Keyword Cannibalization - how to find issues, and how to fix them

Written by Ryan Jones. Updated on 20, November 2023

SEOTesting.com has a report that helps find keyword cannibalization issues across your site that affect your top keywords.

In an ideal world each page on your website would target a specific keyword, but as websites age and more content gets published - it can be harder for Google to decide which page of your site is best to rank for a specific query. The keyword cannibalization report is really useful to run as part of a full site content audit.


You can find the keyword cannibalization report by selecting the site you wish to work with and visiting the Reports section from the left hand menu.

Screenshot of the keyword cannibalization report in SEOTesting.com

Upon clicking the button to request the cannibalization report, SEOTesting will start processing your site's data and send you an email when the report is ready to view.

This report takes the top 20% of queries that your site appears for in Google, and checks whether each keyword has multiple pages ranking.

If a query has 2 or more pages from your site being displayed in the search results this could indicate 2 or more of your pages are competing against each other. Fixing this issue could really improve your ranking for that keyword.

What is Keyword Cannibalization in SEO?

Keyword cannibalization, when referred to in the context of SEO, essentially means that multiple pages from the same website are targeting the same (or very similar) keywords in Google.

In Layman’s terms, two pages from the same website come up on the same Google search engine results page.

Here’s an example for you to use. Let’s say we have written two guides on “SEO Reporting” which have very similar titles and very similar, even if it isn’t identical content. You may find that both of these pages start ranking for the term “SEO Reporting” on Google.

Is Keyword Cannibalization Bad for SEO?

On the face of it, keyword cannibalization seems like it could be a really good thing! “Great, we’re getting more of our web pages on Google’s SERPs. This is really good.” Unfortunately, that isn’t quite the case.

If you have two posts on the exact same topic, you will actually find these two pieces of content competing for spots on the search engine results page, harming your organic performance. Both of these pieces will find themselves lower down in the SERP when you could be much higher with a combined effort. We’ll talk more about that a little later in the article.

Sorry to have to be the bringer of bad news, but having multiple pages included in the same SERP can actually hurt your organic search performance.

Instead of taking up more SERP real estate and dominating Google, you will (in most instances) find that Google doesn’t quite understand which page to rank highly, and marks both of them down as a result.

It’s not a penalty from Google, so please don’t start panicking! But Google could certainly be confused as to which page to rank higher and rank both pages lower in the search results, limiting organic performance.

Why Is Keyword Cannibalization Bad for SEO?

So we have explained above that, in most cases, it is bad to have instances of keyword cannibalization across your website. There are a few reasons for this…

If you have lots of instances of keyword cannibalization, you are going to be squandering a lot of your crawl budget. This is not an issue for most sites, but for large eCommerce websites, news sites and other content aggregators then it could be a big issue that needs fixing right away.

You may find that your conversion rate suffers. No page on any website is going to have exactly the same conversion rate as another page, one will absolutely convert visitors much better than the rest. Instead of allowing visitors to choose which page to go to, why not redirect the lesser converting page into the more converting page and make more money?

Google may even devalue a more relevant page! If you have a lot of keyword cannibalization going on around your website, Google will inevitably try to understand which page is the best fit for that particular set of search results. Google does get it wrong sometimes. For example, if you have two similar pages ranking for the same keyword, Google may decide to rank the page that converts more visitors into leads lower than the other page, leaving a lot of money on the table for your business.

Any Examples of Keyword Cannibalization Being Good for SEO?

In general, you should only aim to have one page available to serve for each keyword and their variations. This will ensure that page is given the most authority from Google and other search engines like Bing and Yahoo and will give that particular page the best chance of ranking higher, especially as you build more relevant and trustworthy backlinks to the page!

If you are, however, really wanting to dominate the SERP with your website as much as possible, it is worth researching and seeing if there is an opportunity to implement the Surround Sound SEO Strategy into your search engine marketing.

How to Find Keyword Cannibalization Issues (The Hard Way)

If you are not a user of SEOTesting, there are a few different things you can do to find keyword cannibalization opportunities on your website.

  1. You can run a content audit, listing all of the pages of your website and noting down key pieces of information like the content titles, meta information and key information included in the content. This will help you establish which keywords are being targeted by which page. This only works (most of the time) with small to medium websites.
  2. You can run a site search in Google using the “site:” search operator. Simply search all instances where Google has indexed and ranked your website and add different topics to find multiple pages that are serving the same keyword or topic.

    For example, if I was to try and find instances where our website was ranking for two different pages with the “SEO Reporting” topic, I’d simply write this into Google: site:seotesting.com “SEO reporting” and this would list all instances of our website that are ranking with the words SEO Reporting somewhere in the title.

How to Find Keyword Cannibalization Issues (The Easy Way)

As I mentioned at the very start of this guide, SEOTesting provides a really simple way for you to find all of the pages on your website that rank for the same keyword.

Simply head to your SEOTesting dashboard, click “Reports” and then click “Keyword Cannibalization” which will be right at the very bottom of your reports page. Click “Request Report” and in a short period of time, your report will be emailed to you!

You’ll also be able to see a list of past reports located in the section as well. This is incredibly handy as you’ll be able to compare recent reports to reports you have just created, allowing you to monitor how well you are doing at fixing issues of keyword cannibalization.

Screenshot of the keyword cannibalization report in SEOTesting.com

How to Fix Keyword Cannibalization Issues

Check your Page Titles

You may have a simple issue of duplicate page titles, this is incredibly common on eCommerce websites where products may be listed within different categories.

If so you may be able to remove the target keyword from any page that is not the target to rank for the keyword.

As an example. If I have an eCommerce website and I have men’s jeans in a wide array of categories, like 32” waist jeans and 34” waist jeans, these titles, even though they serve completely different products, may be duplicated. This could cause an array of cannibalization issues across your site. As a fix for this, you could rename your pages so they are only relevant to the size they are serving.

Link from the Non-Target Pages to the Main Page you want to Rank for that Keyword

If you do have multiple pages ranking for a keyword, and you want to keep all the pages, you should internally link from non-target pages to the target url. This link should use the keyword as the anchor text as this will indicate to Google that this target url is the one that should be ranking for this keyword.

Locating keyword cannibalization issues can be turned into a positive for a site by showing you lots of opportunities to include additional internal links across the site.

Merge Pages and Redirect

There may be the possibility of taking multiple pages ranking for the same keyword and combining them into a single comprehensive page.

If you do this, make sure you redirect any urls you combine to the url you are targeting for the keyword.

A good example for merging pages and redirecting them would be the example we have used throughout this particular guide. SEO Reporting. If we were to have written two guides on SEO Reporting with very similar content, there is almost always the opportunity to include some of the content from one of the guides and add it into the other guide. We can then redirect one of the guides to the other page.

This, in most cases, will drive additional authority to Google and allow the guide that is not redirected to rank a little higher, driving more impressions, more clicks and more leads!

Remove Pages and Redirect

Rather than merge articles together, it may be a simple task of removing unnecessary pages that accidently target a keyword. As with merging, make sure you redirect any urls you remove to the page you do want to rank for the keyword.

Do Nothing

Sometimes having 2 results in the search results for a keyword is what you want, especially if they fulfill different types of search intent for example an ecommerce page and a review article.

Summary

Keyword cannibalization could be harming your efforts to rank specific keywords. I recommend running the Keyword Cannibalization report at least once a quarter. This will help you diagnose cannibalization issues so you can fix them and give your target page the best chance of ranking well.