What is keyword cannibalisation – And can you avoid it?

By Andy Toone | January 25, 2024

Keywords play an important role in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Ultimately, keywords are what connect your content with the search queries of users, resulting in increased website traffic. 

However, there’s a hidden peril that can jeopardise your SEO efforts — keyword cannibalisation. By understanding the cause of keyword cannibalisation and implementing the right strategies, you can ensure that your content ranks higher, drives more organic traffic, and achieves your business goals.


Understanding keyword cannibalisation

Before we dive into prevention strategies, let’s first define what keyword cannibalisation is and why it matters in the world of SEO.

Keyword cannibalisation occurs when multiple pages on your website target the same or similar keywords. When this happens, these pages end up competing against each other in search engine results pages (SERPs). As a result, search engines become uncertain about which page to rank for a particular keyword, which can lead to lower rankings for all the involved pages.

Imagine having two salespeople on your team trying to close the same deal with the same customer simultaneously. It’s counterproductive, right? The same principle applies to keyword cannibalisation — it dilutes your SEO efforts and hinders your website’s overall performance.


The impact of keyword cannibalisation

Keyword cannibalisation can have several adverse effects on your website’s SEO and content marketing efforts:

Reduced rankings: When multiple pages compete for the same keyword, they are less likely to rank well in SERPs. This can lead to decreased visibility and lower organic traffic.

Confused search engines: Search engines may have difficulty determining which page is the most relevant for a specific keyword. This confusion can result in your content being pushed lower down the search rankings.

Inefficient use of resources: Creating multiple pieces of content targeting the same keyword can be time-consuming and resource-intensive. This can be especially problematic if your business has limited content production capabilities.

Poor user experience: When users encounter several similar pages from the same website in search results, it can be frustrating and confusing. This may lead to a higher bounce rate and decreased user engagement.

Now that we understand the potential consequences of keyword cannibalisation, let’s explore actionable strategies to avoid it and optimise your SEO efforts.


Carrying out content audits

To further safeguard your website from keyword cannibalisation, perform regular content audits. This involves evaluating your existing content to identify any instances of keyword overlap or cannibalisation. 

Create a content inventory: Compile a list of all the pages and blog posts on your website. This can be done manually or with the help of SEO auditing tools.

Analyse keywords: Review the keywords targeted by each page. Identify any pages that are targeting the same or similar keywords.

Assess content quality: Evaluate the quality and relevance of each piece of content — you can use Google Search Console for this. Identify any outdated or underperforming content that may need revision or removal.

Resolve keyword conflicts: If you discover instances of keyword cannibalisation during your content audit, take action to resolve them. Consider consolidating or merging similar pages, redirecting URLs, or re-optimising content to target new, unique keywords.

Update and refresh content: Ensure that your content remains up-to-date and valuable to your audience. For best practice, you should regularly update and refresh older content to maintain its relevance.

By conducting content audits, you can proactively identify and address keyword cannibalisation issues. At NMG, our team is well-versed in conducting content audits for businesses, ensuring that your website’s SEO remains on track. 


Implementing a strategic keyword strategy

One of the most effective ways to prevent keyword cannibalisation is by developing a well-thought-out keyword strategy. 

Keyword research

Start by conducting comprehensive keyword research to identify the most relevant keywords to your business and target audience. You can utilise keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, or Ahrefs to discover high-value keywords. Thanks to their high search volume, they have the potential to drive significant traffic or conversion when used in digital content. 

Keyword mapping

Once you have a list of target keywords, create a keyword map. Assign specific keywords to individual pages on your website, ensuring each page targets unique, distinct and relevant keywords. This mapping will help you maintain keyword focus and clarity across your content — ensuring that you do not assign the same keyword twice. 

If you’re struggling to find a new keyword for a similar page, you can also try searching for long-tail keywords. These keywords are more like search queries (think of what you’d type into Google), and they will give you the chance to refine and tailor to the page more specifically. 

Content planning

Develop a content calendar that aligns with your keyword mapping. Plan your content creation efforts strategically to cover a wide range of keywords without overlapping. Each piece of content should serve a specific purpose and target a specific keyword.

Internal linking

Use internal linking strategically to guide search engine crawlers and users to the most relevant pages on your website. Ensure that anchor text reflects the topic and keyword of the linked page.

Using canonical tags

Canonical tags are HTML elements that can be added to your web pages to inform search engines about the preferred or canonical version of a page when multiple versions with similar content exist. When implemented correctly, canonical tags can help prevent keyword cannibalisation. 

Identify the canonical page: Determine which page you want to designate as the canonical version. This should be the most comprehensive and authoritative page for the targeted keyword.

Add canonical tags: Insert the canonical tag in the HTML header of the non-canonical pages, specifying the canonical URL of the preferred page. Search engines will then understand which page to prioritise in search results.

Canonical tags are a powerful tool for managing keyword cannibalisation. In situations where it’s challenging to consolidate or redirect pages, our software team at NMG can help to effectively eradicate keyword cannibalisation.


Monitoring and analytics

To ensure that your efforts to avoid keyword cannibalisation are successful, you need to monitor your website’s performance and analyse the impact of your strategies. 

Track keyword rankings: Use SEO tracking tools to monitor the rankings of your target keywords. Keep an eye on any fluctuations that may indicate cannibalisation issues.

Analyse traffic and engagement: Regularly review your website’s traffic and engagement metrics, such as organic traffic, bounce rate, and time on page. Look for patterns or anomalies that may be related to keyword cannibalisation.

Google Search Console: Utilise Google Search Console to identify any indexation or crawling issues that may affect your SEO efforts. It can also provide insights into which pages are ranking for specific keywords.

Conduct A/B testing: Experiment with different approaches to content optimisation and keyword targeting to determine what works best for your website. A/B testing can help you fine-tune your strategies and mitigate cannibalisation. At NMG, this is our bread and butter, and we’re used to fine tuning your SEO day in, day out. 


Polish up your business SEO with help from NMG

Keyword cannibalisation can put your digital success at risk. At Narwhal Media Group, our SEO experts have mastered the art of avoiding keyword conflicts, ensuring your brand shines, your audience engages, and your business thrives.

We don’t promise instant miracles, but our SEO strategies age like fine wine — they improve over time. Contact us today to get started.


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