What It (Actually) Is & How one can Repair It
16 mins read

What It (Actually) Is & How one can Repair It

Many individuals consider that having a number of pages about the identical factor confuses search engines like google and yahoo and leads them to rank the “incorrect” web page.

Within the phrases of Patrick Stox, this complete concept is “preposterous.”

He’s proper. Having a number of pages about the identical factor can result in surprising or undesirable rankings, however it doesn’t at all times imply that one thing’s incorrect or wants fixing. Nonetheless, it will probably sometimes sign a chance to consolidate content material to enhance rankings and natural efficiency.

On this information, you’ll be taught:

What’s key phrase cannibalization?

Key phrase cannibalization is when a number of pages on an internet site goal the identical or related key phrases and compete towards one another to harm the positioning’s natural efficiency.

For instance, let’s say we now have two pages about technical website positioning. If we may get extra natural site visitors total by combining the 2 pages into one, that’s a cannibalization concern. The existence of these two pages is consuming away at our natural efficiency.

Is key phrase cannibalization unhealthy?

Key phrase cannibalization is unhealthy. However it’s essential to keep in mind that you solely have an actual cannibalization concern when a number of pages goal the identical key phrase and harm a web site’s natural efficiency.

Provided that pages are likely to rank for a lot of key phrases, that’s not at all times the case.

Data on how many keywords a top 10 ranking page ranks for

For instance, let’s say that we now have two pages focusing on the identical key phrase. Certainly one of them ranks #1, however the different web page (that we’d desire to rank) is nowhere to be seen. You could possibly argue that that is textbook key phrase cannibalization as a result of one web page is seemingly “cannibalizing” site visitors to the opposite web page.

However even when that’s true for site visitors from this key phrase, what if these pages every rank for lots of of different key phrases?

In that case, why fear about site visitors from simply one key phrase?

The fact is that we don’t have an actual cannibalization concern right here as a result of the existence of those two pages probably isn’t harming our web site’s total natural efficiency. If we had been to merge or delete one in all them, we’d probably lose a few of our different key phrase rankings and see a internet drop in site visitors.

How one can discover key phrase cannibalization points

The trick to discovering actual cannibalization points is to search for pages that concentrate on the identical key phrases and fulfill the identical or very related intent.

How to fix keyword cannibalization issues

The explanation for that is that if the intent is similar, every web page is unlikely to be rating for many totally different long-tail key phrase variations. So there’s often extra to realize than lose by consolidating the pages.

Let’s have a look at a number of methods to establish these pages.

Possibility 1. Do a content material audit

Until your web site is big, cannibalization points needs to be comparatively simple to identify throughout a content material audit.

Possibility 2. Take a look at historic rankings

This works finest once you wish to verify for cannibalization points for a selected key phrase

Right here’s it in Ahrefs’ Website Explorer:

  1. Enter your area
  2. Go to the Natural key phrases report
  3. Filter for the key phrase you wish to examine
  4. Click on the rating historical past dropdown

For instance, if we have a look at Moz’s historic rankings for “key phrase cannibalization,” we see three pages rating within the final six months—none of which ranked larger than place #8:

Finding keyword cannibalization issues by looking at historic rankings

Let’s take a more in-depth have a look at two of these URLs:



Right here’s what they inform us concerning the pages:

  1. They’re each weblog posts.
  2. They’re each about the identical factor (i.e., tackling/fixing key phrase cannibalization).
  3. The primary one is outdated (it has “2019” within the URL).

So this is nearly definitely a cannibalization concern. The pages fulfill the identical intent and compete towards one another. Moz’s total natural efficiency may probably be improved by consolidating them.

Possibility 3. Run a web site: search

Head to Google and seek for web site:yourwebsite.com "subject". You’ll see all of the pages in your web site associated to that subject.

If we do that for web site:moz.com "key phrase cannibalization", you possibly can see that the primary three outcomes are those we beforehand found in Website Explorer:

Finding keyword cannibalization issues with a Google site: search


Watch out with this tactic, as Google returns each vaguely matching end result. For instance, you possibly can see above that there are 661 outcomes for our search. Moz could very effectively have a key phrase cannibalization concern right here, however not all of those pages are problematic. Most are focusing on fully totally different key phrases.

