5 Ways to Stop Keyword Cannibalization from Jeopardizing Your SEO Success

Kim Kosaka
by Kim Kosaka 16 Jan, 2023

Your content and SEO strategies likely include publishing multiple pieces of content around the same subject that are intended to build on one another, establish your deep expertise, and get you recognition from both customers and search engines. In theory, each new page of content should add a rung to the proverbial ladder that extends your site's prestige as it climbs past your SERP competitors. In practice, however, optimizing too many different pages for the same or closely related keywords can cause your content to inadvertently eat its own kind, as search engines pit these pages in direct competition against each other.


This is called keyword cannibalization.


Unfortunately, keyword cannibalization means not just missing out on the cumulative effect of increasing the rankings that you're seeking. It can also result in search engines not having clear signals about which page is most suited to the query. Without some help, search engine crawlers cannot always distinguish which of your pages have the most valuable information.


Luckily, the fix is simple. All it takes is a few adjustments to your content strategy and keyword assignments, which can be accomplished by following these five steps:


1) Perform an SEO audit.


Doing so will help you fully understand your situation as far as which keywords are currently associated with your content, as well as the search rankings that the content yields. Begin by creating a spreadsheet that includes your site URLs along with page information such as the target keyword, headline, meta description, and internal links. This audit sets the stage for executing strategy adjustments that should improve your rankings and results.


2) Audit your pages by keyword.


By sorting your spreadsheet by targeted keyword, you can recognize which (different) pages have the same targets. From there, you can select which piece of content is the strongest for each keyword, i.e. the page that you'd most prefer for search engines to send visitors to. This is the one which you should likely continue to target for that keyword. You can also start the process of optimizing your other content pages to target new, different keywords.


3) Assign top keywords to your best content.


While sorting out which pages will help your organization put its best foot forward for each target keyword, be sure to also match your most impressive content work with the most advantageous keywords. This could mean keywords that are the most popular in searches overall, those most common to your particular industry, or those that have the least competition (and therefore the least resistance) to your pages ranking well.


4) Redirect ineffective pages to your main pages.


Help search engines to understand which of your content pages are the important ones by redirecting lower quality pages that are duplicate, outdated, or less informative content. By setting up 301 permanent redirects, search engines will pass nearly the entirety of a page's ranking power to the redirected page.


5) Update internal links.


Ensure that the anchor text for internal links matches the target keyword for the page being linked to. At the same time, avoid linking a target keyword to any non-targeted page.


With the issue of keyword cannibalization now resolved, the final step is to take precautions to avoid running into this problem again. Doing so requires 1) an ongoing process of checking and maintaining the audit spreadsheet to proactively avoid future issues, and 2) pursuing a content strategy that continues to allow new content its own room to work and flourish (as far as keywords are concerned). By following and keeping up these best practices, you can make sure your content doesn't cannibalize itself, but instead works together to surpass competitors by gobbling up choice positions atop search engine rankings.


About the Author: Kim Kosaka is the Director of Marketing at Alexa.com, whose tools provide insight into digital behavior that marketers use to better understand and win over their audience.