Written by Tiago Silva. Updated on 20, September 2022
Keyword Cannibalization can severely hurt a site's performance.
It can be the reason behind losing organic traffic and rankings, and why your efforts don't produce noticeable results.
This can happen when content production doesn't follow a defined strategy and several posts target the same topics.
Fortunately, not everything is lost, and this guide will show you what tools can identify keyword cannibalization issues.
Follow along, and you'll be on the right path to improving your rankings.
Keyword cannibalization happens when more than one page ranks for the same keyword.
This is more the case of approaching one topic with multiple pieces of content than a duplicate content problem.
But this isn't beneficial at all, and John Mueller said it's "like a bunch of kids wanting to be first in line, and ultimately someone else slips in ahead of them".
Multiple pages ranking for the same keyword can often lead to split authority, meaning Google is not giving enough authority to any of the pages to allow them to rank as high as they can.
It also generally leads to worse results for the keyword/topic overall thanks to a combination of a lower CTR (click through rate), lower click numbers, and lower impression numbers.
Another consequence of cannibalization is more ranking fluctuations as Google tests which page should rank higher.
At the end of the day, keyword cannibalization can be like climbing a mountain carrying extra weight. The mountain is the same, but you have to put in a lot more effort to reach the goal (i.e., the #1 position on Google).
Fortunately, there are a number of tools that can help you find keyword cannibalization.
Check them out below alongside their pros and cons.
Google Search Console is in a prime position to detect cannibalization as the data comes directly from Google.
The best way to find keyword cannibalization is using the Performance report to see the site's performance on Google Search.
Now you can go through the top queries and see if there is more than one page ranking for it.
Note: you can filter results by clicks or impressions depending on your personal preference. I personally like to do a top 10 check with both filters.
When more than one page ranks for a search term, that's potentially a cannibalization issue.
However, you might not need to worry if you see the other pages only have a handful of impressions.
Where you might consider fixing this cannibalization problem, for example, would be if you have two pages listed on Page 2 of the SERPs for one keyword. If you were to remove one of these pages and redirect the URL to the other, you may find that this page jumps up a few positions onto Page 1.
You should always check the SERPs as well as consulting Search Console data. By looking at just GSC you may come across cannibalization issues that have already been resolved by recent changes.
You can also look at the Coverage report on Google Search Console to find more cannibalization signals.
The report 'Crawled - currently not indexed' shows pages that Google has crawled but don’t deserve to be indexed.
Look for pages approaching similar topics that can be considered cannibalization.
The PROS of using Google Search Console to find cannibalization issues:
As you can see, Google Search Console data is instrumental but time-consuming.
Fortunately, SEOTesting has the solution for this!
SEOTesting’s keyword cannibalization report is a much faster way of using data from Google Search Console.
The report shows the queries with one or more pages ranking for it.
This removes the need to manually go through all the queries in Google Search Console.
The report can be exported to a CSV file to be opened in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.
The best part is that you can create SEO tests to see if your changes to the pages resulted in more clicks, impressions, and improved rankings.
This way, you can measure if your efforts to fix keyword cannibalization were worth it or not.
The PROS of using SEOTesting to find cannibalization issues:
Google search operators help find the pages Google returns for a specific query. This generally means your search query is contained within the text of these pages.
Head to Google and enter the site operator site:[domain] “your keyword”
Google indexed 148 results related to "Google Search Console" from SEOTesting.com.
What you are looking for within these results are page titles that are very similar in nature. For example, if you did a search for:
site:yourdomain.com “press releases”
And the top two pages returned are titled:
“10 ways to write a great press release”
“How to write a press release, top 5 tips”
These articles are likely very similar, and could be combined (with one redirected to the other). I would certainly recommend investigating the query ‘press releases’ in Google Search Console for this site to see if the data backs this theory up.
PROS of using search operators:
ScreamingFrog is a mainstay tool for SEO audits and can also find keyword cannibalization.
You just need to run a crawl of the site, click on the H1 tab, and export the report.
Using a page’s primary keyword target within the H1 is one of the basic rules of SEO that marketers have been following for years.
So, looking at the H1 information lets you quickly find pages targeting the same keywords or covering the same topic.
PROS of using ScreamingFrog:
Sitebulb is another tool you can use to find cannibalization issues.
Start by running a report, heading to 'URL Explorer', and looking at the Metadata.
You can export the page titles to a spreadsheet or analyse them inside Sitebulb.
Once again, you are looking for page titles that are of a very similar nature that could lead to cannibalization issues, and deserve further investigation in Google Search Console and the SERPs.
Pros of Sitebulb:
Ahrefs, as a tool, makes it incredibly easy to identify keyword cannibalization on any of your websites.
Head into your Ahrefs dashboard and click on the “Organic Keywords” report which you will find on the left-hand side of your screen. This will give you a list of all the keywords Ahrefs finds that your website ranks for. Don’t worry about it missing any here, Ahrefs has an index of over 10 Billion (yes, Billion) keywords and there are more found every single day.
When looking at this report, you will see the keyword on the left and the URL that ranks for that keyword on the right. You can then export this (using the button on the top right of your screen) and export it to a Google Sheets or Excel file.
Once you have the file exported, it’s simply a case of filtering down and finding any instances where you have multiple URLs ranking for the same keyword.
Fixing it, generally, is made simple too. Ahrefs allows you to sort the data by which URL generates the most amount of traffic, so sort this from high to low. You can then set-up an SEO test in which you redirect any lower performing URLs to the main URL (using SEOTesting to do this, ideally) and see what results come.
Pros of Ahrefs:
Cons of Ahrefs:
In my opinion, it is simpler to use Semrush to find instances of keyword cannibalization than it is to use Ahrefs.
Once you have logged in to your dashboard, on the left-hand side of your screen you should click “Position Tracking” listed under the “Keyword Research” section. Once this has all loaded up, click on your chosen project and then click “Pages” on the top of your screen.
This will give you a list of your URLs that are ranking for your chosen keywords within your project.
Simply click each URL and you can see the keywords this URL ranks for. When you notice instances of multiple URLs having the same keyword/s within these sections, this is where you head to SEOTesting and set up your test to have the lower performing pages redirected to the page that currently generates the most amount of traffic, leads, revenue etc.
Again, you can also export this to Google Slides or Microsoft Excel to make keyword cannibalization easier for you to spot.
Pros of Semrush:
Cons of Semrush:
As you can see, there are lots of tools that can help you tackle keyword cannibalization.
Are you still undecided about which tool is the best for you? I have a solution for you: sign up for SEOTesting for a 14-day free trial (no credit card required).
Grab the keyword cannibalization report, and find the pages you need to focus on next to fix cannibalization.
If this sounds too easy, it is because it is! The best part is that it costs you nothing for the first 14-days.