Written by Ryan Jones. Updated on 25, August 2022
If you have worked in SEO for longer than a couple of days, you have probably heard the term ‘keyword cannibalization’ mentioned to you by a client, a peer or your employer.
No? Well lucky you.
In this article we will go through what keyword cannibalization is when we speak about it in a purely SEO sense and how you can stop it from occurring across the number of different SEO campaigns that you might be running at any one time.
Ready? Let’s jump straight into it.
To explain very briefly, keyword cannibalization means there are two or more pages of your website ranking for the same keyword in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). This must be a good thing, right? More SERP real estate for us.
Well, not exactly.
In our comprehensive keyword cannibalization guide, we go through every little detail about what keyword cannibalization is, whether it is good or bad for SEO, how you can find examples of keyword cannibalization on your own website and how to fix keyword cannibalization issues that have already occurred.
If you are just starting a new SEO campaign, whether that is for your own website or a client website, preventing keyword cannibalization is crucial as it is going to give your most relevant page the best chance of ranking high in the SERPs, meaning more traffic to your website and more visitors that end up converting.
Lucky for you, there are a number of different things you can do to prevent keyword cannibalization issues from popping up and causing you issues.
One of the best ways that you can prevent keyword cannibalization within your SEO campaigns is to create detailed sets of standard operating procedures for all new starters within your organisation. Do not leave any stone unturned here as it is impossible to be too detailed.
Every task that’s done repeatedly should have its own SOP. Whether that’s a task as simple as tracking your latest ranking positions, writing page titles and meta descriptions or even writing content for your blog.
The big advantage of having a large set of SOPs within your organisation is it stops new starters from doing things that have already been done, like writing a blog post covering a topic that was already written about 2 years ago, or adding keywords onto a page that do not need to be there.
If I wrote a comprehensive guide on A/B Testing for SEO in 2019, I certainly don’t want a new page focussed on the same topic to be created in 2022. This could take authority away from my original page and cause both pieces to rank lower. A better option would be to create a SOP on how to optimise content and then test that content to see if it performs better or worse in the SERPs following the content refresh.
Content marketing when done right can lead your business to new heights, so it is incredibly important to have a full content plan for your business which includes:
This means each of your team knows exactly when they need to be writing content, exactly when they need to be sending it off for editing and exactly when each piece of content needs to be published. This leads to huge benefits with content quality, velocity and the amount of resource you have available for off-site SEO tasks like link building.
Keyword mapping, again, is a great way to use SOPs to ensure quality and consistency in your SEO work. Using SOPs for keyword research and mapping ensures topics are covered completely (in line with your content plan) and existing keywords are covered with existing topics too.
Whether you’re just starting out doing SEO for your own website or you have been in the ‘game’ for a while, we have all heard of keyword stuffing and the dangers of doing this within your SEO campaigns.
Did you know that keyword stuffing could also lead to keyword cannibalization issues?
If, for example, I had written a new blog post for a client website that was targeting the ‘best mountain bike’ keyword, I would want this to be the only page covering this topic to give it the best chance of ranking high within the SERPs.
If, a few weeks later, I also created a blog post that wrote content targeting the ‘best men’s mountain bike’ keyword but kept stuffing the content full of ‘best mountain bike’ keywords and phrases, this is going to confuse Google.
What this could lead to is Google ranking both of these blog posts for the ‘best mountain bike’ keyword, removing authority from my main target page and ranking both of these lower than they could, costing me ranking space, traffic and revenue.
If you do find you have multiple pages targeting the same keyword or set of keywords, the best thing you can do as a first priority is to identify which of these pages is most valuable to you.
For every business, the MVP (most valuable page) is going to look completely different. For a content website that relies on display ads as a source of revenue, then users are going to be the main metric they look at. For an ecommerce website, the main metrics to look at are going to be page value and revenue.
To do this, you can head to your Google Analytics dashboard (UA for now, we will have content on some GA4 topics in the future). Head to Behaviour → Site Content → All Pages and this will give you a breakdown of which pages are performing well for you and which pages are not.
One of the best things you can do to stop keyword cannibalization occurring is to track your keyword rankings at regular intervals.
The interval you check your rankings will depend on a wide array of variables including how many ranking keywords you have, what tool you are using to track your keywords and the importance of each keyword to your business.
But whether you track your position changes once a day, week or month, you need to make sure this is a practice you follow.
The advantage of this is it will allow you to monitor the URLs that rank for particular keywords. If you notice that another URL is starting to rank for a keyword that already has a web page ranking highly, this is your chance to do something about it straight away.
What you do with this new ranking page is up to you. Some may choose to amend the page to target a new topic, others may choose to 301 redirect it to the previous ranking page and some may choose to delete the page altogether.
If you’re looking for a rank tracking tool, and don’t mind the obvious self-plug, we will suggest SEOTesting! Not only can you track chosen keywords' latest position, but you’ll also be able to see what position you ranked 7, 30, 90 and 365 days ago!
Not only this, but you can also track the keyword data as far back as 16 months and annotate when you have made changes to a page to improve keyword position!
For only $30pcm for one website, it’s a steal.
My final tip for preventing keyword cannibalization issues is to write content for entire topics and not single keywords.
What this will allow you to do is use one piece of content, therefore one URL, to rank for a multitude of keywords under the same topic! Rather than writing one piece of content per keyword you want to rank for, risking multiple pages competing with each other for the same keywords and hurting your site performance.
To simplify this a little more, it is better to have one piece of content that ranks for 100 keywords, than 100 pieces of content that rank for 1 keyword each. Not only are you preventing keyword cannibalization, but you are also going to save yourself a lot of time and a lot of money due to the shorter publishing cadence needed. You’re also able to put more effort into this one piece of content, making it the best on the web and giving it the best chance of ranking Position 1 for all of the targeted keywords.
Tools like Keyword Insights are great for this as it will allow you to import a list of all the keywords you want to target, it will cluster it all for you so you know exactly what pieces of content you need to write.
Keyword cannibalization is a big issue in SEO. It costs businesses effort, time and (more importantly) money. Especially when they have to delete content, write new content and spend time implementing 301 redirects to fix issues that have already occurred.
Prevention is always better than a cure, so make sure you’re using the tips above to avoid keyword cannibalization before it becomes a problem for your business.
If you’re interested in giving SEOTesting a try to help with this, you can have a 14-day trial on us, no credit card required!