What is keyword cannibalization in SEO? Causes and countermeasures

A potential problem that can occur as the number of articles on a website increases is the keyword Cannibalization. It’s not a concept that’s covered very extensively, so some of the people in charge have never heard of it before. To put it simply, in a keyword cannibalization situation, multiple articles are competing for keywords, and the ratings are spread out, making it difficult to rank for the Keyword on the desired page

Cannibalization is a problem that is hard to notice but happens more often than you might think. . To avoid wasting your content, you want to be aware of it and deal with it as soon as possible.

In this article, we’ll discuss the basic concept of what cannibalization is, how to detect it, how to prevent it.

What is the keyword cannibalization?

IN SEO, Keyword cannibalization refers to the occurrence of duplication of keywords.

As the content grows, there may be pages with exactly the same keywords, or multiple content with very similar content. If this happens, search engines such as Google will not know which page is suitable as a search result for a particular search keyword. As a result, the evaluation will be distributed to each page, and the overall search ranking will not rise.

Specific examples of keyword cannibalization

Let’s consider a specific example. Let’s say we were running an online furniture shopping store. So, we want to improve our search rankings for the keyword “couches” and create a dedicated category page (Page A). In addition, in order to increase the content of furniture in the shop, we are creating content that introduces how to choose furniture and recommended products. 

Regarding couch sofas, we have posted articles such as “Recommended products for compact couch sofas (Page B)” and “How to choose couch sofas for single living (Page C)” with contents that user needs are high in the keyword survey.

As a result, when searching for the keyword “Recommended Sofa Couch”,

pageSearch order
Page A8th place
Page B3rd place
Page C10th

Is displayed now.

In this way, a situation in which the content of your site is displayed multiple times in the same search result is called keyword cannibalization.

Is keyword cannibalization also good?

When you search with a certain keyword, only one page is originally displayed for each keyword in the search results. However, when the keyword cannibalization occurs, multiple pages will be posted. Depending on the search keyword, it may greatly contribute to increasing the number of visits to the entire site.

In this way, there is a way of thinking that cannibalization itself is positive. However, the disadvantages such as the tendency to lower the search ranking are immeasurable. The disadvantages and solutions will be described later, but we recommend that you basically proceed with measures in the direction of “eliminating cannibalization.”

Causes of keyword cannibalization

Think about why cannibalization occurs. As can be seen from the word “cannibalism”, it occurs when the same or similar keywords are targeted among multiple contents.

For example, the following can happen:

  • If the page titles are similar
  • If the page content is similar
  • When a similar keyword is written in the anchor text or alt tag

In other words, be careful if the keywords used in your content are similar.

If the keywords are similar between the contents, search engines such as Google will be confused and may think “I do not know which page’s theme the searched keywords are suitable for.” As a result, the evaluation is distributed.

Cannibalization is difficult to cause intentionally, and it is uncertain under what conditions it will occur. However, basically, let’s try to create content with the idea that “1 keyword is created for 1 page on 1 site” and “Target keywords are avoided as much as possible”.

Difference in concept from duplicate content

When you say “contents are similar”, you may be wondering how they differ from “duplicate content”. As the name implies, the duplicate content is almost the same as the content itself. 80% or more of the pages are similar to the content created by copy and paste. Duplicate content is subject to Google’s penalty, and the risk of a significant drop in search ranking is very high.

On the other hand, cannibalization is a situation where there are multiple pages of answers to the keywords that users are searching for. As mentioned earlier, it also means that multiple pages can be exposed to the same search result, so there is a positive impact depending on the way of thinking.

Disadvantages of keyword cannibalization

If you leave keyword cannibalization, there can be the following issues.

– Diversification of evaluations from Google

If you have multiple content using the same keyword, Google will be confused as to which page is best suited. As a result, the search order becomes unstable, and the URLs displayed in the search order change frequently.

Then, the access from users and backlinks will be dispersed, and if they can be aggregated into one article, the high evaluation that should have been gathered will be dispersed. Dispersed evaluation means that it may be difficult to increase the ranking of individual searches.

