Keyword cannibalization in SEO can sound a little scary. Which it is, if you work with your Search Engine Optimization. But fortunately, there are different ways to solve it.
What is keyword cannibalization?
Keyword cannibalization in SEO is when you optimize several pages on your website, to become visible on the same keywords.
Creating a new page, targeting the same keyword, makes it difficult for Google, to understand which page is most important.
Does your pages look very much alike? You can be sure that search engines will punish you for it. Google will see your content as copied, and down prioritize both pages you have on the topic.
How does keyword cannibalization occur?
The problem typically occurs when you want too many things with the same keyword. At worst, you may have both a product, category, article etc., all of which are optimized for the same keyword. Thus, several different sides of the same matter.
It may make sense to have both a product category and an article on the same topic. But try to find a more specific way to go with the blog post.
I always try to hit the broad keywords on category pages (webshops) or landingpages (service activities). This is where the money is earned, and typically you can be more selling on these types of pages, compared to blog posts.
Back in time…
If we go back some years, it was quite common for an airline to make a page that matched “cheap flights to london” another one that matched “cheapest plane london” and a third that matched “london flight deals”.
At the time, it would make sense to have all three pages, but today, Google is far smarter. This means, among other things, that we would like to gather our pages to fewer, but better pages, rather than many mediocre pages.
If you’ve never heard of keyword cannibalization in SEO before, this first step is cleaning up. Crawl your site with a tool like Screaming Frog and get an overview of all of your pages, and then you will get an impression of how much they recall each other.
Merging pages vs canonical
If you focus solely on SEO, page merging will always be the best option to solve keyword cannibalization in SEO issues.
Merging means that you take all the good content from page B and incorporate it on page A. Then you make a 301 redirect from page B to A, thus drawing a large part of page B’s trust over to page A.
However, there may be an idea in both having a category page and an information page on the same topic. However, we still do not want search engines to find both pages.
In this case, you can benefit from the canonical tag. This is used to remove duplicate content on your site, but in case of keyword cannibalization it can also be a great option.
With a canonical tag, you tell the search engines that they should bring the value from page A over to page B and completely ignore page A on the search results page. In practice, this would typically mean placing a canonical tag on your information page that points to your category page. You will not be able to get any organic traffic to your information page, but you will still be able to use it in your email marketing, share on social media, etc.
In most cases, I would recommend putting pages together rather than splitting up. You will be able to present one page that is fully optimized for your visitors and search engines, and afterwards you will only have one place to update when new things happen within the subject.
Call it “hero pages”, “cornerstone content” or something third. Basically, it’s just about delivering the best page, wherever possible, to what the user seeks and demands.
By making these broad pages, you will also have much greater potential to become visible on long tail searches. Long tail keywords are defined by having more words in the query, where the competition and search volume are not as high as the more broad keywords (iphone xs max 64 gb in black vs iphone xs max). However people will typically be longer in the buying phase, when searching more specific.
If you are looking for “red polka dot dress in small” you are most likely interested in landing on a particular product. Looking for “business shirts ironing free” you are interested in landing on a category page. Looking for “christmas gifts for dad” you interested in landing on a blog post/information page.
Remember the above when you work on avoiding keyword cannibalization in SEO. It’s not always the best option to make a canonical from the information page/blog to product/category, even if that’s where the money is earned.
Linkbuilding becomes more manageable
By grouping pages, or creating canonical back and forth, you will have fewer pages to keep track of. This also means that you will be able to center your linkbuilding activities to fewer pages.
If you have previously worked to become visible on the same keyword on several different pages, you will quickly see how liberating it is, just to focus on one page.
There may be some instances where multiple pages may make sense. However, in most cases, there will be more benefits of grouping as content optimization and linkbuilding work will also be simplified.