If you are optimizing content for your website using the same terms or keywords, you may end up dealing with keyword cannibalization resulting in poor search ranking performance later on. Keyword cannibalization happens when you have multiple pages only targeting the same keyword and is ranking.
Why is Keyword Cannibalization a Serious Problem for SEO?
In keyword cannibalization based on my experience, the first thing to drop is organic keywords followed by organic traffic in 2-3 days. It’s a serious problem if not resolved right away as organic traffic will continue to drop at a certain level.
It might be mistaken also with penalization especially when you see a slow continuous drop of organic traffic in Ahrefs and if there’s a recent Google update.
While it seems great to find your pages appear on the same result page, but it is advisable to either combined the content or deoptimize the other page/post and use another keyword for it to rank.
How to Check Keyword Cannibalization?
Before you optimize anything, make sure to confirm if your site is experiencing cannibalization. Here’s what you need to do:
1. Check Cannibalization Through Ahrefs
If your site has a lot of pages already and not new it will be easier to confirm.
Time needed: 10 minutes.
In Ahrefs Go to
- Dashboard and input your site
- Once the site is loaded go to Organic Keywords and download all organic keywords
- Export Organic Keywords
- Upload exported organic keywords and add it on the Excel sheet
This is the excel sheet I got from Ahrefs on their version 1 as version 2 was not working. Click the link here (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1EO77p8nNvfwgwqkxk09An2X553ygKSPyg-fB8ZoPL7s/edit?usp=sharing).
Go to the File menu and make a copy. After creating the copy, rename it and go to File menu again and import the keywords. Make sure to select “Append to current sheet“
- Wait for the doc to finish importing the data and check on the 2nd tab which is “results” to see what links, pages, keywords are cannibalizing each other.
Note: If the site is new, sometimes you can’t get data in Ahrefs and what you need to do is check Google Search Console or in SERPs.
2. Double Check Cannibalization in Google Search Console
Go to the site in Google Search Console (GSC) and check each page that you think are in cannibalization. You’ll have an idea if you did Ahrefs (above step) first to have an idea or basis of your assumption. Click “Pages” and click the link. After clicking the link, select “Queries” to find out the keywords it’s ranking for. If you see a keyword that’s not related to the page or post itself then make note of it and make necessary optimization.
3. Check SERPs
You can double check in SERPs and type the keyword that you think causing the cannibalization or based on the data you found on #1 and #2 above. If you see two pages or post on SERPs and ranking on both terms.
How to Fix Keyword Cannibalization?
Fixing cannibalization needs practice and if you have more experience on this will help you more on how to fix it and make proper decisions. Here’s what you need to do.
1. Slowly Deoptimize the Other Page or Post
Based on the result on the doc from Ahrefs and in Google search console, you need to decide which page needs to be deoptimized depending on the keyword or keywords you find. Start by deoptimizing the page or post on the meta tags before deoptimizing the content like in heading tags (H1, H2, H3, and so on) and within the content then observe. If it still shows a decline of organic traffic then start with the heading tags and within the content.
Check for any links found in the sidebar or in the footer as it can be one of the causes of cannibalization with the anchor text used.
2. Combine the Article or Page and Do 301 Redirect
When combining the article you can either pick which URL will be the final one or creating a new URL structure to be the final one. If you use the other link (URL structure) then 301 redirect the other article to the URL structure you chose to be the final one.
3. Using LSI May Not be Helpful
If you decide to use LSI after you have done your keyword research just to avoid cannibalization then it may not help depending on the keywords you use. If you use an LSI keyword but the user intent still lets people go to your other page or post for the same keyword or related keyword then it will still cannibalize.
4. Canonicalization for eCommerce Sites
Cannibalization in eCommerce sites can also happen. Try to canonicalize products that have similar keywords to inform Google that the other page is the main one or is the authority. This will help if in case you have a product that is out of stock and want to retain the page and avoid 301 redirection.
When Can You See Changes of Optimization?
If there are slight delays in Google updating SERPs then usually its usually 2 weeks or less. If the other content is new and there are delays is indexing then you may see the changes in 3 weeks or less.
If you see a continuous decline of organic traffic, try to check other causes as sometimes other factors are the cause of it. Just be careful of not over-deoptimizing the page or post as it can cause a negative effect. If you’re working as an SEO, make sure to set proper expectations for your client.
Owner at Be Visible Media
Dale Basilla is a content writer for various niches, SEO (Off-page & On-Page), and lives in a location where there are lots of beaches in the Philippines. He loves to watch anime, TV series (mystery and solving crimes), and movies. In his spare time, he plays chess, plays the guitar, and spend time with his ever busy girlfriend.