Url and Keyword Cannibalization

What is keyword cannibalization - When this does not happen we are faced with one of the most annoying problems at the SEO level: the cannibalization of keywords and URLs .

Url and Keyword Cannibalization

When an SEO consultant defines a ranking strategy for a website it is important that each search intent that we have identified as strategic positions exactly the page or landing page that we have optimized for that purpose. When this does not happen we are faced with one of the most annoying problems at the SEO level: the cannibalization of keywords and URLs .

What is keyword cannibalization

The cannibalization of keywords and URLs is the phenomenon whereby two pages or posts targeted for the same keyword or keyword phrase compete for positioning in the serp for the same keyword . It is much more than a simple duplication of content , as it can impact both your ranking and the marketing performance of your site.

Causes of cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization has many possible causes, which can be easily avoided.

You may think you have a better chance of ranking a certain keyword if multiple pages use the same term as their title and if they have the same meta description. Your chances of ranking for your primary keyword may increase, but more pages are likely to rank for the same keyword, causing your keywords to be cannibalized.

Pages with identical titles and descriptions also make it difficult for Google to judge which page is the most relevant, so the least authoritative page could get a good ranking.

Similar content

SEOs claim that duplicate content negatively impacts SEO because search engines don't know which URL to index. The problem is the same if the content of two URLs is similar - it's still hard for search engines to know which page to rank top, and Google may end up ranking more than one page.

Site structure

Keyword cannibalization can also be caused by bad internal linking structure, as pages linked more often will be considered more important by Google. If your pages are in danger of cannibalizing each other, create an internal link hierarchy that makes sense and will help Google more accurately rate the most important page.

Inconsistent use of anchor texts

If you always use identical anchor text for different links , you show the Google crawler that the pages are of equal importance. This can then contribute to keyword cannibalization by making it harder for Google to judge which page is most authoritative.

Negative effects

After giving a definition to the phenomenon, we explain the impact and negative effects of this problem.

Unwanted placement

The first negative effect is to have two pages ranked for the same query and the one with the worst conversion rates positioned better than the one with the best convertion rate. If you find yourself in this situation, immediately move on to the chapter “How to solve cannibalization problems”.

Less authority

Not only will you have to give up valuable organic traffic to your quality page, but any lower quality page with a higher ranking will impact your CTR and suddenly you will have turned into the same competitor as you. You're also diluting the power of your links and anchor text. Multiple pages targeting the same keyword tell Google that your site may have lower quality content or at least content that doesn't exactly match a keyword (or search intent for each page).

Decrease in conversion rates

If cannibalizing pages (less relevant or low quality) are ranking better than your quality pages, you will lose potential leads and therefore you will notice lower conversion rates.

When cannibalization is not a problem

However, there is a case where cannibalization of URLs is not a problem. This is the case where two pages are positioned between the first and second position of the serp . So if the situation is not worrying, the advice is to monitor pages, positioning and CTR. If this data doesn't change you don't have to worry, if you notice differences then you should run for cover.

How to spot url cannibalization

To identify the cannibalization of keywords there are various methods, manual or "automated" through the use of free seo utilities or paid seo programs.

Cannibalize keywords with free serpcheckers

If you use a seo utility for positioning (I have used this https://www.serprobot.com/serp-check.php in the past ) you can see which url is positioned and understand if it is the page you defined in your SEO strategy .

Google logical operators and serp observation

As mentioned on this seo blog, we can understand a lot of things from looking at the search engine serp. The observation "with the naked eye", however, could prove to be limited and then here we are helped by the logical operators of Google.

With the logical operator site: yoursite.com + "keyword" you can understand which pages of your site are positioned for a specific keyword. By running this string in the search engine you can immediately get an idea if you are a victim of cannibalization

How to solve cannibalization problems

After having reported the definition, effects and methods to detect the cannibalization of the url, it is time to run for cover, or how to remedy this SEO problem.

Reconfigure your site.

One option is to take your most authoritative page and turn it into a landing page or pillar article , and then link all similar pages that will then fall under the "umbrella" of your target keywords. By adopting a "from scratch" approach there will be no errors with respect to which keywords refer to each page. The best way to do this is to create a spreadsheet and list each page along with its referring focus keyword. Each page will then become the most authoritative page for each respective keyword. Even if the pages currently exist, make sure the content is rewritten so that the information closely matches the referring keyword.

Remove all keyword references

Search for problematic pages and remove any mention of the keyword in question; this won't completely solve the problem, of course, as Google relies on many more ranking signals to determine correct rankings. You can do a Ctrl + F and search each page for the cannibalized keyword, or you can do a Google search with the term in quotes, then click and edit each page accordingly so that only authoritative pages keep the top keywords.

Change the structure of your internal links

Look at your site's internal link structure, especially those links that use the exact keyword as anchor text, which can be particularly problematic, as keyword-rich anchor text could contribute to the ranking of cannibalized pages. A similar Ctrl + F search or an “exact” Google search can help locate keywords in the anchor text. For internal links pointing to an unwanted page (such as in a page that is cannibalizing a quality page), it is possible to swap those links with the links to the page we want to push. To quickly identify the internal link structure, use Google Search Console. Click on Links in the left column and you will be able to see the internal links and anchor text used on your site. If a low cannibalizing page is listed, point the link to a more valuable and qualitatively higher conversion page. You can also simply remove problematic internal links altogether.

Use the noindex

If both pages are useful to visitors and you want to keep them, but you don't want them to rank and cannibalize other pages, noindexing usually works. Noindexing tells Google that you don't want these pages to show up in search results. This option is useful for blog category pages, which offer little to visitors in terms of value. Visitors can still access it, but they won't from the SERPs, and thus the pages won't steal your valuable traffic. The implementation of noindexing can be done by adding a <meta> tag or with an HTTP header.

Erase the page completely

If the page that cannibalizes the most relevant, it will certainly steal traffic. If this page does not offer valuable content then it should be deleted. First of all check that there are no internal links or external links that link it then you can proceed with the cancellation. You can check all this through Screaming Frog or Search Console . However, if the page is linked, then it will be advisable to set up a 301 redirect.

Use canonical to indicate the Master page

This option is useful when you have two extraordinarily similar pages, but you want to keep them both, for example because they are both useful, but Google wants to rank one page better than the other. The use of the canonical tag (rel = "canonical") happens to Google which of the two url represents the "Master" page between the two. This solution is useful to avoid cannibalization and also in the event that your site presents cases of duplicate content, or when the same content can be reached from different URLs.