– Leading to opportunity loss

Imagine if one of your articles had keyword cannibalization and one page had a higher CVR (conversion rate) than the others. By displaying similar pages in multiple search results, some users do not browse pages with high CVR. As a result, they may be missing conversions that they were supposed to get.

– User satisfaction drops

If there are pages that are close to the same content, it is possible that the content on each page is light information. Not only the search engine but also the user satisfaction may be reduced. Rather than having multiple unsatisfied pages (= no conversions), it is better to scrutinize the content and focus on only good content, which will increase user sensitivity.

– The number of long-tailed customers is reduced

When you first create content, you may feel a sense of accomplishment as the amount of content grows even if you have keyword cannibalization. However, from a long-term perspective, it will hinder the attraction of customers. Even if the user wants to get new information, they will quickly leave if the content is similar,.

We want to maintain the concept of 1 keyword and 1 content in order to attract users who visit us many times.

How to discover keyword cannibalization

Even if you notice the disadvantages of keyword cannibalization and want to deal with it, I think its good to understand how to find it. Here are some specific ways to discover keyword cannibalization.

– Do a keyword search

Let’s search for your site by entering the target SEO keyword. If an article related to that keyword already exists, you should avoid using it. If more than one article hits, pick the most appropriate page and take steps to eliminate cannibalization (more on this later).

If there is a site search function, it will be smooth to use. If you can’t use the on-site search well, use the Google search command. In the search window, enter the site URL after site: , a space bar and enter the search keyword after that. Then only the pages that are indexed within your site will appear in Google search results.

– Use Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a tool that allows you to check the keywords and search queries searched by the users who actually visited your website. Select “Queries” under “Performance” and click the keyword you want to check.

You can also click “Pages” to see the URL displayed in the search results for that keyword. If you see a page with inflows from multiple pages on this screen, the word is cannibalized.

How to eliminate keyword cannibalization

Finally, after you have discovered keyword cannibalization, I will explain how to eliminate it. Even if cannibalization occurs, it does not lead to Google’s penalty, so there is a option to leave it alone. However, there are some disadvantages, so I recommend that you proceed from where you can refer to the following methods.

– Adjust title tags

If the keyword you want to display is clear, including that word in the title tag is a rudimentary method for SEO. But when cannibalization happens, pages with similar titles are populated with the same keywords. For pages you do not want to display in the search results, remove the keyword from the title and rewrite it.

On the contrary, for the contents you want to display in the search results for your desired keyword, put the target keywords in the title without exception. Also, be careful about the position, such as putting the keyword at the beginning of the title.

– Set to noindex

There is also a method to prevent Google from recognizing pages that do not need to be visited from search results among articles that are causing cannibalization by adding a noindex tag to those pages. Let’s use it in cases such as when creating a separate landing page for web advertisements, where you are not supposed to visit from search results but there is concern about keyword cannibalization.

When setting, describe “<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>” in the HTML head. If you’re using WordPress, it’s easier with a plugin.

– Use 301 redirects

When there are multiple pages, create a mechanism to redirect to the most powerful page.

There are three steps.

> Decide on the main article to be integrated

The pages that should be left are decided by comparing them from the viewpoint that they have many accesses, many links, and high conversion rates even within the site.

> Consolidate site articles

Include the content of other articles in the article to be left.

> Redirect to other pages

Set 301 redirects for each page you want to avoid displaying from the search results. By doing so, when there is access to other articles, the main article screen will be displayed automatically. Also, since the authority of each redirected URL is inherited, the evaluation of the main page is further enhanced.

Since the information is aggregated on one page, it is not only a measure for search engines, but also a measure that is more convenient for users.

– Adjust internal links

If you’re experiencing cannibalization across multiple URLs, set an internal link to tell you which is the most suitable page for that keyword.

Set the internal link from the page with the lowest priority to link to the most powerful URL. It can also be used as an alternative when redirect support is difficult.


Keyword cannibalization is a phenomenon that occurs only when you try hard to increase the size of the site. It’s not a problem that leads to a penalty, but it may prevent user inflow and conversion, so if you find it, take appropriate measures.

Cannibalization isn’t the only factor affecting search rankings, but addressing issues with cannibalization may improve search rankings

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