How to Avoid Keyword Cannibalization in PPC Campaigns

Written by Ryan Jones. Updated on 25, August 2022

As a marketer working in SEO, or a business owner who does their own marketing, it’s common to have both an SEO campaign and at least one PPC campaign running at the same time. The general ‘rule of thumb’ is that your PPC campaigns are there for quick user acquisition at a higher cost, whereas SEO is the long-term play.

One issue with this is you could find yourself at risk of finding instances of keyword cannibalization between your SEO and PPC campaign/s. Within this article, we will go through what PPC keyword cannibalization actually is, the different types of cannibalizations and how to avoid them.

     Some brands bid for their brand name.

What is PPC Keyword Cannibalization?

Within PPC advertising, keyword cannibalization refers to instances where you have two (or more) campaigns or ad groups targeting the same search query or queries. To put it into slightly simpler terms, you have two or more ads competing for advertising space on the same keyword.

This is slightly different to SEO keyword cannibalization. If you’re looking for more information on that, then I’d absolutely advise checking out our comprehensive keyword cannibalization guide.

Types of PPC Keyword Cannibalization

Within PPC campaigns, there is a risk of different types of keyword cannibalization. Some are incredibly easy to explain (and, therefore, fix) whereas some are a little more complicated and will take a little more effort between you and/or your PPC team to fix.

Paid Keyword Overlap

This, in my view, is the most common type of PPC keyword cannibalization. Essentially, this is caused when you have different ad groups targeting the same set of keywords.

For example, if I was running an ecommerce website selling shoes, I may want to run PPC campaigns to target more bottom of the funnel traffic. Let’s say I had an ad group listing “men’s boat shoes” and another ad group listing “men’s size 12 boat shoes”.

Both of these could be targeting the “men’s boat shoes” keyword in Google.

This is going to cause a few issues for you as a PPC campaign manager or business owner including:

Higher Cost Per Click

Essentially, this means you are paying more money for each click that arrives on your website from your PPC advertisement.

Higher Cost Per Acquisition

Due to the higher CPC you will be paying, you will also find you are paying more and more to convert website visitors into paying customers. This will hit you especially hard if your website has a low conversion rate as it takes more visitors to convert into customers.

Geographical / Location Overlap

Another very common type of PPC keyword cannibalization is geographical or location overlap. What this means for you, as a business owner or PPC manager, is that you have two or more ad groups targeting locations which cause the different ad groups to show up on the same keywords or set of keywords.

One of the best examples to use to further explain this is to think that you have one ad group targeting a specific city (let’s say Nottingham, United Kingdom for example) and one ad group targeting the country (United Kingdom in this case), both of these ads could be competing against each other.

As with the case of overlapping keywords, this is going to cause a number of issues for you including a higher CPC and a higher CPA. Not something you want as a business owner or account manager.

Paid Results vs Organic Results Overlap

This is the keyword cannibalization we are really going to dig into with this informative post as it is the type of cannibalization that is most likely to happen when you have PPC campaigns and SEO campaigns running at the same time.

Essentially, this type of cannibalization occurs when a PPC ad is displayed on a SERP that already features your organic result. Whilst it isn’t necessarily an issue, it does need to be carefully managed and should be avoided where needed in order to avoid issues like higher CPC rates and higher CPA rates.

If you are already ranking high in the organic results, it is probably worth removing this keyword from your ad group target to save your business money and the time & effort to manage this part of the campaign. However, it can be useful to display a PPC ad at the top of a SERP if your organic result does not rank very highly as this allows you more of the SERP real estate and more of a chance of getting clicks. Yes, even if you are paying for those clicks.

How to Avoid Keyword Cannibalization in PPC Campaigns

Now we can get into the ‘nitty gritty’ stuff that you SEO and PPC pros out there will love getting stuck into. We’ll go through the different methods you can do to manage and avoid PPC keyword cannibalization.

Run a Keyword Report

The first thing you will need to do in order to identify any and all instances of keyword cannibalization we explained above, you need to run a keyword report. What this will give you is a list of keywords that are being targeted by all of your different ad groups.

     Google Ads Keyword Planner report with current keyword targets.

Once you have all this data, you’ll be able to:

  • Analyse Paid Keyword Overlap
  • Analyse Geographical Overlap
  • Analyse PPC vs SEO Overlap

And you will be able to make informed decisions as to which keywords to remove from your PPC campaigns and which to continue with. For example, if I run a keyword report in Google Ads and find that I am running an ad group that contains the “Men’s Football Boots” keyword, but I know this ranks highly on Google organically, I may decide to remove this from my ad campaign in order to save some money.

Use “Exact Match” Keywords

In my opinion, making good use of exact match keywords is the best way to avoid PPC keyword cannibalization across all of your PPC campaigns and all of your different SEO campaigns too.

When you add exact match keywords into your different ad groups, Google Ads will only show your ads when a user types in the exact word or phrase that you are targeting. This way, you can be sure you are only spending money on the exact keywords you wish to target.

Conversations can be had between your SEO team and PPC team (if you have separate teams) and/or your digital marketing agency to decide on the keywords you want to just target with SEO, just target with PPC and target with both SEO and PPC.

This makes your paid acquisition much more efficient, which is what every business owner wants to have!

Evaluate SEO-PPC Overlap

We’ve touched on this a couple of times already, but it is important so we do believe it is worth its own separate point. When you experience PPC keyword cannibalization between your ad campaigns and your organic keywords, it is crucial to have a conversation between all relevant stakeholders to ensure you are being as efficient as possible.

There are a couple of situations where it would be useful to have cannibalization between your organic and PPC keywords, brand search is the main one. Unless your brand name is trademarked, competitors are within their legal rights to bid on your brand name. Google has no rules against this.

Yes, it’s a shady practice.

Because of this, it’s always a good idea to ensure you are bidding on your brand keywords with your PPC campaigns too to ensure you are generating the most clicks. More importantly, it allows you to ensure competitors are not getting traffic from your brand name!

However… If you are ranking at Position 1 for a high-converting keyword, it may not be a good idea to have a PPC campaign running on this as well. You may find your CPA (cost per acquisition) goes down and you’re paying to acquire the same customers you would have got anyway.


To conclude this piece, we simply need to say that PPC keyword cannibalization is individual to all businesses. Some businesses, depending on their circumstances, will find good use cases to cannibalize some of their PPC keywords and combine these with their SEO efforts whereas some businesses will not find any use case at all.

If you do see instances of keyword cannibalization within your PPC campaigns, you should have a conversation with all the relevant stakeholders as soon as you can to establish the right course of action.

If you’re looking for a way to grab your ranking organic keywords so you can compare this with your PPC campaigns, SEOTesting is a great tool. Try us out now with a 14-day free trial (no credit card required).