Keyword cannibalisation occurs when too many pages are optimised for the same keyword. This creates confusion and increases the chances that search engines will choose a less-than-ideal page to rank for that keyword.
Creating uncertainty might lead search engines to choose other results from competitors with more strength and reliability than from your site.
Targeting a specific search term across multiple pages almost always leads to keyword cannibalisation. When more than one page is designed to rank for one particular keyword, you end up competing with yourself.
Think of it like a chess game where youre playing on both sides of the board. Positioning more than one type of content will divide your forces, reducing the effectiveness and confusing both Google and your users.
Think about it, why launch two pieces of content and try to position them for the same keyword - or rather, the same search intention - when they could be addressed in a single page?
How to Avoid Keyword Cannibalisation
Unfortunately, there is no perfect single solution for fixing keyword cannibalisation issues. However, there are several best practice approaches you can combine to ensure you are doing as much as possible to repair any existing issues and prevent them from happening in the future.
Check your Title Tags
Since SEO titles are one of the strongest ways for conveying content relevancy, it would make sense that the first place you should check is here.
Check your Internal Links
When you link from one page to another on your site, the anchor text of your links also conveys the purpose of the page that you're linking to.
A mistake which we see all the time is linking to another page on your site with the keyword that you want to rank for as the anchor text.
By analysing your anchor text to pages, you can make sure that you are using the correct keywords for each link to signal to search engines what the destination page is about.
Once you've got content for a keyword refined to one high-quality page or a landing page, consistently working it into internal anchor text is a great way to drive traffic to that page and increase its conversion rate.
When you identify links pointing towards an undesirable page, swap the destination for the one that you do want to rank.
If you wish, you could also remove the links altogether, but make sure that this does not impact the usability of the page.
You also need to ensure that you do not create orphaned pages , as these can cause entirely new issues on their own.
Merge and Update Old Content
If two pages are vying for position to rank for a particular keyword, merge them together and update the content.
For those pages and for duplicate content, look at combining the content to strengthen one page and eliminate the need for the other page.
Be sure to 301 redirect the old pages to the new page
The added benefit of doing this is that you'll only need one backlink to this new page instead of two.
Delete Non Relevant pages
Topical relevancy is something that search engines are looking for, and if multiple sections of your site are topically the same, then you may wish to remove some pages.
For pages that are useful for your visitors, but you'd rather they not rank in search engines, noindex them.
When you noindex a page, you prevent it from showing up in search results and potentially cannibalising other pages.
Use Canonical Tags
Canonical tags are often misunderstood with noindex tags, and so people are scared to use them on their site.
However, when used properly, a canonical tag can be a great way of reducing keyword cannibalisation issues.
Google has published a very useful guide on how to add a canonical tag to a page.
With a canonical tag, Google knows which page to rank as your most valuable for that keyword.
Create a Content Calendar
If you're creating a lot of content on a regular basis, use an organised blog calendar to manage all the topics you've already covered.
Identify the target keywords for each piece of content to ensure that you don't position them for the same keywords.
A range of keyword planning tools are available on the internet and many of them are free.
Its important to remember that with a good keyword strategy in place, you can avoid keyword cannibalisation altogether, as in most cases, prevention is better than the cure.
Cannibalisation is common in long-operating businesses that have changed products and services over time.
Evaluating how to minimise that cannibalisation must be a part of a marketing plan to upgrade customer experience.
Stopping keyword cannibalisation before it happens is a huge time-saver.
Having a well thought out content marketing plan when you start your project, will lower the risk of keyword cannibalisation.