Possibility 4. Run a Google search and take away host clustering

Operating a web site: search can assist you to seek out potential cannibalization points. The one concern is that the outcomes lack a way of place, making it onerous to know sort out the concern.

For those who have a look at the earlier instance, you’ll see that it in all probability is smart for Moz to merge three of their pages. However how precisely ought to they merge them? Which pages needs to be redirected, and which ought to they preserve? Is that this even probably to enhance issues?

You may typically discover solutions to those questions by operating a daily Google search and eradicating host clustering—which is the place Google excludes related pages from the identical host from the search outcomes.

For instance, if we seek for “key phrase cannibalization” in Google, we solely see one end result from Moz within the high 20:

Filtered Google results

But when we append &filter=0 to the Google search URL, it removes host clustering and divulges three outcomes from Moz within the high 20:

Unfiltered Google results

That is helpful as a result of it provides every URL a way of place.

On this instance, we see Moz’s 2019 publish rating in place #6 and the opposite two posts rating in positions #12 and #13, respectively.

Unfiltered Google results for 'keyword cannibalization'

So we all know now Moz may rank larger than place #6 by combining a few of these pages and redirecting. It’s additionally evident that Google at the moment considers the web page in place #6 essentially the most related end result for this key phrase. Thus, it in all probability is smart to work primarily with that web page and redirect the opposite pages there.

Possibility 5. Verify for a number of rating URLs

If Google ranks a number of URLs for a key phrase, that may be an indication of a cannibalization concern.

Right here’s discover these key phrases in Website Explorer:

  1. Enter your area
  2. Go to the Natural key phrases report
  3. Toggle “A number of URLs solely”
Finding keyword cannibalization issues by looking for multiple ranking URLs

You may see that after we do that for Moz, Website Explorer finds the identical concern for the time period “key phrase cannibalization” as we discovered earlier utilizing technique #2.

Simply remember that this doesn’t at all times work, as Google tends to not rank a number of pages (in “common” positions) from the identical host, as mentioned beforehand. However because it’s tremendous fast to do in Website Explorer, it’s nonetheless value a fast verify.


Not all the key phrases that present up right here will mirror “cannibalization” points. It’s best to at all times verify the SERP and rating historical past to make sure you have an actual cannibalization concern in your fingers.

How one can repair key phrase cannibalization points

For those who’re assured that you’ve got a cannibalization concern in your fingers, you possibly can typically enhance natural efficiency by consolidating the pages. That will imply redirecting an outdated, outdated web page to one thing extra related that you have already got or combining a number of pages into one thing new.

How to fix keyword cannibalization issues

Both choice will often have a optimistic influence as a result of they consolidate recognized rating alerts like backlinks and inner hyperlinks into one web page fairly than diluting them throughout a number of pages.

We noticed success by doing this in 2018 for 2 guides about damaged hyperlink constructing.

Right here’s what we did:

  1. We wrote a brand new information consolidating the information from each guides.
  2. We printed the brand new information at one of many current URLs.
  3. We deleted the outdated information and redirected it to the brand new information.

You may in all probability inform after we did this within the graph beneath, which exhibits our historic rankings for “damaged hyperlink constructing”:

Effect of consolidating two cannibalizing pages on rankings

Our historic estimated natural site visitors to those two pages additionally exhibits the optimistic change (the arrow marks the consolidation date):

Effect of consolidating two cannibalizing pages on traffic

Till the redirect in 2018, each pages had been getting a little bit of site visitors. After consolidating and redirecting, just one will get site visitors… however it will get far more site visitors than each pages (mixed) did beforehand.


Keep in mind that it’s at all times a finest observe to swap out any inner hyperlinks after implementing redirects. You should utilize the Hyperlink Explorer software in Ahrefs’ Website Audit to do this:

  1. Crawl your web site with Website Audit
  2. Go to the Hyperlink Explorer software
  3. Click on Superior filter
  4. Click on +Rule
  5. Change the brand new rule from “Is supply inner” to “Goal URL”
  6. Enter the outdated redirected URL
Finding internal link opportunities in Ahrefs' Site Audit

You’ll then see an inventory of pages internally linking to this URL, together with the anchor textual content of the hyperlink and different particulars.

An internal link opportunity in Ahrefs' Site Audit

Study extra: Inner Hyperlinks for website positioning: An Actionable Information

Is the answer actually this easy?

