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Keyword cannibalization: SEO’s biggest challenge

Is your website its own worst enemy? Learn more about the hidden danger of keyword cannibalization and how to avoid it.

Tom Amitay - co-founder and CEO of Entail AI
By Tom Amitay
Lia du Preez
Edited by Lia du Preez
Romi Hector
Fact-check by Romi Hector

Updated February 28, 2024.

Keyword cannibalization: SEO’s biggest challenge

Key takeaways

  • Content cannibalization hurts SEO rankings when multiple pages target the same keywords.
  • Some keyword overlap between pages is normal. Complete duplication is the problem.
  • Innovative approaches like the topical authority model can help manage keyword overlaps.
  • A well-planned content strategy and merging or adjusting content can prevent cannibalization.
  • Emerging AI solutions map content topics more holistically to identify duplication.

Creating multiple pages and content on the same topic may seem like a good idea when building a website or blog. More content means more opportunities for users to find you, right?

Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Too much content targeting the same keywords can lead to keyword or content cannibalization, which can hurt your search engine rankings.

Let's uncover what content cannibalization is, how best to avoid it, and software solutions for building a content strategy that works for you.

Understanding keyword cannibalization

While it is sometimes difficult to detect, content cannibalization occurs when search engines encounter overlapping content. This creates confusion and impacts the overall effectiveness of a website's SEO strategy.

Screenshot of SERP for "best VPN" as an example of keyword cannibalization

The overlap of keywords is almost inevitable because websites typically rank for thousands of them, many of which are similar. Therefore, on any website, multiple pages often end up sharing keywords, especially large websites with lots of content.

Different sections can rank for different keywords

Usually, the main keywords a page targets are those included in the H1 or title of the page, so it's crucial not to have two pages with titles targeting the same keywords.

For example:

Having one page titled "Is keyword cannibalization good for SEO?" and another titled "Is keyword cannibalization bad for SEO?" isn't ideal. These two pages are competing and may confuse both search engines and users.

However, you might discuss keyword cannibalization when structuring content and touch on related topics like content creation or blog writing. These could be topics covered in other articles, but your post may still rank for them. Even if you only mention them briefly, these topics can affect the range of keywords that your page ranks for.

Keep in mind:

Not every instance of multiple pages ranking for the same keyword counts as cannibalization. Sometimes, this overlap might be acceptable or even necessary to establish topical authority.

» Find out how AI-generated content will affect SEO.

The effects of keyword cannibalization

Example of two blogs that could cannibalize each other

Although we often refer to this problem as keyword cannibalization, it's unclear whether Google uses the same term. That said, Google recognizes and responds to duplicate content. If a website contains multiple posts targeting the same keywords, Google might see this as duplicate content and decide not to index these pages.

Screenshot of Google Search Console's "Duplicate - Google chose different canonical than user" status

Alternatively, Google might index them but divide the traffic between them, diluting their potential reach, or prefer one page over the other and exclusively direct traffic there.

» Learn more about how Google will handle content hyperinflation.

Tools and techniques to identify keyword cannibalization

Despite the pressing need for a solution to keyword cannibalization, there are no straightforward tools to tackle this issue effectively. SEO professionals often use a manual approach that involves examining each page and comparing keywords through tools like Google Search Console.

However, doing things manually can become almost impossible, especially with a lot of social media content.

One innovative approach is the topical authority model. Rather than focusing on individual keywords, this method centers on broader topics, encompassing multiple keywords with similar intent. By mapping the relationship between these topics and various pages, SEOs can determine when pages compete or complement each other.

Solve keyword cannibalization with Entail

Entail's AI-powered content strategy software is built to uncover and solve content cannibalization. This strategy provides optimized content that Google will recognize as authoritative to help you rank higher.

Our AI-powered platform automatically maps all topics relevant to your website and immediately flags potential cannibalization. It also clearly highlights cases where multiple pages compete for the same keywords, allowing you to pinpoint and fix cannibalization.

How Entail solves keyword cannibalization

By combining complete topic mapping with head-to-head keyword overlap alerts, Entail AI provides the insights you need to streamline your entire content creation process for the best user journey.

Preventing and fixing cannibalization

Preventing both content and, specifically, keyword cannibalization begins with a well-thought-out content plan. Once you identify keyword cannibalization, steps to resolve it include:

  • Merging competing pages
  • Deleting redundant pages
  • Optimizing existing pages instead of creating duplicates
  • Adjusting the content to target different keywords

These steps will eliminate competition between pages on your website and improve your site's SEO performance. Fewer pages mean less of a cannibalization risk. For example, updating a forecast page daily rather than creating new pages for each forecast reduces the risk of cannibalization.

» Unlock the key to high-performing SEO content teams

Stop cannibalization with a solid content strategy

As technology continues to develop, overcoming SEO challenges like content or keyword cannibalization is key for your website to thrive. The solution lies in taking a consolidated, proactive approach and leveraging AI-driven innovations like Entail AI's content strategy software to help you map your content and make data-backed decisions.

By building skillfully now with the right tools and strategies, you can achieve sustainable and scalable success.