What is keyword cannibalization and how to fix it

Blog tutorial What is keyword cannibalization and how to fix it
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What is keyword cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization occurs when several pages of the same website rank for the same search query in Google. It often makes your website’s position lower in comparison to competitors’ websites. However, having several pages with content optimized for the same or similar phrases doesn’t always have to be something bad.


Positive keyword cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization isn’t harmful when it is your website that dominates the search results and the first page of results is packed with links to your website.

an example of positive page cannibalization

It may also happen that you will get only one result on the page, but there will be more links to related content on the same website below the main result. See the image below with the result for “Europe demographics”.

search results for Europe demographics query

You may see that apart from the Europe page, Google also recommends links to pages related to Poland, Germany and France.


Negative keyword cannibalization

A situation when cannibalization may hurt your website’s ranking can be seen in the results for the “cayman islands demographics” keyword, where one of the pages ranks on position 17 and another one on position 93.

negative phrase cannibalization

In order to identify this issue in Pulno, you need to browse the report for keywords imported from Google Search Console. Each phrase has its own set of properties. The green cannibalization icon means that a given keyword is related to several pages, but this particular page ranks highest in Google. The red icon means that it’s another page of the same website ranking lower in the search results. 

keywords in Pulno with GSC

To make identifying cannibalization issues easier, you may filter the results and set the device to Desktop only, choose the month of analysis (October 2019 in this case) and choose both instances of cannibalization in the Properties menu. Lastly, sort the keywords alphabetically.

keywords properties in Pulno

Doing this will make it simple to identify keywords and pages that are potentially affected by cannibalization. Keywords with cannibalization issues will usually show one page ranking somewhere in the top 10 and the other ones on much lower positions. In case when the pages are not competing against each other, the analysis will show all the pages in the top 10 or even the same position.

keywords positions


How to fix keyword cannibalization?

To solve the cannibalization issue, you need to remember not to build pages with similar content, optimized for the same keywords. You need to improve the content on the best ranking page and link to this page from all the other ones. The page in the top 10 results will bring much more traffic to a website than even several pages ranking far below the top 10.


Consolidate your content

One of the solutions is to consolidate your content. If there are several pages dealing with the same issues, it might be a good idea to combine them into one longer article. Redirect the old URLs into the new one, especially if there are backlinks leading to the old articles.


Use rel=canonical

Using canonicalization helps when you think that content on all of the pages is useful for your users. Adding the canonical tags will tell search engines which page you’d like to be indexed and shown in the search results. The code sample of a canonical tag looks as follows.

<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.pulno.com/blog/tutorial/how-to-prepare-an-seo-checklist" />


Remove pages

Sometimes the best solution is to remove the excessive pages completely, e.g. when they don’t have any value for the users, there are no backlinks and they don’t generate any traffic. If they do have quality backlinks, remember to redirect the URLs.


Deoptimize

Having the same keywords in the <title> tags and content on different URLs? In this case, you might need to limit content optimization on one of the pages, in order to show the search engines that another page is more important for the users. This solution is recommended if you have observed a higher conversion rate on one of the pages.


Use internal linking

Making changes to internal linking is often enough to fix the keyword cannibalization issues. It’s important that the preferred pages are linked to properly. The pages with better content should have more links, better-matched anchor texts and lower link depth (fewer clicks needed to reach the page from the homepage).


Conclusion

Keyword cannibalization doesn’t have to be a negative thing. There are different ways to deal with it. The most important step is to identify the competing pages within your website and decide whether it will be helpful to fix the cannibalization issue in each individual case.



Jacek Wieczorek is the co-founder of Pulno. Since 2006, he has been optimizing and managing websites that generate traffic counted in hundreds of thousands of daily visits. 


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