How To Spot & Eliminate Keyword Cannibalisation

Aug 30, 2023 | Digital Marketing, SEO

Cannibalised keywords are typical search engine ranking issues that occur when a website’s web pages compete against each other for identical or similar keywords. 

When similar keywords are used across several pages, Google can no longer identify the most relevant pages, leading to several SEO issues, such as decreasing organic search rank and overall web traffic. 

This article will focus on how you can spot and eliminate keyword cannibalisation on your website.

Eliminate Keyword Cannibalization

Keywords – The Basics

Before we get started, let’s review the basics and look at the issue from the very beginning. Keywords are critical elements of a page that can determine its success or failure in search results. 

When people use a search engine to find something, they usually first type a series of words related to what they need. Or, they ask a question using speech recognition software and virtual assistants. The search engine uses those exact words to retrieve relevant web pages from its index.

Once search engines discover the content that matches the given keyword, they present the search results, sorting them based on a few parameters. These parameters include usefulness and popularity.

Stats On Keywords & SEO

A 2021 survey carried out among SEO professionals worldwide showed that 24.6% of them believed that accurate/deep content was one of the most critical parameters impacting search rankings for them in the following 12 months. 

Meta titles or descriptions (on-page elements in general) ranked first, mentioned by 32.8% of respondents.

Tools Like SEMRush or Ahrefs only see about 30-40% of the keywords your website ranks for!   Why is that? These tools use bots to crawl the SERPs and identify the keyword phrases where your web pages rank. But their bots only crawl a limited number of keywords and don’t crawl them all at the same rate.

What’s Keyword Cannibalisation?

Keyword cannibalisation means having various blog posts or articles on your site that rank for the same search query (keyword) in Google. Either their topics are very similar, or you optimised them for the exact keyphrase. 

Optimising posts or articles for similar search queries can cause them to interfere with each other’s rankings. Usually, Google only shows one or two results from the same domain in the search results for a specific query. If you’re a high authority domain, you might get three.

It’s possible to identify and eliminate keyword cannibalisation problems on your website. Usually, searching for the lines of “<Domain> + keywords” will give you the necessary information.

The Problem With Keyword Cannibalisation – Adverse Effects

Keyword cannibalisation is terrible for SEO as it forces two or more of your pages to compete for a higher rank. You likely don’t want to compete with yourself – do you? Those two (or more) pages that suffer from keyword cannibalisation have reduced ranking, which can ultimately waste your efforts and resources.

Website owners who suffer from keyword cannibalisation don’t even know there’s something wrong. They might even be thankful that one page ranks in the fourth and fifth slots for their preferred keyword without discovering that one authoritative page would probably rank higher and convert better.

Let’s see why keyword cannibalisation is killing your SEO.

Weakening the Page’s Authority

Due to deliberate or accidental keyword cannibalisation, you’ve effectively turned your pages into competitors, and the battle for page views and SERP ranks has begun. You’re spreading your CTR across numerous marginally relevant pages rather than having a single page that is highly authoritative.

Perhaps we can describe the points here as follows. You’re trying to learn a specific theoretical concept or practical application. Would you prefer to learn from one comprehensive and authoritative source, like a complete textbook or an all-inclusive website? 

Or would you prefer reading from books or websites that have different notations and address distinct points that don’t need to be addressed?

Giving A More Relevant Page Less Value

Using keywords is the best method to tell search engines what our pages are about. Search engines like Google will decide which page is the best match if you use the same keyword for multiple carriers. 

And no matter how sophisticated the algorithm, it’s likely to make a mistake in that scenario – giving more relevant content less value or attention.

Hurting Your Backlinks on Both Pages

If we have two similar articles competing for the “water treatment” keyword, both pages compete for backlinks. The quality and amount of backlinks pointing back to a page hugely affect that page’s ranking factor. If you look at any page on the internet ranking on the first page of Google, it has dozens, if not hundreds, of backlinks.

But if two similar pages on your website compete with one another, these backlinks effectively get split between these two pages, hurting both their rankings in the process.

For example, the old “Water Disinfection” article has ten backlinks, and the new “Water Treatment” has 20. What if the combined number of referring domains all point to a single page? That single page, with 30 backlinks, would be pretty much guaranteed to rank higher in the SERPs.

How To Identify Keyword Cannibalisation

Now, let’s discover which annoying pages are cannibalising each other by employing a few efficient solutions, including

Conducting A “Site: Search”

Go to Google search and enter your domain and the topic you want to check on. For example, it will look similar to: (+ “myKeyphrase”). Google will then give you a results list with all your site content related to the topic.

