Keyword Cannibalization

Keyword Cannibalization: Targeting the Same Keywords

By: Nick Harrison
Last Updated: November 13, 2019

Keyword cannibalization is using the same focus/main keyword on multiple pages. The reason why someone may intentionally do this, is because they might be under the impression that the more content focused on the same keyword, the greater the odds that the keyword will rank higher.

There are also cases (like with some of my clients) where there are thousands of blog articles and you could be targeting the same focus keyword without even knowing it.  

What is a focus keyword?

If you are doing it correctly, there should be a keyword(s) or phrase that you are primarily targeting. It should be in your page title and URL. 

Why is it called keyword cannibalization?

If you have two are more pages focused on the same keyword, what happens is that your similar content is competing with each-other. Essentially eating each-others ranking results.

How your search rankings could be hurt:

Several factors come into play when Google decides how worthy your content is for their search engine. While there are hundreds of factors, some of the top ones include:

  • Click-through rate: The rate at which people are clicking to get to the page. If you have two pages competing for the same focus keyword, it could cause your click-through rate to drop per pages versus if they were one, which then drops your page authority. 
  • Conversions: Not all pages convert the same. You could bring traffic to a page that converts more poorly. 
  • Sharing and traffic:  Sharing and traffic in general are important. Instead of bringing people to one page that gets all the traffic and sharing, you are splitting it up, further diminishing your page’s authority. 
  • Inbound linkage: Inbound links are great to help search engines and users determine what your content is about, what your site is about. Linkage can help create an authority of the topic you are writing about. 
  • Relevance: Search engines may place a higher value on the page that is least relevant to the user which could lead to higher bounce rates and as noted above, conversions. 


There are a few ways to approach this if you find that you have been doing keyword cannibalization. 

Combing content:

You may want to consider combining both articles into one article. This depends on the content. 

Re-optimize one article: 

You may want to edit one of the pages and target a different focus keyword. Just because you published a page, it doesn’t mean you can’t modify it later on. I do this all the time if I have an page not ranking well. 

301 Redirection:

One option that is really easy, is to create a redirection from the lesser performing page to the higher performing one. 

Canonical Linkage:

There could be times where we want to write two pages on the same focus keyword because there might be different takes on the subject, etc. You might consider using a canonical URL html element that tells Google what the main page is.  


It’s not wise to compete against yourself.

The key is to write great content, to spend time making that one page great versus writing multiple pages using the same focus keyword. It’s not about quantity anymore, it’s about quality.

If your page isn’t ranking well, it can always be re-written. It could also be that your site overall doesn’t have a lot of authority and certain keywords will be almost impossible to rank for no matter what you do.

There are some black and white areas on this topic. This isn’t something that will always hurt you, but happens more than you think.

Even with fava beans and a nice chianti, keyword cannibalization is rarely a good thing.