Many individuals imagine that having a number of pages about the identical factor confuses serps and leads them to rank the “wrong” web page.

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

He’s proper. Having a number of pages about the identical factor can lead to sudden or undesirable rankings, nevertheless it doesn’t at all times imply that one thing’s improper or wants fixing. Nevertheless, it may possibly often sign a possibility to consolidate content material to enhance rankings and natural efficiency.

On this information, you’ll be taught:

  • What key phrase cannibalization is
  • Why key phrase cannibalization is dangerous
  • How to discover key phrase cannibalization points
  • How to repair key phrase cannibalization points
  • Unhealthy key phrase cannibalization options

Keyword cannibalization is when a number of pages on a web site goal the identical or comparable key phrases and compete towards one another to damage the positioning’s natural efficiency.

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

Keyword cannibalization is dangerous. But it surely’s essential to do not forget that you solely have an actual cannibalization situation when a number of pages goal the identical key phrase and damage a website’s natural efficiency. 

Provided that pages have a tendency 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 have now two pages focusing on the identical key phrase. One in every of them ranks #1, however the different web page (that we’d favor to rank) is nowhere to be seen. You can argue that that is textbook key phrase cannibalization as a result of one web page is seemingly “cannibalizing” visitors to the opposite web page. 

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

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

The truth is that we don’t have an actual cannibalization situation right here as a result of the existence of those two pages probably isn’t harming our website’s total natural efficiency. If we have 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 visitors.

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

How to fix keyword cannibalization issues

The rationale for that is that if the intent is identical, every web page is unlikely to be rating for plenty of totally different long-tail key phrase variations. So there’s often extra to acquire than lose by consolidating the pages.

Let’s have a look at a couple of methods to determine these pages.

Possibility 1. Do a content material audit

Until your website is big, cannibalization points ought to be comparatively simple to spot throughout a content material audit.

Possibility 2. Take a look at historic rankings

This works greatest while you need to examine for cannibalization points for a selected key phrase

Right here’s how to it in Ahrefs’ Web site Explorer:

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

For instance, if we have a look at Moz’s historic rankings for “keyword 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 better have a look at two of these URLs:

/weblog/identify-and-tackle-keyword-cannibalisation-in-2019

/weblog/how-to-solve-keyword-cannibalization

Right here’s what they inform us in regards to 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 actually a cannibalization situation. 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 website: search

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

If we do that for website:moz.com "keyword cannibalization", you’ll be able to see that the primary three outcomes are those we beforehand found in Web site Explorer:

Finding keyword cannibalization issues with a Google site: search
TIP

Watch out with this tactic, as Google returns each vaguely matching outcome. For instance, you’ll be able to see above that there are 661 outcomes for our search. Moz might very effectively have a key phrase cannibalization situation right here, however not all of those pages are problematic. Most are focusing on utterly totally different key phrases.

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

Operating a website: search may help you to discover potential cannibalization points. The one situation is that the outcomes lack a way of place, making it onerous to understand how to sort out the situation. 

If you happen to have a look at the earlier instance, you’ll see that it most likely is smart for Moz to merge three of their pages. However how precisely ought to they merge them? Which pages ought to be redirected, and which ought to they hold? Is this even probably to enhance issues?

You possibly can usually discover solutions to these questions by working an everyday Google search and eradicating host clustering—which is the place Google excludes comparable pages from the identical host from the search outcomes. 

For instance, if we seek for “keyword cannibalization” in Google, we solely see one outcome 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 offers 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 probably the most related outcome for this key phrase. Thus, it most likely 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 situation.

Right here’s how to discover these key phrases in Web site Explorer:

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

You possibly can see that once we do that for Moz, Web site Explorer finds the identical situation for the time period “keyword cannibalization” as we discovered earlier utilizing methodology #2.

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

IMPORTANT

Not all the key phrases that present up right here will replicate “cannibalization” points. You must at all times examine the SERP and rating historical past to guarantee you’ve gotten an actual cannibalization situation in your fingers.

If you happen to’re assured that you’ve got a cannibalization situation in your fingers, you’ll be able to usually 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 possibility will often have a constructive affect as a result of they consolidate identified rating alerts like backlinks and inside hyperlinks into one web page somewhat 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 present URLs. 
  3. We deleted the outdated information and redirected it to the brand new information.

You possibly can most likely inform once we did this within the graph beneath, which exhibits our historic rankings for “broken link building”:

Effect of consolidating two cannibalizing pages on rankings

Our historic estimated natural visitors to these two pages additionally exhibits the constructive change (the arrow marks the consolidation date):

Effect of consolidating two cannibalizing pages on traffic

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

TIP

Keep in mind that it’s at all times a greatest apply to swap out any inside hyperlinks after implementing redirects. You need to use the Hyperlink explorer software in Ahrefs’ Web site Audit to do this:

  1. Crawl your website with Web site 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 source internal” to “Target URL”
  6. Enter the outdated redirected URL
Finding internal link opportunities in Ahrefs' Site Audit

You’ll then see a listing 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 search engine optimization: An Actionable Information

Is the answer actually this straightforward?

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

For instance, we have now two very comparable guides:

How to Submit Your Web site to Search Engines

How to Submit Your Web site to Google

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

Traffic to two similar pages

So this seems to be like a cannibalization situation, and we should always most likely merge the pages. Proper?

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

It ranks #1 for its major goal key phrase…

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

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

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

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

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

(Once more, for this reason it doesn’t often make a lot sense to give attention to “fixing” cannibalization on the key phrase degree. You threat dropping 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’ll be able to delete the web page and redirect it to the touchdown web page to consolidate “authority.”

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

Folks usually strive to resolve cannibalization on the key phrase degree with seemingly logical options which might be basically flawed in apply. Let’s take a better have a look at these, so you understand what not to do. 

Delete the web page

That is hardly ever an excellent 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 situations are fairly unlikely, so this can be a uncommon factor to do within the face of cannibalization.

Noindex the web page

Noindexing causes serps to drop the web page from their index, which means it received’t rank for something. This can be a horrible approach to repair cannibalization and, once more, highlights the explanation why tackling cannibalization on the key phrase degree is nearly at all times a foul concept. 

Really helpful studying: Robots Meta Tag & X‑Robots-Tag: The whole lot You Want 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 actual duplicates, in any other case generally known as duplicate content material. Canonicalization isn’t a approach to repair key phrase cannibalization.

Really helpful studying: Canonical Tags: A Easy Information for Freshmen

De-optimize the web page

This one sort of is smart in principle however is basically flawed as a result of you’ll be able to’t de-optimize a web page for only one key phrase. Issues don’t work that approach. For instance, eradicating all inside hyperlinks with the cannibalizing key phrase because the anchor is probably going 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.

Remaining ideas

Keyword cannibalization isn’t actually a factor—not less than not in the best way most individuals perceive it. Google doesn’t get “confused” by a number of pages about comparable 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? After all not. However that doesn’t imply that it’s “ranking the wrong page” or that drastic motion is required to “fix” the issue. Many widespread “solutions” to key phrase cannibalization do extra hurt than good.

Bought questions? Disagree with me? Ping me on Twitter.