For example, in our case:

Eliminate Keyword Cannibalization

You need to look through the list to figure out the highest ranking. More specifically, you should determine whether some of your older blogs rank higher than the more recent ones or the more relevant content you’ve constructed.

If that’s the case, keyword cannibalisation potentially points you in the direction of what to review next.

However, don’t get overwhelmed by the list, as Google is prone to returning many matching and semi-matching results. Not all page results are problematic, and many will target other keywords. 

Remember that keyword cannibalisation can impact your internal and external link structure.

Semrush’s Position Tracking Tool

Cannibalisation Report in Position Tracking enables you to analyse your cannibalisation rate and find the pages that are suffering from the issue. A result of 100% indicates that there’s no cannibalisation for a given scope of keywords in this location. 

The score allows you to track your results after making the changes explained in “How to fix keyword cannibalisation” and use this information when reporting. Additionally, you can return to this report after updating old content and ensure that cannibalisation hasn’t occurred.

Google Search Console

Another tool that allows you to identify potential keyword cannibalisation is Google Search Console. Your performance report shows a default query list showing that your website has recently received clicks and impressions.

Eliminate Keyword Cannibalization

How to Eliminate Keyword Cannibalisation?

If you want to eliminate keyword cannibalisation, the following solutions can do the trick for you.

Reworking Your Content

Here are the steps required to re-optimize your content. 

  1. Find content that’s not performing well: When you’re re-optimizing your content, you’re essentially improving its quality to rank better.
  2. Analyse the content: Don’t forget keyword difficulty in this step. You should find those keywords with a good search volume but low difficulty, making it easier for you to rank higher for those keywords after re-optimization. 
  3. Relevancy: Once you’ve refined the list of keywords based on their volume and difficulty, you need to determine which ones are more relevant to your company. 
  4. Eliminate keyword cannibalisation: Optimising for a low-potential keyword might lose out on rankings for a better one.
  5. Rewrite the content: If you offer better value through your content, it’ll be more likely to rank higher than it did previously. 

Add Canonical Links

A canonical URL refers to the best representative page that Google sees from a group of duplicate pages. If you’ve duplicate content, it says to google: forget about me; I’m just a copy and use this other page for your index.

This is why a canonical link is super helpful if one of those competing pages exists for a good reason and needs to be accessible by users.

Merge or Prune Content

Pruning or merging similar content is often among the best ways to fix cannibalisation issues. Let’s say two or more weak pages on your website cannibalise each other’s keywords and traffic. In that scenario, it’s usually wise to unify them, which is a reliable strategy when you have one page that stands above the others. 

Unifying multiple pages into comprehensive content will reduce keyword competition and boost that page’s SEO value. Furthermore, it enhances the content value and the ability to pull in organic traffic. If possible, merging and consolidating competing blog posts is the best way to eliminate keyword cannibalisation. 

This accepted practice will not only fix cannibalisation but also create new and improved content that is more likely to be unique. It’ll also allow you to freshen up your content and expand its scope. 

Tips for Avoiding Keyword Cannibalisation

Here are some expert-recommended tips and tricks to prevent keyword cannibalisation and improve your digital marketing plan. 

  • Develop Targeted Keyword Strategy: One of the best ways to prevent keyword cannibalisation is to hone your targeted keyword strategy, so there’s no competition and problematic overlap.
  • Track Keyword Rankings and Performance: You should track keywords’ performance over time by consistently tracking keyword analytics. External tools include Google Analytics, Ubersuggest, and SEMrush.
  • Topics are first, and keywords are second: Don’t lose your mind while working on keyword strategy. You shouldn’t neglect the issues and content quality.
  • Perform Regular content audits: Your content audits should ask the following:
  1. Are your topics still relevant?
  2. Is the information you’re posting outdated?
  3. Are the statistics correct?
  4. Are you prioritising the right keywords?
  5. Which keywords and topics are suitable for your marketing goals?
  • Create Comprehensive Pages: Some issues can seem too complex to cover in a single blog post, so content teams decide to break them down into several sub-posts.
  • What’s the Next Step in Optimising Keywords?

    It’s hard to eliminate keyword cannibalisation. As your site and content grow, there will be some overlapping content, and no one can 100% determine how google will handle your pages. So it’s vital to regularly check your website’s elements, particularly content, and identify and fix issues like keyword cannibalisation.

    After all, a solid content strategy will significantly help website owners keep keywords and content cannibalisation to a minimum. 

    Get in touch today and let Broadweb Digital help you plan the structure of your site and articles. We’ll work hard to create content silos for your topics and check your existing content for similarities before adding new stuff.

    Need help with your next digital project?

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