What It (Really) Is & How to Fix It

Many individuals imagine that having a number of pages about the identical factor confuses search engines like google and yahoo and leads them to rank the “incorrect” web page.

Within the phrases of Patrick Stox, this complete 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 incorrect or wants fixing. Nonetheless, it might sometimes sign a possibility to consolidate content material to enhance rankings and natural efficiency.

On this information, you’ll be taught:

What is key phrase cannibalization?


Key phrase cannibalization is when a number of pages on a web site goal the identical or related key phrases and compete towards one another to harm the location’s natural efficiency.

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

Is key phrase cannibalization unhealthy?

Key phrase cannibalization is unhealthy. Nevertheless it’s essential to keep in mind that you solely have an actual cannibalization challenge when a number of pages goal the identical key phrase and harm a web site’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.

For instance, let’s say that we now have two pages concentrating on the identical key phrase. One among them ranks #1, however the different web page (that we’d desire 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 tons of of different key phrases?

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

The truth is that we don’t have an actual cannibalization challenge right here as a result of the existence of those two pages seemingly isn’t harming our web site’s general natural efficiency. If we have been to merge or delete considered one of them, we’d seemingly lose a few of our different key phrase rankings and see a web drop in visitors.

How to discover key phrase cannibalization points

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

How to fix keyword cannibalization issues

The explanation for that is that if the intent is identical, every web page is unlikely to be rating for many completely different long-tail key phrase variations. So there’s often extra to achieve than lose by consolidating the pages.

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

Choice 1. Do a content material audit

Until your web site is big, cannibalization points ought to be comparatively straightforward to spot throughout a content material audit.

Choice 2. Have a look at historic rankings

This works greatest whenever you need to test for cannibalization points for a selected key phrase

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

  • Enter your area
  • Go to the Natural key phrases report
  • Filter for the key phrase you need to examine
  • Click on the rating historical past dropdown
  • For instance, if we have a look at Moz’s historic rankings for “key phrase cannibalization,” we see three pages rating within the final six months—none of which ranked greater than place #8:

    Finding keyword cannibalization issues by looking at historic rankings

    Let’s take a more in-depth have a look at two of these URLs:



    Right here’s what they inform us in regards to the pages: 

  • They’re each weblog posts. 
  • They’re each about the identical factor (i.e., tackling/fixing key phrase cannibalization).
  • The primary one is outdated (it has “2019” within the URL).
  • So that is virtually actually a cannibalization challenge. The pages fulfill the identical intent and compete towards one another. Moz’s general natural efficiency may seemingly be improved by consolidating them.

    Choice 3. Run a web site: search

    Head to Google and seek for web “subject”. You’ll see all of the pages in your web site associated to that subject. 

    If we do that for web “key phrase cannibalization”, you possibly can see that the primary three outcomes are those we beforehand found in Web site Explorer:

    Finding keyword cannibalization issues with a Google site: search


    Watch out with this tactic, as Google returns each vaguely matching outcome. For instance, you possibly can see above that there are 661 outcomes for our search. Moz might very effectively have a key phrase cannibalization challenge right here, however not all of those pages are problematic. Most are concentrating on utterly completely different key phrases.

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

    Working a web site: search may help you to discover potential cannibalization points. The one challenge is that the outcomes lack a way of place, making it onerous to know the way to deal with the challenge. 

    When you have a look at the earlier instance, you’ll see that it in all probability 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 preserve? Is this even seemingly to enhance issues?

    You’ll be able to usually discover solutions to these questions by operating a daily Google search and eradicating host clustering—which is the place Google excludes related pages from the identical host from the search outcomes. 

    For instance, if we seek for “key phrase 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 submit 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 greater 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 essentially the most related outcome for this key phrase. Thus, it in all probability is smart to work primarily with that web page and redirect the opposite pages there.

    Choice 5. Examine 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 challenge.

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

  • Enter your area
  • Go to the Natural key phrases report
  • Toggle “A number of URLs solely” 
  • Finding keyword cannibalization issues by looking for multiple ranking URLs

    You’ll be able to see that once we do that for Moz, Web site Explorer finds the identical challenge for the time period “key phrase cannibalization” as we discovered earlier utilizing technique #2.

    Simply bear in mind that this doesn’t at all times work, as Google tends not to rank a number of pages (in “common” 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 test.


