Is keyword cannibalization really a problem?

October 7, 2021

Occasionally, numerous pages on your site will rank for the same keyword or topic. SEO industry people commonly call this “keyword cannibalization.”

Very dramatic term, right? The pages are eating each other! But the facts are way less scary.

Let’s look at 3 common scenarios.


🥣 1) You’ve got two pages ranking in the top 5 for one keyword.

Congrats!

This means that you’re doing a lot of things right. You’re in competition with yourself because you are so great.

These pages are well constructed and proving relevant, compelling, and effective for the keyword.

Is there an opportunity to get some of these pages ranking well for different, adjacent keywords?

Yep. But realistically, if you’ve got other priorities, you don’t need to worry about it today.

🏄 What you can do

You could probably leave them alone for a while, spending your time instead on all the other keywords you’re trying to rank in the top 5.

Though… if you’ve got everything else buttoned up, you can do some further exploration.

Keywords are ultimately all about intent.

  • Do you have two pages that are ranking for the same keyword, but really align to two different intents?
  • Can you make that alignment more clear to Google?

For example, if you have two pages ranking for “accounting software”, maybe one of them should really be “accounting software” (because it’s a great introduction to the topic), and the other should be refocused around “how to buy accounting software”.

And then maybe you can keep your high-ish original ranks for both pages while ranking for something important, closely related, and new.


🥣 2) Two pages, not ranking all that well, for the same keyword

Neither page has reached its potential yet. If one page is ranking #9 and the other is ranking #15, it’s possible that neither one is really giving users what they’re looking for with this keyword.

Plus, maybe each one is getting rather tepid promotion, as opposed to a more concerted effort behind just one.

You have an opportunity to consolidate and improve.

🏄 What you can do

Choose the higher-ranking page (ie. #9) and optimize the heck out of it.

Take all relevant material from the lower-ranking page and insert it in the higher one. Then optimize that lower-ranking page for a different keyword.

If your content is simply spread thin, this is a great opportunity to consolidate and optimize.


🥣 3) The “wrong” page is ranking for a keyword

What this means: Google didn’t pick the page that you thought it would. For example, you wrote an explainer page to rank for the keyword “accounting software” – that’s a top-of-the-funnel search term, and explainers are great for top-of-the-funnel leads.

But Google chose your product page instead, even though that page is designed for bottom-of-the-funnel leads who already know the basics and are ready to buy.

🏄 What you can do

Look critically at the reasons why exactly Google has chosen one page over the other:

  • What does the ranking page offer, in terms of content?
  • Is that value present on the non-ranking page?

There’s probably an opportunity here to significantly improve the quality of the non-ranking page.

So keyword cannibalism is actually a good problem to have, or at least an informative one. And maybe not a problem at all. Just an opportunity to build on the momentum you’ve already got going.

Feel free to schedule office hours to look at your site’s problems in depth. Or just to tell us that you think we’re dead wrong on this topic.


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