The Definitive Guide to Keyword Cannibalization: How to Diagnose and Fix it

Table Of ContentsQuick SummaryWhat Is Keyword Cannibalization?Why Is Keyword Cannibalism Bad For SEO?How to Diagnose Keyword Cannibalization1. Agency Analytics2. Ahrefs3. SEMRush4. SerpLab5. Google Search Console (GSC)6. Google Search OperatorsHow to Fix Keyword CannibalizationPage De-OptimizationPage Removal and 301 RedirectsCanonical TagsKeyword Cannibalization and Online ShopsFAQsHow Do I Fix Keyword Cannibalization?Is Keyword Cannibalization Bad or Good?Ready to Attack Keyword Cannibalization?  As an SEO veteran since 2009 and the founder of multiple 6-figures SEO businesses, including Diggity Marketing, LeadSpring, The Affiliate Lab, and The Search Initiative, I’ve encountered numerous SEO challenges. One such challenge that’s been causing a stir in the industry is keyword cannibalization. Despite the controversy surrounding it, I believe it’s crucial to address this issue as it can hinder your ranking success. In this article, I’ll show you how to assess internal keyword cannibalization through tools that we use in our SEO agency, and most importantly, the three most effective ways to fix the problem. Quick Summary What Is Keyword Cannibalization? Keyword Cannibalization is when two or more pages on your website have the same target keyword, appear for the same search queries, and as a result, have difficulty ranking. Why did this topic become so popular? Namely, because keyword cannibalization has quickly become an increasingly prevalent SEO issue that can hold back pages from ranking. If you optimize multiple pages for the same search query (intentionally or not), they will likely hurt each other’s chances to rank. Why Is Keyword Cannibalism Bad For SEO? Keyword cannibalism is bad for SEO because when multiple pages try to compete for the same keyword, they split up the power you’ve earned, and every single page becomes less visible on Google. Your goal as an SEO is to make your site as visible as possible for your chosen keywords. If you have an X and a Y landing page fighting each other, for example, on page 2 of search results—instead of a single one that appears on page 1—you’ve messed up. Fortunately, it’s not a problem that’s hard to fix. I’m going to show you ways of identifying diagnosing keyword cannibalization using several common tools. How to Diagnose Keyword Cannibalization 1. Agency Analytics To illustrate keyword cannibalization with an example, I set up an experiment to track an utterly random site that clearly exhibited keyword cannibalization issues for one keyword across multiple pages. Agency Analytics is a keyword tracking tool that we use to track day-to-day Google positions of keywords across your core pages. When used correctly, it can be an option for a keyword cannibalization tool. It’s also a great way to track relevant on-page health and (if used correctly) can diagnose a lot more cannibalization issues too. Below, you’ll see a screenshot of the average overall Google positions over time for the entire website: Since the start of tracking, the focus keywords we chose to track have continued to decline consistently, and on October 23rd, we can see a huge fluctuation. Could it be the result of keyword cannibalization? Let’s look deeper. One of the great features of this tool is that we can track the progress of a specific keyword over time, not just a net combination of all the keywords. So, let’s dive into the broad term ‘acoustic.’ Since we began tracking this keyword, Google has selectively ranked a total of 3 multiple pages targeting the same keywords. There’s potentially a 4th page competing if we consider Bing choosing another page. This is the first and easiest way to pick up keyword cannibalization—by monitoring one keyword daily and tracking the URL changes. 2. Ahrefs Ahrefs is by far one of the most versatile and powerful digital marketing and SEO tools available – if you haven’t got a membership, then you should get one. One of the great features of Ahrefs is its keyword explorer, giving you an option to audit your keywords versus your competitors. Yet, an often-overlooked feature is to the right: When you use the Organic Keywords feature on Ahrefs, you suddenly have access to historical data on all your keywords and instantly spot keyword competition issues. I only have 6-months of historical data with my plan, so perhaps an upgrade is in order.  *Cough* Tim Soulo? Click on “Show History Chart” to drop down your ranking graph. Each color on the graph represents a different URL’s rank in Google (as denoted by the legend in the lower left), so if you see more than one color, you’re cannibalized. Notice how the keyword is constantly dropping out of the index, and there have been multiple pages ranking for this term? That is keyword cannibalization and what it does to your keyword rankings. 3. SEMRush One of my favorite SEP keyword cannibalization tools is SEMRush. To do this, export a large chunk of your keywords, perhaps only including your core pages or keywords with high search volume. You do that here: Take a sample of the top keywords with the highest search volumes, which will help you get a holistic view of your site. Throw all of these into a spreadsheet and set it up so that yours looks something like the one below, and if you’re having doubts, you can copy our template here. Once you have set up your spreadsheet, you will want to sort these five columns by Keyword (column B) in alphabetical order. This will mean that any cannibalized keywords are next to each other and will have a different position and URL. You can then scan from top to bottom to determine which keywords have multiple URLs competing.  But you don’t want to waste time scanning, right? If you use a little bit of spreadsheet magic and use the following formula: =IF(B2=B3,”Cannibalized”,IF(B1=B2,”Cannibalized”,”Unique”)) If you use this formula correctly, you should easily duplicate the cell and turn Column A into a long list of automated checks – without the work. This means you just checked 10,000+ keywords in less than 2 minutes. Win. 4. SerpLab Edit: Late suggestion from Prince Olalekan Akinyemi [thanks for the contribution]. SerpLab is one of the few SEO rank trackers out there with a freemium plan. One of the features of Serplab is that it tracks which actual URL of your pages in Google SERPs has the top rank, and as such, it is excellent for diagnosing keyword cannibalism. To use Serplab for a cannibalism diagnosis of your pages, here are the steps to follow: 1. Log in to your Serplab account and select the project you want to diagnose 2. On the page that opens, click on any of your keywords that have been experiencing wild fluctuations. 3. Then Click on ‘’View Full Keyword Details’’ as shown below 4. On the page, you will see a graph showing the SERP overview of the keyword in view. When you notice too many fluctuations time and time again (as shown in the image below), then your pages are probably cannibalized in Google. 5. Scroll down a bit to the bottom of the page, and you’ll see a list of URLs that have once ranked for that keyword and the positions they occupied.  In my case, I discovered three different pages of my website that were trying to rank for the same keywords. The only issue with this method is that it might be time-consuming as you have to go over each of your keywords one after the other. Aside from that, you need to have been tracking your keywords for a considerable amount of time before you can use it to identify SEO keyword cannibalization. 5. Google Search Console (GSC) Edit: Late suggestion from Joe Kizlauskas [thanks for the contribution]. For the most observant search engine junkies, you will notice that all four tools (Agency Analytics, Ahrefs, Semrush, SerpLab) are focused on the top 100 positions. They only report on detected cannibalization within these positions. Using GSC (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) to diagnose this issue will give you access to the top 300 search positions GSC provides a far larger data set to work with than most SEO tools. It’s also based on all queries that your pages are returned for within Google’s search results, so you aren’t likely to miss anything. Plus, it’s free. Here’s how you get started: 1) Login at https://www.google.com/webmasters 2) Choose your website from the right-hand side 3) Select the options below: 4) Filter by keyword to narrow down the search results: 5) Enter your keyword as an exact match: 6) View the Pages that are being returned for the filtered keyword:7) Scroll down and you can see all of the pages that rank for this keyword You’ll see that the one I’ve highlighted in red is indeed outside the top 100. 6. Google Search Operators For proactive SEO, there’s a sixth technique that can also reach outside the top 100 positions. It takes time, but you have an option to check the entire Google index to find duplicate pages by using Google site operators.  Using search operators, you can track down multiple pages that have any Read More Read More