How to Identify, Fix, and Prevent Keyword Cannibalization


Have you ever noticed that your website’s content that was once ranking well suddenly drops in the search engine results page (SERP)? This phenomenon could be due to keyword cannibalization. Although Google has stated that there is no duplicate content penalty, it is becoming increasingly sensitive to content that is similar in nature. In this article, we will discuss the three main types of cannibalization and how to identify, fix, and prevent it on your website.

Types of Cannibalization

1. Internal Conflict

Internal conflict or cannibalization occurs when your website’s content conflicts with itself. For example, you may have multiple URLs that are targeting the same keyword, resulting in a conflict for search engine rankings. To fix internal conflict, you need to make a decision on which URL should be the primary doorway into your website’s ecosystem. Consider merging similar content and redirecting the original article to the new one to gain authority. Downgrading the theme by changing the title and internal linking to the primary URL can also help resolve internal conflict.

2. International Conflict

International conflict is a different kettle of fish and is dealt with by hreflang tags. It occurs when multiple versions of your website’s content are targeting different countries or languages. By implementing hreflang tags correctly, you can indicate to search engines which version of the content is relevant to a specific region, preventing international conflict.

3. Subdomain Conflict

Subdomain conflict occurs when the content on your website’s subdomain is similar to the content on your main domain. For example, if you have a help subdomain with similar content to your main domain, there will always be a conflict. However, in this article, we will focus on internal conflict and how to fix and prevent it.

Fixing Cannibalization Issues

If you notice a drop in rankings for a specific keyword, it is crucial to identify if there is any cannibalization happening within your website. Once you have identified the conflicting URLs, you can follow these steps to fix the issue:

1. Check if each URL positions well for other relevant keywords. If they do, you may consider merging the content and redirecting the original article to the new one to maintain authority.

2. Downgrade the theme of one of the conflicting URLs by changing the title to target a different keyword. This can help differentiate the content and minimize cannibalization.

3. Internally link from the conflicting URLs to the primary URL using anchor text that includes the targeted keyword. This signals to search engines that the primary URL is the authoritative page for that keyword.

4. Use the No Index tag on the conflicting URLs if appropriate. This tells search engines not to include those specific URLs in their index, reducing the chances of cannibalization.

5. Consider creating a hub page that links to the different variations of the content. This hub page acts as a central point and helps search engines understand the relationships between the different pages.

Preventing Cannibalization

Preventing cannibalization is always better than fixing it later. Here are some steps you can take to prevent keyword cannibalization:

1. Analyze your website’s ecosystem using the site operator. Search for the specific keyword in the title of your website’s indexed pages. This will identify any conflicting content within your website.

2. Identify complementary pages that can provide authority to new content targeting the same keyword. Use the site operator to search for the keyword in the body copy of your website’s indexed pages. This will help you find related content that can be used to create relevant internal links to the new content.

3. Redirect older pieces of content that are targeting the same keyword to the new content. This will pass authority and relevance to the new content.

By following these steps and implementing a contextual optimization strategy, you can prevent keyword cannibalization and maintain a strong presence in the SERPs.

Closing Summary

Keyword cannibalization can negatively impact your website’s search engine rankings and confuse your audience. By understanding the different types of cannibalization and following the steps to identify, fix, and prevent it, you can ensure that your content remains visible and valuable to both search engines and users. Remember to regularly analyze your website’s ecosystem to identify conflicts and make informed decisions on keyword targeting. With proper optimization and strategic planning, you can avoid the pitfalls of cannibalization and establish a strong online presence.