Keyword cannibalization sounds like it’s pulled out of a horror movie – what is it? It basically means you have multiple posts that show up for a particular Google search request.  

It usually happens when we write so much that we start covering similar topics. Or we target the same keyword with various posts.

Ok, got it. But why exactly is it bad for SEO?

It’s tempting to think that keyword cannibalization is awesome. After all, you do want potential clients to see as much of your brand as possible.

It can be (more on that later), but for the most part, it’s not. Here are a few reasons why:

1. It has the potential to lower rankings for your pages

After working for hours on our posts, grueling research and all, it’s only fair for us to want them to rank highly.

The amount of internal links and backlinks pointing back to a particular post are key ranking factors. The more the links, the more you assure Google that your content is trustworthy and relevant.

Assume you have two posts that cover a somewhat similar topic. You’ll find that the backlinks are divided across both posts. One could have 30, the other 45, while the top-ranking post for that topic on Google has 80.

Your posts might end up at position #6 and #7, but combining them into one kickass post might skyrocket them to position #2.

2. It reaps your control over which page ranks higher

Say you have an article on ‘How to claim your insurance package’ and another ‘Why your insurance package feels out of reach’.

The first is your money-maker, converting leads by the minute. The other is as useful as Christmas lights in January in terms of lead conversion.

However, the engine might rank the second one higher, maybe because it has more backlinks.

That means you’re losing money and leads.

3. It can give the wrong impression about your content.

We like content how we like our milk- refreshing and not yet past its time. So imagine you have two posts that compete with each other- from 2009 and 2020 respectively.

Prospective clients who happen to click on the 2009 post will get the impression that your site’s content is dated.

And they might subconsciously blacklist your brand and not bother checking out your other content.

Yikes, how can I find out if my keywords are cannibalizing each other?

Lucky for you, you don’t have to constantly worry that posts you’ve worked so hard on are your undoing.

There are nifty tools that can help highlight keyword cannibalization:

1. Google Search Console

On GSC, you can access how your site has been performing. It shows you which search queries show your posts, how many people clicked on them, and all other performance stats.

Unlike other tools, it’s uber easy to navigate. And you can sift through the URLs that rank for specific keywords like a pro.

More than one URL shows a high possibility of keyword cannibalization. However, we recommend using filters like location and device when assessing the data to increase accuracy. You see, Google has a tendency of showing averages if you don’t pick a filter.

2. Site: Search Operator

Does GSC sound a bit too complex for your liking? There’s an even easier way!

Simply go to google.com. On the search bar, key in ‘site:[domain] keyword’, for instance, ‘site: amazon.com journal’.

The search result will be a list of pages that Google thinks are relevant for the keyword ‘journal’.

From there, you can assess which ones look like they’re competing. How? Compare the number of keywords and backlinks in each using a tool like Moz.

However, no method is foolproof. There’s no harm in using both just to be sure.

Nice! Is there an easy way to fix keyword cannibalization?

First, you have to look at the factors above to determine whether you need to fix them. If you have two posts that consistently rank at #1 and #2, for example, you might want to keep things that way.

For those that need fixing, you have some easy options:

1. Merge Content

So you have two posts that talk about one thing, no problem. Pick content from both posts and merge it into one mega-post.

But wait, won’t you lose all the backlinks to the posts? Nope! Simply have your IT guy redirect the links from both posts onto the new mega-post.

Don’t be surprised when you gradually start ranking higher.

2. Canonicalize

Sounds like the not-so-evil twin of cannibalization. It’s not as complex as it sounds. When you don’t want to merge posts, you can add a small HTML tag to the most important post. It’s called a canonical tag.

Google will rank that post higher for you after that. Here’s a simple guide on canonicalizing.

3. No Index

You might have a competing post that you feel is relevant, but you don’t want it to rank. This mostly goes for category pages or archives.

Your best bet is to remove them from search results by no-indexing them. They’ll stop competing with your more relevant posts.

4. Delete Content

You feel like a particular post is doing more harm than good. That might be a sign that it needs to go.

Delete it and redirect all links pointing to it to a more relevant post.

The Bottom Line

Keyword cannibalization is a very real problem that most blog moderators don’t even take into account. It can dilute your content and lower the quality of what you’ve built for years.

We have a dedicated team of law firm SEO experts who’ve been in the game for 20 years. They can take the reins and help you with keyword cannibalization.

These days, blogs are the voices of our brands. Contact us today to keep your voice crisp enough for clients.