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As shown above, Keyword Cannibalisation happens when two or more pages within your website target the same keyword. When this phenomenon occurs, click-through rate (CTR), Page Authority and Conversion Rate will be split between two pages. This, in turn, will reduce the effectiveness of both pages and will confuse both Google’s search algorithm and the users.

Sometimes, to increase market share, businesses produce new products that are similar and complementary to their previous products and they start to create two different web pages for the same product. However, it is just a misconception that to improve a website ranking on a particular keyword, the more pages we have for that target keyword, the more successful we will be. However, when different pages of your website are ranked by a specific keyword search and shown as Google results, you are competing with yourself.  

With this silly competition, you are telling Google that you do not have enough knowledge and you ask Google to judge which of your pages best covers a specific query.

Negative Effects of Keyword Cannibalisation on SEO

Keyword cannibalisation has dire consequences for your SEO. Many webmasters are not aware of this important phenomenon and with keyword cannibalisation, they face serious issues such as a sharp cutback in site traffic, fluctuations in search results, queries that land on the wrong pages, and finally sales reduction. Here are some of the negative effects:

  • Reducing Page Authority 

By creating multiple pages of similar keywords, you will not have a good click-through rate (CTR), and you will divide the credibility and conversion rate among several pages. In fact, with keyword cannibalisation, you turn your pages into competitors that are fighting to outrank each other.

  • Wasting your site’s crawl budget

Crawl budget refers to the number of times search engines crawl your site over some time. Crawling and indexing pages with the same or similar keywords is futile (the importance of this may be more tangible for large online stores than a small site).

  • A sign of low-quality content

Usually having several different pages around a specific keyword implies that the content provided is poor. Google also receives the signal that the contents of the pages overlap.

  • Google will be confused and may not be able to properly value your pages

Google understands the content of the page through keywords. If your keywords are the same or very similar, Google will make a mistake and will not be able to perfectly identify which page is appropriate.

  • Your conversion rate will be affected

Keyword cannibalisation will make one of the pages have a higher conversion rate, which is dangerous for online stores. Having multiple pages with the same but unrelated keyword reduces conversion rates and leads.

How do we know we have committed keyword cannibalisation?

There are different ways we can use to identify keyword cannibalisation. 

  • In the Google search box type: site: yourdomain.com ”Keyword”

The first way is to type the structure below in the Google search box to find out if your site ranks a particular keyword in different web pages or not.

site: yourdomain.com ”Keyword”

If you have two pages with the same title for a specific keyword, you can suspect that cannibalisation has occurred. Search for that specific keyword in Google and check the pages of your site that appear in the search results in Google. If you have two of your pages appear close to each other in the results, there is a high chance that cannibalisation has happened. 

  • Use Google Search Console

Log in to your site’s Google Search Console. Go to the performance section and view the queries that contain impressions and clicks from Google searches. Filter a query and view its results. If you have two or more pages for each query, you may have a cannibalisation issue.

  • Keep an eye on search results

Keep a close watch on search results. If you have two or more pages in the results for a particular keyword, and each time that you check them you see the ranks fluctuate, you can assume that you have incurred keyword cannibalisation.

  • Create a keyword map for your site

Create a keyword map for your site. Then, bring all the important keywords of the site along with their URLs to find out if the keyword was repeated or not. You can also bring the Title Tag and Meta Description of each page in this table and check that they are not duplicates. 

After you found out about the mistake, you might be looking for a way to solve it. How can you get rid of this unnecessary competition with yourself? Here are a few possible solutions:

How to fix keyword cannibalisation?

  • 301 Redirect

A permanent 301 redirect informs search engines that an old link has been replaced by a new one. Perhaps the best way to fix cannibalisation within your website is to combine the articles with identical keywords and make a comprehensive article from it and redirect the old one to the comprehensive article. So, simply remove the old page and 301 redirect its URL to the page that is remaining so that their inbound links do not get 404 errors. This type of redirection can be set up through the .htaccess file or the cPanel interface. 

  • Canonical tags

If both pages are useful for your audience, but you don’t want them to appear in search results, use canonical tags to distinguish between the primary and secondary web pages. So, select one page as the primary one, and indicate it as the one that should rank on the SERP. Therefore, none of the pages will need to be removed, and they can still all be accessed by users.

  • No-index

If the duplicate page is useful to your audience but you do not want it to appear on Google and cannibalise another page, keep your primary page and implement rel=”no index” tags on the less important page. In this approach, both of the pages can still exist on the site, yet all except one page will be de-indexed — therefore resolving the cannibalisation issues. 

That said, canonicalisation should be used in preference over no-index given that ranking signals are attributed to the canonical, whereas they otherwise won’t be.

  • Page re-optimisation

You may often find that you inadvertently cause cannibalism by not optimising your keyword changes.

For example, you run an e-commerce store and offer products in three colours. You can see the product change over and over again with a unique URL but with the same title tag, the H1 tag, and there is no obvious difference between these product types, except for their colour. In this example, you can re-optimise the page to identify changes and resolve cannibalisation issues.

  • Resetting internal links’ structures

In some cases, you can fix cannibalisation by rearranging the structure of internal links. Rearranging internal links to ensure they are set up correctly and pointing to the correct page can help solve problems. You can link less important pages to more important pages to help Google figure out which pages are more important to you. Using this method will have better results by clearing pages that compete for the same purpose.

With these simple steps, you’ll be able to fix keyword cannibalisation. If you aren’t able to find and fix them on time, no worries. Team-X SEO agency will help you to find the best keywords and fix cannibalisation issues.