SEO Glossary: Keyword Cannibalization



In a nutshell: What is keyword cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization is when two subpages within a domain are optimized for the same search term. As a result, the two URLs cannibalize each other and search engines can't exactly tell which page they should weight more. In the worst case, this can lead to a loss of ranking.

What is keyword cannabalization?

The term keyword cannibalization can alternatively be called relevance problem. It can occur especially when new subpages are created on a website at regular intervals. This is because different keywords and keyword combinations are used here. If keyword cannibalization occurs, it often happens unconsciously on the part of the webmaster.


Two URLs of a domain are optimized for an identical keyword. In this case, the search engine cannot decide which URL to assign the keyword to and which page is more relevant.

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What impact does keyword cannabalization have on SEO?

If such a relevance problem occurs, search engines like Google are confused and cannot decide for the right subpage. This is because it is very difficult, if not impossible, to assess which of the two "competing" pages is more likely to produce a relevant result in the SERPs.


Moreover, it is the case that one of the two pages has already been indexed for a little longer and has its fixed position. Consequently, the subpage receives regular traffic. If a new page with an identical keyword is added and both cannibalize each other, the affected subpages lose and there is a loss of visibility.



This is how webmasters recognize that they are affected by keyword cannibalization:


  • A look into SEO analysis tools shows that several subpages rank for an identical keyword


  • Strong fluctuations in the SERPs occur permanently at regular intervals


  • It can be seen that a domain with the same topic (keyword) is alternately ranked with different URLs


What can be done against keyword cannabalization?

Do you suspect that two subpages are in each other's way and that there is keyword cannibalization? First of all, it is necessary to analyze which URLs are involved. If the manual search is too difficult, professional SEO tools can also help.


It then moves on to problem solving:


  • 301 REDIRECTION: Is one of the two URLs not so important and it can be "disposed" anyway? In this case a 301 redirect to the other URL is possible.


  • Content summary + 301 redirect: It is possible that an analysis of the two competing URLs reveals that both contain valuable content. In this case, it makes sense to summarize the valuable content on the strong page. Then, set up a 301 redirect from the weak URL to the strong URL.


  • Noindex, Follow: For some reason, webmasters do not want to abandon one of the two URLs despite keyword cannibalization. In this case, the weaker URL is marked in robots.txt with a "noindex, follow" in the robots.txt.


  • Change or refine keywords: Usually, the creation of content on both URLs has taken a lot of work. In this case, it may be useful to change or slightly refine the keywords on one of the two pages.


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Conclusion on the topic of keyword cannabalization

If keyword cannibalization is detected, website owners should react quickly and perform an analysis. Once the affected URLs have been found, it's time to get to work on eliminating the problem. There are various options available for this.


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