Keyword cannibalism

Manu Magno



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Keyword cannibalism is a term from the field of search engine optimization and means that two pages within a domain are optimized for one and the same keyword. Thus, two URLscannibalize each other, due to content that is too similar, or due to the focus on the same search term.


Among the top rules in search engine optimization: A single main keyword per page or URL. The term keyword cannibalism (also SEO over-optimization or relevancy problem), refers to creating multiple pages that are all optimized for one keyword or keyword combination. This can result in lower rankingsbecause the search engines can no longer assign the keyword to just one URL. Mostly keyword cannibalism happens unconsciously; reasons are ignorance and / or inattention in the maintenance of one’s own website.

The problems of keyword cannibalism

If in the course of the expansion or in the course of a relaunch further subpages or landing pages with identical keywords are created, Google can no longer recognize which page is really relevant. That’s why the term relevance problem fits so well.

As a result, Google’s results pages(SERPs) change frequently and rankings deteriorate. Especially for laymen as well as for fast growing websites it is therefore difficult to avoid this keyword cannibalism.

Keyword cannibalism

Here’s an example of how it looks on ahrefs when multiple pages (of the same domain) alternate in Google’s search results. In the graph, one color represents one URL. Google ranks these URL’s in turn to figure out which one is most relevant. Often this problem solves itself after a certain time. However, if the search engine cannot decide, there is a need for action.To improve a ranking, in the past, one often used the so-called keyword stuffing. However, this is done intentionally. A disadvantage of keyword stuffing is that the texts are hardly readable, moreover Google and Co. punish such methods as spam.

How do you recognize keyword cannibalism?

The most common effects that indicate keyword cannibalism are:

  1. Multiple rankings for a keyword, especially on pages one to three
  2. Permanent fluctuations of several positions
  3. Ranking with changing URL
  4. Check rankings with tools (like ahrefs)

How do you prevent keyword cannibalism?

  • If you can do without one or more URLs, for example because the content is irrelevant or outdated, a 301 redirect is a good idea.
  • If several URLs have meaningful content on the topic and can be combined on a single page, you should bundle the content on the strongest URL.
  • If the URLs have to remain – for whatever reason – you should mark the weaker one in the txt with the attribute “noindex, follow”. The Google crawler will examine the URL, but it will not index it. You can also give all URL’s a canonical tag. With this you give Google the hint that the pages area “duplicate” of the main page.
  • If the URLs affected by keyword cannibalization do not offer themselves for the search term, you could build a separate landing page for it.
  • It’s just as effective if you target one of the two pages to another key phrase with similar meaning or a long-tail search term.
  • You can improve the relevance of a page to a particular keyword by giving the selected URL more content including the keyword, but then you should deprive the competing URL of the keyword.
  • You can boost the page that is supposed to rank for the keyword with internal and external links. This increases the authority of the site and makes it more relevant.

Our tip: It’s not enough to check your website for keyword cannibalism every now and then, you should rather check the Keep intervals as short as possible. Websites that are edited daily and supplied with new content and therefore new keywords should be checked daily. Keyword cannibalism also affects the meta information in the title tag, if these are optimized with the same keyword. So to check conscientiously, you should also pay attention to the meta information.


If several pages of the same domain rank for the same keywords on Google, an internal competition arises. In this case, the search engine has problems recognizing which page is more important. As a result, both websites are ranked lower and this is called keyword cannibalism. To prevent this, you need to check your website regularly, for which you can use various tools, among others.


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