Keyword cannibalization occurs when you accidentally end up competing with yourself for search engine ranking position by having very similar or even identical targeted keywords for multiple pages across your website.
In the rest of the article, we are going to learn about keyword cannibalization and its effect on your SEO, how to solve keyword cannibalization, and whether it is unavoidable for certain types and inevitable for certain sizes of sites.
Very simply, if you have optimized multiple pages on your site for the same keywords, you will lose a lot of ranking because these pages are eating away at each other’s authority in search engines’ eyes.
To look at it another way, your domain will have whatever authority it does, but this will be largely split between the pages that are competing against one another, effectively giving the edge to competitors that can put all of that into one page targeting those keywords.
Keyword cannibalization is absolutely terrible for your SEO. Even if you only have two pages competing for the same target keyphrase, all of your site’s relevant metrics, like domain authority and backlinks, end up getting diluted between the two.
The result is that both pages will rank lower, and when every position gained is increasingly valuable, this can be disastrous. This problem can become even worse the more pages you have cannibalizing from one another.
You can determine whether your site is being harmed by keyword cannibalization by limiting Google search results to only your domain and then searching for the keywords that you suspect might be affected.
For example, if the keyphrase you want to check is “keyword cannibalization”, you can enter the following into Google’s search field: site:mydomain.com keyword cannibalization
If you see multiple results that are relevant, you know that they are eating away at each other’s rankings.
Once you have found out that keyword cannibalism is taking place on your site, you need to address it so that you can get more organic search traffic. Remember that the volume of traffic by search position scales more logarithmically than linearly, so having two pages somewhere in the first page of results is significantly worse than having one page in first position.
This may seem self-defeating because you are essentially destroying a part of your work, but merging two or more similar pages into one is the most effective way to resolve keyword cannibalization.
Basically, adapt one of the pages to have all of the information that the others have as well and remove the others from your site. Remember to redirect the removed pages to the surviving one to pass on that link juice rather than simply allowing them to 404.
This does not completely fix keyword cannibalization, but a good way to make it much better is to set up your internal links in such a way that it is clear which of the pages is favored. Linking from the similar ones to the favored one is the first step.
If you have a website like an online shop, for example, where you will have multiple similar pages, the best way to work around this is to make sure all of them link to a relevant category page that is optimized to target them collectively.
The bigger your site gets, the more content it will have, and the higher the chance will be of you covering the same topic multiple times. You can decide to what extent you want to tolerate this, but if you want to minimize the negative impact, always make sure that your internal linking structure is showing favor to the pages you want targeted more.