extra appropriately optimized pages. 

You can even repurpose content material from related however weak pages by reformatting it into:

  • Final guides
  • eBooks
  • Webinars
  • Twitter posts
  • Infographics
  • And the record goes on! 

If for any cause you’ve two related pages that you simply’d favor to not alter in any manner, you need to use canonical or noindex tags.

Canonicalize non-primary pages to the first web page

When a search engine scans a website, it tries to seek out out which search queries are probably the most related for that web page. It additionally checks to see if that web page is value exhibiting for these particular queries. If a number of pages look related, the bot will resolve which web page has extra worth and can deal with the others like duplicates. Use canonical tags to indicate the bot which is the primary web page and which pages are copies. 

To make use of canonicals, comply with these steps:

  • Analyze web page efficiency and resolve which one is the primary URL.
  • Add <hyperlink rel=”canonical” href=””/> on pages with duplicate content material within the head block of the web page code.


Enter a URL and test in case your website has any points with canonical tags and duplicated content material

Blocking non-primary pages from indexing

One other solution to repair cannibalization and save your pages is to make use of the noindex tag. It blocks the web page from indexing. The search bot will crawl the web page however gained’t index it, stopping it from showing within the search outcomes.

You possibly can apply this feature to all pages that compete with the first web page. Implement noindex as a meta robots tag or as an X-Robots-Tag in an HTTP response header.

If you happen to select the primary choice, add <meta identify=”robots” content material=”noindex”> to the top part of your web page. It’ll block most crawlers from indexing your web page. 

If you happen to solely have to cease the Google search bot from indexing your web page, add:

<meta identify="googlebot" content material="noindex">

The second choice is to make use of the X-Robots-Tag header with noindex or no worth. Right here’s what it appears like:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
X-Robots-Tag: noindex

Rework inside linking

This strategy isn’t as efficient because the choices talked about above, but it surely can assist scale back the issue if it’s paired with them.

Sensible inside linking means utilizing hyperlinks to navigate the person from one web page of your web site to a different. If inside hyperlinks result in a cannibal web page, ahead customers to your main web page as an alternative. This fashion, the latter will get extra weight, and the search engine will think about it to be extra essential. 

Additionally, test your anchor texts. Hyperlinks utilizing anchors with cannibalizing key phrases will help the flawed web page rank for that question.


Get key phrases with excessive search potential to make use of in your anchor texts

Differentiate intents

Key phrases are the tip of the iceberg. They disguise the person’s intentions, (i.e., what they’re actually searching for when typing a question). 

There are three major person intent varieties:

  • Navigational intent signifies that the person desires to get to a particular website. In the event that they’re searching for a particular on-line furnishings retailer (WoodLand in our case) or its specific web page (‘woodland supply’), they need to be transferred accordingly.
  • Informational intent signifies that the person has a query they need a solution for. These queries usually embrace phrases like ‘how,’ ‘what,’ ‘why,’ and so forth. If the person searches up learn how to care for wood furnishings, they need to land on a related weblog web page that gives ideas for sustaining furnishings constituted of varied wooden varieties.
  • Transactional intent signifies that the person desires to purchase one thing. Such a request could sound like ‘purchase an ash desk,’ and the person ought to be transferred to a product web page the place they will make a purchase order.

There are additionally business investigation intents. These are when an individual plans to purchase one thing sooner or later. Earlier than shopping for, they’ll evaluate product traits and costs, ultimately selecting the most effective one. Their search queries may sound like:

  • ‘Greatest on-line wood furnishings retailer’
  • ‘WoodLand vs. [some other store]’
  • ‘WoodLand ash eating desk evaluations’

It’s okay to optimize two pages for a similar key phrase if the pages fulfill totally different intents. Let’s say the weblog and business pages are optimized for the ‘oak mattress’ question. The weblog fulfills the person’s informational intent by providing tips about how to decide on an oak mattress. The product web page meets the person’s transactional intent by having an merchandise description and buy choice.  If, nevertheless, each pages have matching intent, they’ll begin competing with each other on the SERP.

Bear in mind: You possibly can merge related pages to create one massive web page with a single intent, or you will discover different makes use of for the cannibal pages. Pay additional consideration to cannibalization points between weblog and business pages, ensuring they don’t match intents.

The way to keep away from key phrase cannibalization sooner or later

After fixing current key phrase cannibalization points, it is best to shield your website from having the identical issues sooner or later.

Right here’s learn how to do exactly that:

  1. Create a challenge in SE Rating and assign goal URLs to all goal key phrases. The hyperlink icon will flip crimson if a URL that’s totally different from the goal URL seems within the SERP for that question. It will enable you react rapidly to any key phrase cannibalization points.
  2. Examine the SERP often to see what pages rank for a given key phrase. Determine their intent and ensure there isn’t any overlap.
  3. Replace and develop your key phrase record. Analysis new key phrase alternatives and cluster them into totally different classes utilizing key phrase grouper. 
  4. Create intent-focused content material. Determine the search queries that deliver clients to your website. Analyze high search queries and divide them by their transactional, navigational, or informational intents. Create content material utilizing key phrases related to a particular intent class.
  5. Use varied long-tail key phrases to fulfill purchasers’ numerous wants and intents. Lengthy-tail key phrases could have much less search quantity, however they’re extra particular and work nicely for weblog and product pages. Content material based mostly on long-tail key phrases attracts purchasers at totally different levels of the customer’s journey.

For example:  

A weblog article titled ‘Issues to know earlier than shopping for an oak desk’ would work for the attention stage. 

A information on ‘How to decide on the precise dimension oak eating desk’ could be acceptable for the consideration stage. 

A class web page titled ‘Oak eating tables on the market’ could be meant for the conversion stage. 

Key Takeaways

Key phrase cannibalization is an actual drawback. It interferes together with your search engine marketing technique and prevents your website from reaching the highest positions on the SERP. 

However we hope this text has proven you that the struggle in opposition to key phrase cannibalization doesn’t must be a shedding battle. Observe our tricks to determine and treatment drawback areas and keep away from related conditions sooner or later.

At SE Rating, we advocate that you simply test your website for cannibalization points as soon as per thirty days. If you happen to suspect that some pages are competing or are susceptible to competing with each other, test them each two weeks. It’ll enable you reply to the issue earlier than it’s too late.  

Now, let’s hear it from you. Have you ever ever encountered key phrase cannibalization in your web site earlier than? Which of the above options labored greatest for you? Please share your expertise with us within the feedback beneath!


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