All You Need to Know About Keyword Cannibalization

Image for All You Need to Know About Keyword Cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization sounds just as scary as the mentioning of The Silence of the Lambs. And for a good reason too! When Google doesn’t have a clear understanding of which page to pick based on the information you are providing — it’ll make a decision on its own, which might not be what you’d intended.

For example, you have an online store that sells home decoration. Right before Christmas, you may think the logical thing to do is to optimize the majority of your content for queries like “Best Christmas decor,” and “Christmas decor for families,” publishing a Christmas themed blog post or even creating a special section dedicated just to Christmas decoration.

However, this approach confuses the search engines, which, in turn, leads to reduced traffic and dropped rankings.


There are a few reasons why you need to avoid this technique:

  • Issues with indexing and crawl depth. When a search engine is not sure what page to pick for a query, it chooses one and “filters out” the rest of the relevant pages. As a result, visitors are heading to “any” page regardless of whether it’s your best or worst converting one. You are not only losing your positions, but your conversion rate drops as well.
  • SEO efforts in vain. Your SEO efforts are not focused: you are spreading link power, keyword targeting, and anchor texts on your site across multiple pages unwisely. In other words, you are spending time and money on fruitless SEO optimization that yields poor results.
  • Internal site competition. When you optimize two or more pages for the same keyword, they start competing against each other for a position in Google. This kind of internal rivalry gives your competitors an advantage in helping them win over you in Google.


Many website owners are not even aware that their optimization is truly off. And even those who understand what keyword cannibalization is do not always know how to detect it.

  • One of the ways to identify this problem is to check the query in Google Search Console. Go to your website panel, click the Performance tab and run the search analytics report, filter it by keyword to narrow down the results and review the list. Scroll through the pages that come up for the filtered keyword and identify those that are ranked for that query.   
image of google performance to use for keyword cannibalization


  • You can also use a position tracking tool to check the target URL for every query. For example, in querying SE Ranking, if the URL that the query is ranking for does not match the target URL, the query will be highlighted in red. You might discover five different pages of the same website are trying to rank for the same keyword.
image of url changing history to use for keyword cannibalization
  • Also, you can monitor the rankings of a specific keyword by using any keyword rank tracking tool. A dramatically noticeable fluctuation over a certain period of time is usually a pretty clear sign of keyword cannibalization.  


  • 301 redirect

Choose the page you intend to rank for a specific keyword and redirect the other one. The 301 redirects might not be the best solution since it’s not eliminating the cause but merely treating the symptoms. But if you need a quick fix for a very bad case of keyword cannibalization — it’ll do.

  • Optimize content for uniqueness

You might have good content on both pages and instead of having two pages that compete with one another — you’ll have one that ranks and converts best. Or, if both pages are equally valuable and there is no way of choosing one over the other — just re-optimize and re-specify each one of them so they are good as standalone pages and not interfering with the performance of other pages of the site. You can also use the rel=”canonical” attribute if you want to keep both pages but want only one to be picked by Google – especially if you have two blog posts with very similar information on them. Add the rel=”canonical” element to the page you want to be ranked.

For example: <link rel=”canonical “href=”“. This way, the search engine identifies the primary one and will display it in the search results.

  • Cluster keywords

Group keywords using the approach known as keyword clusterization. Keyword grouping is used for targeting different sets of keywords for different pages. You can analyze the TOP-10 results and group the search queries that match the same website’s URLs.

  • Work on your online store structure

You are in a tougher position if you need to fix keyword cannibalization for an online store. The two options listed above most likely won’t work for you. You might need to update your site’s structure to eliminate the problem.

A few suggestions for online stores:

  • Use breadcrumb navigation for product pages
  • Make products titles as unique as possible: for example, describe a specific item in your catalog like this: «Christmas decoration art decor 40533», instead of just “Christmas decoration”
  • Check that the title of your blog post does not coincide with the title of your products
  • Offer a substantial number of products for each category
  • Another general recommendation if the query is broad — like “Christmas decoration” — is to lead shoppers to a category with the same name where they can pick out what they need on their own. So if shoppers are looking for something very specific — a Santa hat with beard, for example — lead them directly to the product page.


Keyword cannibalization is usually a result of bad planning. It happens when pages and content are created with no strong strategy in place. This problem is easier to avoid than to fix, so before going into web page creation, take time to develop a content strategy and a solid website structure.

Upwork is a freelancing website where businesses of all sizes can find talented independent professionals across multiple disciplines and categories. If you’re a business and are looking to get projects done, consider signing up!


This article was submitted by Yuliya Karnaukh of SE Ranking and does not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork. 

Yuliya Karnaukh


Yuliya Karnaukh is a marketer at SE Ranking with a deep understanding of the digital landscape and passion for building innovative and ROI-positive marketing strategies.… more