The internet is a tangled web of information and when quickly Googling the answer to a simple question, you’re met with a wall of information from several thousand websites hoping that their site is the lucky one you’ll click on. If your site is among these, then you’ll know how difficult it can be to rank at the top of the search engine, competing against other authoritative sites. But, what do you do when your content starts to compete with itself? 

What is keyword cannibalisation? 

Keyword cannibalisation is when two or more of your pieces of content are attempting to rank for the same search term. This causes a conflict of information in which Google struggles to decide which is the most relevant page, ultimately harming the ranking of both. 

It most commonly occurs with sites that have been around for quite some time as the longer a site is around, the more difficult it is to keep up with published content and existing keywords – but, it could happen to anyone.

Using the same keyword on multiple pages isn’t the only way that keyword cannibalization happens. Other ways this can occur could be through updating and publishing an existing page without redirecting the old URL or not optimising subcategory pages.

How to find instances of keyword cannibalisation

One of the first telltale signs is a piece of content not ranking well, especially if it fits in line with an existing topic on the site. If you suspect that a page is being affected by keyword cannibalisation, the first step is to do a simple boolean search. For example, “ keyword cannibalisation” and see if it returns multiple results.

There are also various SEO tools online that can audit your site and spot occurrences of keyword cannibalisation for you. Google Search Console is a very useful free tool for this.

How to fix keyword cannibalization

By auditing your content you’ll be able to see which pages need attention. Once you understand the pages that require tackling, you can get to work. Here are some steps you can take to tackle keyword cannibalization. 

Combine existing content

One of the best ways to fix instances of keyword cannibalization is by merging the two pages, creating a whopping piece of informative content. If both pieces are attracting the same audience and delivering the same message, then combining the content is the best way forward.

Once the content has been merged and rewritten so that it makes sense, you’ll then need to redirect the existing pages into one. Alternatively, if you don’t think the cannibalizing piece of content provides any value to your site, then you can simply delete it and redirect the URL from there. 

Internal linking overhaul 

Internal linking is incredibly important to the performance of your site. If Google is struggling to determine the importance of a piece of content, you can give it a little nudge by overhauling your internal linking structure.

A successful internal linking structure involves linking the pages that aren’t performing as well to the relevant pages that are. Google can follow this link flow to understand how to prioritise the pages.

How to prevent keyword cannibalisation

Once you’ve worked through the issues that already exist on the site, you can start to plan how to prevent it from happening in future. 

Firstly, you want to avoid publishing pages that focus on targeting the same search terms. Before creating any new piece of content, you should check the site to see if a page with the same intent already exists. This can be done by utilising the same boolean search from earlier. 

If you spot a page that already exists targeting the same keyword, you can make plans to fix it using the methods above before any damage is done. 

Overall, the best method for prevention is to regularly monitor the performance of your content. Content audits and Google Search Console can help you recognise any hiccups before they become larger issues. 

For more helpful SEO content, check out the It Works Blog. Alternatively, get in touch to find out more about our services.