More often than not, sure. However as our extra skilled readers will know, there’s quite a lot of “it relies upon” in website positioning, so there are occasions when issues are a bit extra nuanced.

For instance, we now have two very related guides:

How one can Submit Your Web site to Search Engines

How one can Submit Your Web site to Google

Each of those pages fulfill very related intent, regardless of focusing on barely totally different key phrases. And if we have a look at their estimated natural site visitors, we see that one web page’s site visitors pales compared to the different:

Traffic to two similar pages

So this appears to be like like a cannibalization concern, and we must always in all probability merge the pages. Proper?

Maybe. However then once more, our information to submitting web sites to search engines like google and yahoo couldn’t be performing any higher in natural search proper now.

It ranks #1 for its main goal key phrase…

… and appears to have just about maxed out its “site visitors potential” (it’s getting extra site visitors than each different related information):

Estimated traffic to our guide on submitting your website to search engines, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

So is that this actually a cannibalization concern? Is there actually something to be gained by merging these pages? In all probability not. And consolidating the posts into one would in all probability trigger us to lose the small quantity of natural site visitors that the opposite information at the moment will get. So why hassle?

One other instance of a nuanced situation is focusing on the identical key phrase on a number of pages that fulfill totally different intents. That is tremendous if the key phrase has blended intent, and this often isn’t an actual cannibalization concern. Positive, you may even see some key phrase overlap or periodic rank swaps. However every web page will often get site visitors from its personal bucket of long-tail key phrases.

What targeting the same keywords with pages fulfilling different intents looks like

(Once more, that is why it doesn’t often make a lot sense to deal with “fixing” cannibalization on the key phrase stage. You danger shedding site visitors from long-tails.)

However what in case your analytics inform you that one in all these pages has little or no worth?

For instance, maybe one is a brilliant ToFu weblog publish, and the opposite is a BoFu touchdown web page.

On this case, so long as you’re 100% sure that the low-value weblog publish has no worth to what you are promoting, you possibly can delete the web page and redirect it to the touchdown web page to consolidate “authority.”

This may probably trigger you to lose some natural site visitors total. However it shouldn’t matter, as you recognized that site visitors as having no worth to what you are promoting.

Key phrase cannibalization options we not often (or by no means) advocate

Individuals typically attempt to clear up cannibalization on the key phrase stage with seemingly logical options which might be basically flawed in observe. Let’s take a more in-depth have a look at these, so you understand what to not do.

Delete the web page

That is not often resolution except the web page has no worth for what you are promoting (mentioned beforehand) or ranks for under the “cannibalizing” key phrase. Each of those eventualities are fairly unlikely, so it is a uncommon factor to do within the face of cannibalization.

Noindex the web page

Noindexing causes search engines like google and yahoo to drop the web page from their index, that means it gained’t rank for something. This can be a horrible technique to repair cannibalization and, once more, highlights the rationale why tackling cannibalization on the key phrase stage is nearly at all times a foul concept.

Beneficial studying: Robots Meta Tag & X‑Robots-Tag: Every little thing You Have to Know

Canonicalize the web page

That is solely a viable resolution when coping with a number of pages which might be close to or precise duplicates, in any other case referred to as duplicate content material. Canonicalization is just not a technique to repair key phrase cannibalization.

Beneficial studying: Canonical Tags: A Easy Information for Newcomers

De-optimize the web page

This one type of is smart in principle however is basically flawed as a result of you possibly can’t de-optimize a web page for only one key phrase. Issues don’t work that manner. For instance, eradicating all inner hyperlinks with the cannibalizing key phrase because the anchor is more likely to have an effect on the web page’s rankings for different key phrases too. The identical is true for eradicating mentions of the cannibalizing key phrase from the web page.

Closing ideas

Key phrase cannibalization isn’t actually a factor—not less than not in the way in which most individuals perceive it. Google doesn’t get “confused” by a number of pages about related issues or pages focusing on the identical key phrases. It is aware of what’s on these pages and ranks them accordingly.

Does that imply Google will at all times rank the web page you need it to rank? In fact not. However that doesn’t imply that it’s “rating the incorrect web page” or that drastic motion is required to “repair” the issue. Many frequent “options” to key phrase cannibalization do extra hurt than good.

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