Keyword cannibalization is when search engines list one of your pages over another, that you preferred to rank instead, for a given query. Over the course of tracking this keyword, the top URL may even change. This splits attention across each page, diluting their value.
SEO issues here often mean artificial copy, duplicate content, or misaligned search intent. For example, an e-commerce category page with a spammy description gets outranked by a blog on the same domain. This isn’t always the case though.
The greatest cost is wasted effort. A content team creates blogs that overlap with FAQ pages, or pages for different cities beyond the HQ that never rank.
Here are some ideas for improving keyword cannibalization:
- Update the pages with unique copy, ideally to match search intent for each page as viewed in the SERPs for that keyword, like a demand for more information versus buying something. Quick solution: add a unique outbound link.
- Have a clear hub strategy, meaning that pages meant to rank for root or head keywords have more internal links and fewer clicks to reach from the homepage, alongside simpler titles & headers.
- Remove competing keywords entirely from the ranking page, de-optimizing it.
- Canonicalize, redirect, or noindex the ranking page, especially if it has earned little otherwise, attempting to consolidate toward the so-called better page.
- Embrace the search engine decision; don’t fight it. Tinker with the ranking page to improve alignment. This could mean adding CTAs or gently directing the user by explaining alternatives somewhere above-the-fold.