CRO, keyword cannibalization and SEO - What you need to know

CRO, Keyword Cannibalization & SEO - What you need to know

Keyword cannibalization occurs when several pages target the same keywords, confusing search engines and reducing page authority. In this article we'll share how to recover and avoid keyword cannibalization for the sake of your CRO and SEO.


This article discusses the impact of keyword cannibalization on SEO and CRO, emphasizing how it lowers site authority and conversion rates by causing multiple pages to compete for the same keywords. It suggests methods to identify, resolve, and prevent this issue to improve website performance.

You’ve probably heard about keyword cannibalization, but what is it? Keywords eating each other? Que?

In this article we’ll dive deep into what this phenomenon is, why it’s bad for SEO, how it affects your CRO, how to identify and solve it, and most importantly: how to avoid it from happening in the first place.

What is keyword cannibalization?

We can all agree that using relevant, highly-ranking keywords is a not-so-secret ingredient to creating readworthy and searchable content. The catch here is keyword cannibalization.

Keyword cannibalization happens when multiple pages on your website focus on the same keywords and start competing with each other to rank in the search engine result pages (SERPs).

This confuses the search engine, because which of your pages offers the best value about the topic? It hurts your authority and leaves your brand reputation in limbo with search engines.

It can lead to a situation where Google may only show one of your pages in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for a specific search query, while other pages that target the same keyword are ranked lower or not shown at all.

So, assign keywords strategically to different pages and make sure they serve a unique purpose to make your website more user-focused and search-friendly. Doing so can beat the keyword clash and bring your brand into the spotlight.

A way to avoid keyword cannibalization is by using keyword mapping in your SEO strategy.

keyword cannibalization by ahrefs


Are you experiencing a sudden decrease in organic traffic? This has most likely nothing to do with keyword cannibalization. Our article on dramatic drops in organic traffic will have the answer for you.

Why is it bad for SEO? And how does it affect your CRO?

You might think: “having two pages rank for the same keyword can only be good right? That means one competitor less in the SERPs and more traffic for me.”

But that’s not entirely true.

When Google detects multiple pages from the same domain that seem relevant to a search query, it tries to determine which page is the most relevant. This can result in only the "best" page, according to Google's algorithms, appearing in the search results, while other pages are omitted or ranked lower. This process is part of Google's efforts to avoid redundant content in the SERPs and provide the best user experience.

So it might be that you invested time and effort (or money) in creating multiple pages about one specific topic, but Google decided to only show one of them. That would be such a shame.

There’s more reasons why keyword cannibalization is bad for SEO, here’s a few:

1. Compromises your page authority

Incorporating the same keywords into different pages makes them compete with each other for the limelight in the SERPs and that divides the traffic.

Because you’re “confusing” Google’s bots, it will consider a lower value and authority of your pages.

Google will not penalize you for it, but the split traffic reduces the individual page’s authority.

Read more about Google Penalties here.

page authority vs domain authority


2. Suboptimal conversion rates

38% of website visitors do not engage with a website if the content is unsatisfactory or doesn’t fulfill their purpose.

Let’s say you have a landing page to convert visitors into customers. A page where your visitor signs up for something or purchases your products. This is your money page, a very important page that focuses on conversions. You want this page to rank at the top of the SERPs for a certain keyword. Let’s say that’s “buy Microsoft office 365”.

Now, you also have a blog on your website with a blog article called “Where and how to buy Microsoft office 365 with a discount”. If this blog article is of high quality and answers all questions someone might have in the buying process, it will compete with your money page in the SERPs. Google might even decide that your blog article is of higher value and therefore only shows the blog article in the SERPs and ignores your money page.

So, when someone searches “buy Microsoft office 365”, and lands on your blog article, they don’t see the product you’re selling. Your page doesn’t match the intent of your visitor.

Keyword cannibalization can make your less relevant pages rank higher, making the content irrelevant to the user. It also compromises the visibility of authoritative pages and confuses Google when deciding what to rank.

Hence, it’ll lead your website visitors to a page with a lower conversion rate (CR), pushing the CR down and bounce rates higher.

3. Wastes crawl budget

Crawl budget refers to the number of pages a search engine like Google will crawl on your website within a given timeframe. It's influenced by two main factors: crawl rate limit and crawl demand.

  1. Crawl Rate Limit: This factor is determined by how quickly a search engine can crawl your website without negatively impacting your site’s performance. If crawling your site too aggressively leads to server overload or slows down your site for visitors, search engines will limit the number of pages they crawl to avoid these issues.
  2. Crawl Demand: This factor is determined by how much the search engine wants to crawl your pages. This can depend on several aspects, including the popularity of your pages and whether they are updated frequently. Pages that are more popular or frequently updated may be crawled more often to keep the search engine's index up to date.

