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Keyword Cannibalisation – What is it and does it affect your page rankings?

There are a lot of misconceptions about keyword cannibalisation. Some SEOs claim that it doesn’t exist which only adds to the confusion and creates more myths. In reality keyword cannibalisation is an issue for many websites and it CAN hold back your rankings.

It is just that it is probably not what you’re thinking it is.

In this blog, we’re going to help you understand what it is, what it’s not, and how you can get the help you need to fix it.

What is Keyword Cannibalisation in SEO?

You may have thought that this term means that having more than one page on your site that targets the same keyword equals cannibalisation. Both pages performing poorly due to the other being in existence.

This just isn’t true.

Two or more pages optimised for the same keyword can BOTH still rank, and rank well.

Keyword Cannibalisation is about Intent.

The issue could more accurately be called ‘keyword intent cannibalisation’.

Take Apple’s MacBook Pro pages for example. has two different pages ranking organically for this term and they rank #1 and #2. You’re probably not surprised by that necessarily but if you thought keyword cannibalisation worked by optimising for the same term on multiple pages, we should probably get a different ranking here, shouldn’t we?

Actually, we wouldn’t. The intent of the two pages is completely different. The first is the page you will be directed to when researching the product, trying to decide to buy, and making comparisons. The second page is where you will land when you’ve made a decision and are ready to purchase. The first is informational, the second, transactional.

With the difference in intent being obvious these pages can exist and rank quite happily without confusion for search engines or customers.

Keyword Cannibalisation

It could be helpful to think of it this way. Optimising multiple pages for the same keyword with the same INTENT puts your own pages in competition with each other.

Google’s John Mueller was once asked about ranking and keyword cannibalisation on Reddit and here is his answer.

We just rank the content as we get it. If you have a bunch of pages with roughly the same content, it’s going to compete with each other, kinda like a bunch of kids wanting to be first in line, and ultimately someone else slips in ahead of them :). Personally, I prefer fewer, stronger pages over lots of weaker ones – don’t water your site’s value down.

— John Mueller, Google

It’s possible you have keyword cannibalisation happening on your site without even realising it. New content has been created and added without considering what already exists.

This doesn’t mean the new content is better or worse than the previous content. It simply makes it harder for a search engine’s algorithm to choose between the pages as to which should rank higher than the other.

Sometimes there will be stronger ranking signals pointing to one over the other but when there isn’t, neither page will rank as well as they could have. Classic keyword cannibalisation.

Cleaning up any pages on your site that might have this issue really needs to be a part of your wider SEO strategy.

At TheOnlineCo. we have experts in SEO who can help you optimise your website to get the rankings you’re looking for. Contact us to find out more.


Kelista is one of our Content Writers at TheOnlineCo. She has the incredible capability to find the perfect 'voice' for our clients and writes blogs that reflect their unique style while covering all the content needed. She also works within our Social Media and SEO Teams.

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