    Not all the key phrases that present up right here will mirror “cannibalization” points. It’s best to at all times test the SERP and rating historical past to guarantee you’ve got an actual cannibalization challenge in your palms.

    How to repair key phrase cannibalization points

    When you’re assured that you’ve a cannibalization challenge in your palms, you possibly can usually enhance natural efficiency by consolidating the pages. Which 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 influence as a result of they consolidate identified rating alerts like backlinks and inside hyperlinks into one web page reasonably 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:

  • We wrote a brand new information consolidating the information from each guides.
  • We revealed the brand new information at one of many present URLs. 
  • We deleted the outdated information and redirected it to the brand new information.
  • You’ll be able to in all probability inform once we did this within the graph beneath, which reveals our historic rankings for “damaged hyperlink constructing”:

    Effect of consolidating two cannibalizing pages on rankings

    Our historic estimated natural visitors to these two pages additionally reveals 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.


    Do not forget that it’s at all times a greatest follow to swap out any inside hyperlinks after implementing redirects. You should use the Hyperlink explorer software in Ahrefs’ Web site Audit to do this:

  • Crawl your web site with Web site Audit
  • Go to the Hyperlink Explorer software
  • Click on Superior filter
  • Click on +Rule
  • Change the brand new rule from “Is supply inside” to “Goal URL”
  • Enter the outdated redirected URL
  • Finding internal link opportunities in Ahrefs' Site Audit

    You’ll then see an inventory 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 marketing: An Actionable Information

    Is the answer actually this easy?

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

    For instance, we now have two very related guides:

    How to Submit Your Web site to Search Engines

    How to Submit Your Web site to Google

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

    Traffic to two similar pages

    So this appears to be like like a cannibalization challenge, and we must always in all probability merge the pages. Proper?

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

    It ranks #1 for its main goal key phrase…

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

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

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

    One other instance of a nuanced state of affairs is concentrating on the identical key phrase on a number of pages that fulfill completely different intents. That is nice if the key phrase has blended intent, and this often isn’t an actual cannibalization challenge. 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, that is why it doesn’t often make a lot sense to deal with “fixing” cannibalization on the key phrase stage. You danger shedding visitors from long-tails.)

    However what in case your analytics inform you that considered one of these pages has little or no worth? 

    For instance, maybe one is a brilliant ToFu weblog submit, and the opposite is a BoFu touchdown web page. 

    On this case, so long as you’re 100% sure that the low-value weblog submit has no worth to your corporation, you possibly can delete the web page and redirect it to the touchdown web page to consolidate “authority.”

    It will seemingly trigger you to lose some natural visitors general. Nevertheless it shouldn’t matter, as you recognized that visitors as having no worth to your corporation.

    Key phrase cannibalization options we not often (or by no means) suggest

    Folks usually strive to clear up cannibalization on the key phrase stage with seemingly logical options which are basically flawed in follow. Let’s take a more in-depth have a look at these, so you recognize what not to do. 

    Delete the web page

    That is not often answer until the web page has no worth for your corporation (mentioned beforehand) or ranks for less than the “cannibalizing” key phrase. Each of those situations are fairly unlikely, so it is a uncommon factor to do within the face of cannibalization.

    Noindex the web page

    Noindexing causes search engines like google and yahoo to drop the web page from their index, that means it received’t rank for something. This can be a horrible method to repair cannibalization and, once more, highlights the explanation why tackling cannibalization on the key phrase stage is sort of at all times a foul concept. 

    Beneficial studying: Robots Meta Tag & X‑Robots-Tag: Every part You Want to Know

    Canonicalize the web page

    That is solely a viable answer when coping with a number of pages which are close to or actual duplicates, in any other case generally known as duplicate content material. Canonicalization is just not a method to repair key phrase cannibalization.

    Beneficial studying: Canonical Tags: A Easy Information for Freshmen

    De-optimize the web page

    This one type of is smart in concept however is basically flawed as a result of you possibly can’t de-optimize a web page for only one key phrase. Issues don’t work that method. 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.

    Closing ideas

    Key phrase cannibalization isn’t actually a factor—a minimum of not in the best way most individuals perceive it. Google doesn’t get “confused” by a number of pages about related issues or pages concentrating 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? In fact not. However that doesn’t imply that it’s “rating the incorrect web page” or that drastic motion is required to “repair” the issue. Many frequent “options” to key phrase cannibalization do extra hurt than good.

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


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