Keyword cannibalization can negatively impact your crawl budget by causing search engines to repeatedly crawl multiple pages with similar content.

When search engines encounter numerous pages targeting the same keywords, they may spend more time crawling these pages, thus using up a significant portion of your crawl budget.

This excessive crawling of similar content can prevent search engines from discovering and indexing other, unique content on your site within the allocated crawl budget.

As a result, important pages may not get crawled as frequently or thoroughly, potentially leading to decreased visibility and lower rankings for those pages. Yikes!

what is crawl budget and how does keyword cannibalization have an effect on it?


4. Spoils user experience

You’re not just confusing the search engine, you’re also confusing the users.

Does the SERP display different pages of your website when someone searches a specific keyword? Then, the multiple pages might overwhelm the user and fail to provide the required value, spoiling their experience.

Imagine searching for something in Google getting two different pages from the same website. Which one will have the best answer or solution you’re looking for? It’s confusing your potential customers, and they might just not visit your website at all.

Other websites could link to your pages if they find your content relevant or helpful. Which is great!

But if you offer two different pages about the same topic, you’ll receive links to both.

Let say there are 20 external parties that want to link to you because you share great content about “leather wallets”. You would want all of those to link to your money page, where you actually sell leather wallets. The more quality links to a page, the better (in the eyes of Google).

But now you have two pages that talk about leather wallets and the external parties are divided. You receive 10 links to your money page and 10 to a random blog article that ranks for this keyword too.

Your backlinks would then be distributed among different pages rather than all pointing to one authoritative page.

This weakens your backlink profile and lowers the authority of your pages.

Identifying keyword cannibalization

Identifying keyword cannibalization is just an extensive SEO audit away. Here are the top 3 ways to identify keyword cannibalization quickly:

1. Search your own website

Utilize the website search widget to enter the most important keyword and find the URLs that include it.

2. Use Google itself

Type "keyword" into Google. This will show you all the pages indexed under your domain that are targeting the same keyword. Review the list for content overlap or redundancy.

3. Use Google Search Console

GSC helps you see which pages are ranking for similar queries. Navigate to the “Performance” section>default query list> select a query > find a list of URLs ranking for it. If there is more than one URL, keyword cannibalization could be the blame.

4. Manually Review your Content

Examine your site’s content manually to see if there are multiple articles or pages that discuss similar topics with overlapping keywords. Pay attention to the title tags, meta descriptions, and headings where these keywords appear.

5. SEO Tools

Tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush offer features to detect keyword cannibalization. These tools can provide insights into which pages are ranking for the same terms and their respective positions in the SERPs.

Solving keyword cannibalization

The right method to fix keyword cannibalization depends on your business size and the content generated over time. Here are some ways to rely on:

1. Merging content

Detected keyword cannibalization? Merge the content of the pages with similar content while retaining the ones that provide unique value. So ensure your “money page” shows the highest value and quality in terms of content and that you change the focus of the less important page to a related keyword.

Make sure to consolidate high-traffic content with more converting and better-performing one via careful page analytics.

2. Deleting content

Your content evolves with time, making the old ones misaligned with your current goals. However, those less relevant content pieces with the same business-specific keywords may still rank higher than the new ones.

To avoid such keyword cannibalization and interrupted knowledge flow for current customers, delete the old irrelevant content.

Be careful when deleting content, this is not the most recommended way to solve keyword cannibalization.

Don’t forget to set a 301 redirect to the new page!

3. Modify the internal linking structure

Adding links to relevant and authoritative pages of your website to the new blogs signals the search engine that the new content is the priority.

Also, check if the external backlinks to your website are all pointing to the new authoritative content. If not, reach out to the backlinkers and request a change.

4. Reform the keyword strategy

Modify your keyword strategy to ensure that each important page on your website targets a unique set of keywords. This involves identifying the primary keyword for each page and ensuring it's different from those used on other pages.

It may help to focus on long-tail keywords, which are more specific and less competitive, reducing the risk of overlap.

5. Utilize 301 redirect

Are you sure of the page you want to rank higher for a specific keyword but have multiple pages competing for the same keyword?

Solve this by redirecting the URLs of the less relevant pages to the most authoritative one. Doing so streamlines the user experience, eliminates the dilution of the keyword focus, and fixes the preferred page to rank.

This is not recommended if the pages that you are going to redirect also rank for other keywords. In that case, tailor the content of the page more towards these other keywords.

6. Restructure the website

Create one relevant and authoritative landing page that incorporates all the required information specific to a keyword and optimize its meta title and description to include the targeted keyword. Don’t forget to link from different blog pages to that common landing page.

Keyword mapping is the strategy that will help you with this.

7. Canonical URL

Canonical tags are a tool used in SEO to help manage problems that arise when multiple pages on a website have similar content.

