What Is Keyword Cannibalization and Is It Impacting Your Sites Rankings?

find and fix keyword cannibalization for SEO

Cannibalization is an intimidating word. It sounds complex and difficult but it doesn’t have to be. In this article, I’ll help you find and fix keyword cannibalization instances on your site to improve SEO.

Table of Contents:

  • What is Keyword Cannibalization?

  • Why is keyword cannibalization problematic?

  • Example of a website with keyword cannibalization

  • How to find instances of keyword cannibalization

    • We include an example for the visual learners

  • How to fix keyword cannibalization

What is Keyword Cannibalization

When you have too many identical or similar keywords on different pages of your site [source]. When this occurs, Google has a tough time determining which page to rank because the content is too similar.

what is keyword cannibalization

Why is Keyword Cannibalization Problematic?

If you have similar keywords competing against one another, Google gets confused. This leads to dilution. Rather than ranking one page in a high position for a keyword, Google will rank both pages lower in the search results. I’ll include an example later in the article.

Example of Keyword Cannibalization:

If you do a Google search for the keyword, “Pill Crusher” you will see Maxpert Medical has two results on the first page of Google (see screenshot below). As of this writing, they are respectively ranking in the #7 and #8 positions on Google.

Maxpert’s site is an example of multiple pages having identical or similar keywords. Google is confused which page to rank so they are ranking both, albeit in a lower position.

Maxpert is getting less clicks in the #7 and #8 position with two pages ranking than if they were ranking #2 or #3 organically with one powerhouse page. Don’t worry, we’re going to teach you how to fix and improve an issue like this.

Example of Keyword Cannibalization

How to Find Instances of Keyword Cannibalization:

Fortunately, there are great tools out there that help you detect keywords cannibalization. I love SEMrush. They have a tool that will look at all pages on your website and detect instances where multiple pages are ranking for the same keyword.

How exactly do you find the keyword cannibalization tool in SEMRush?

1. You go into your position tracking and click on “Cannibalization,” which I highlighted in yellow below. This will show you the golden nuggets needed to make informed decisions to improve the cannibalization on your site.

Tracking Tool in SEMRush to Detect Keyword Cannibalization

2. SEMRush will then show you how many affected keywords and cannibalized pages you have. Fortunately for our site, themediacaptain.com, there are only 2 cannibal pages and one affected keyword. 

Detecting Cannibalized Pages on Your Website

3. You will want to expand the affected keyword in question so you can learn what two pages on your site are trying to rank for this keyword. In this example, the keyword “Email Marketing Company Columbus” is ranking in the #11 and #12 positions on Google. Google is unsure whether to rank the homepage or the service specific page for this keyword. This is a perfect example of cannibalization. Rather than ranking in the top five positions on one page, Google is ranking both pages lower in the search results. Even if you have two pages on your site ranking for the same keyword, since the keywords rank towards the bottom of the first page of Google, this will result in less clicks than if you had one URL ranking near the top positioning. Don’t forget, the top 3 results account for over 50% of clicks!

Percentage of Clicks for Top Search Results on Google
example of two pages on Google competing for the same keyword

How to fix keyword cannibalization

  • If you have two pages competing for the same keyword, one course of action would be to keep the more relevant page and redirect the less relevant page into the more relevant one via a permanent 301 redirect. In this instance, you would want to keep the majority of the content from the original page.

  • If you want to create a powerhouse page and combine the two, you could create a new page with a new URL, combine the content and redirect both pages into the new powerhouse page.

  • In the example above with email marketing, this is a little tricky because our homepage is competing with a service page. We wouldn’t redirect our homepage and we wouldn’t delete the service page. In this instance, we’ll better optimize and enhance our email marketing page and remove certain references of the “Columbus Email Marketing Company” on the homepage.

Note: It’s important to consult an SEO expert to make sure you’re making the right decision as each business scenario is different.

In Closing

If you have numerous pages on your site competing for the same keyword, it could be holding back your true ranking potential. When you detect and fix cannibalization issues, not only can it help improve your SEO rankings, it often results in a better user experience.

Jason Parks

Jason Parks started The Media Captain in 2010. He’s grown TMC into one of the largest digital agency’s in Ohio over the past decade.The Media Captain has worked with hundreds of small, medium and enterprise clients on digital marketing and development projects.The Columbus Based Digital Marketing Agency has received numerous accolades. TMC was named a Top 1% Agency in the U.S. by UpCity in 2019 and 2020. They also won the “Best PPC Campaign,” which was a national award from DashThis. They were also the recipient of the Top 10 Social Media Marketing Agencies in Ohio.

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