By placing a canonical tag in the HTML header of a webpage, you can tell search engines which version of a page you prefer to show up in search results. This helps consolidate any SEO benefits, like links from other sites, to the preferred page. It also prevents search engines from getting confused about which page to rank higher, thus avoiding inefficiencies in how your site is crawled and indexed.

Essentially, canonical tags direct search engines to consider one page as the main one and ignore the others that are too similar, helping to streamline your SEO efforts and keep your site organized.

cro and keyword cannibalization, how to avoid!

Wrong solutions to keyword cannibalization

Are you looking for a quick fix to the keyword cannibalization issue? Here are some actions that may seem logical but are flawed in practice:

1. Noindex the page

Noindexing a page involves instructing search engines not to index a specific page, thereby removing it from search results to prevent it from competing with other pages on your site for the same keywords.

This method is particularly useful for pages that do not contribute significantly to your site’s SEO goals, such as outdated or duplicate content.

However, noindexing should be used cautiously because it eliminates the page from search results entirely, along with any SEO benefits it might carry.

Before opting to noindex a page, it's better to consider alternatives like updating the content, merging similar pages, or using canonical tags to maintain the page's value while addressing cannibalization issues.

2. Remove page optimizations

Removing page optimization can mean deleting internal links with anchor texts with cannibalized keywords and removing the keyword from the page. It’s a bad idea because it not only prevents the page from ranking for that keyword but also affects the ranking for other keywords.

3. Masking web pages

Utilizing CSS or JavaScript to hide web pages that include cannibalized keywords from users may solve your problem in the short run. But when the search engine finds out, it’ll penalize your website, leading to a significant drop in the overall ranking.

4. No page optimization or consolidation

Not taking relevant action to optimize the content on a page or not consolidating overlapping pages dilutes the visibility of the more authoritative content. Because the links will compete with each other, disrupting the search engine in deciding what to rank.

How to avoid keyword cannibalization?

Avoiding keyword cannibalization is integral in any SEO Strategy. It keeps your authoritative pages ranking high, improves CRO, and grows your business with wider reach and financial benefits.

But how do we do that? Here are a few key points to avoid keyword cannibalization:

1. Have a content strategy in place

Every single page on your website that is part of your SEO Strategy should have a main keyword to target. And every single page has a different main keyword.

At Operation Nation, we create custom content strategies for our clients, including keyword mapping. We make sure every page has its own purpose and targeted keyword, making sure that their potential clients find exactly what they’re looking for.

If you need such a strategy or are curious how this would look for you, reach out to us! We’re happy to help.

2. Use meta tags

Further, use your targetted keyword in your page’s meta title and description. It helps the search engines AND users what your page is about without confusing them.

3. Combine similar pages

Another simple strategy is to review your pages with the same keywords and consolidate them into a single page if they go well with each other. If not, use a different keyword for each page and put canonical tags to indicate the preference page to the search engine.

4. Don’t make the content keyword centric

A more involved strategy is to monitor how your keywords and pages are ranking. When building new content, focus on the topic or idea you want to present rather than creating content around selective keywords.

5. Internal page linking

Review and optimize your internal page linking structure so that users land on the appropriate page with the same keyword. You can use a tool like SEMRush to see which pages are linking to the page you’re optimizing and which anchor texts are used.

6. Check the content consistency

Maintaining content consistency across your website helps to avoid keyword cannibalization by ensuring each page has a clear and distinct focus.

When content on each page is centered around specific, unique keywords and themes, it reduces the likelihood of overlap where multiple pages might compete for the same search queries.

This not only helps search engines better understand and rank your pages appropriately but also enhances the overall user experience by providing clear, focused information that meets their search intent.

Consistent content strengthens your site’s thematic relevance and authority, making it easier to strategically target a wider range of keywords without causing confusion both to users and search engines.

Have a new website? Explore the 7 core steps to rank a new website.

Wrapping Up

Keyword cannibalization pulls your website down in the SERPs, lowers your CRO, and stagnates your SEO success when undetected and uncatered.

That’s why it’s extremely important to identify, eliminate, and avoid keyword cannibalization, and never fall for the bad solutions.

But both solving and avoiding cannibalization are painfully exhausting. That’s where we, at Operation Nation, come to the rescue. We build a winning content strategy for your website to achieve better visibility, establish robust brand authority, drive more sales, and attract qualified traffic.

From optimizing your content and SEO audit to keyword research and link building, our services cover them all. If this is what you’ve been looking for, here’s your sign to take the plunge. Apply for SEO consult with us.

Josien Nation profile picture

Josien Nation


Co-Founder & Head of Marketing

Josien Nation is a co-founder and partner at Operation Nation. She is the leader of all things SEO at Operation Nation. She has 6+ years experience helping businesses grow their audience and get found on search engines.

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