What is keyword cannibalisation?

Keyword cannibalisation is when two or more pages are competing for the same term. However, this is not always bad – sometimes you will have two pages that perform excellently.

The problem to avoid is when two pages harm each other. These pages will likely have similar url structure, page titles, meta descriptions and inbound links.

keyword cannibalisation graph

How can I check for Keyword Cannibalisation?

Checking for keyword cannibalisation is easy via third-party tools like Ahrefs. Any rank trackers that monitor which page shows up for a keyword will also help to find the problem.

If you do not have access to any of these tools, it can be almost impossible to confirm your pages are affected. However, following the steps further below will prevent and reduce cannibalisation regardless.

lazy oaf organic keywords

How can I fix my Keyword Cannibalisation?

To fix keyword cannibalisation, you first need to figure what’s causing it. There are lots of signals Google use for relevance. Since each is weighted differently, you may find a combination of problems.

Alternatively, if you’ve completed all the below steps, it may be worth combining two pages. This combination will help prevent problems and improve performance.

1. Check your URL structure.

If your keyword is included anywhere between the subdomain and filename on multiple pages – this can cause keyword cannibalisation. To check this, you can perform a site search with the inurl: operator.

Domain Name Breakdown

2. Check your page titles.

A common problem is using the same keyword in your page titles for multiple pages. The title is a strong relevance signal for Google. Therefore, keyword cannibalisation can quickly occur if this happens.

To check if your page titles are causing the problem, try performing a site search with the intitle: operator.

Finding page titles in site search

3. Check your meta descriptions.

The meta descriptions for your page contribute toward page relevance. While the presence of a meta description is not a ranking factor – the content is parsed and understood by Googlebot.

Therefore, using a tool such as Screaming Frog to check meta descriptions can help resolve keyword cannibalisation. The easiest way is to export the descriptions to excel and search.

Filtering Meta Descriptions in Screaming Frog

4. Check your images.

Google parses the alt attributes in each <img> tag, and this contributes toward page content. Therefore, if the images include keywords, they can cause cannibalisation.

To check the alt attributes you may wish to bulk export all images from Screaming Frog. Then, using excel, you can filter all pictures that include your keyword in the alternate text.

Finding page titles in site search

5. Check your internal links.

Anchor text is one of the strongest relevance signals for Google to understand pages. If you have multiple pages that include your keyword in anchor text towards them – this can cause cannibalisation.

You check this using Screaming Frog and exporting all the anchor text. After that, once you’ve opened the file in excel, you can filter for your keyword.

Finding page titles in site search

6. Check your external links.

Lastly, another powerful signal is the external links to your pages. These provide Google with useful information. To check this, you’ll need to look out for the following things:

  1. Does one page have more links than the other?
  2. Can the keyword be found in the anchor text?
  3. Are multiple pages targeted with the same terms?
  4. Has one page received an algorithmic penalty?

The best tools for checking this are Google Search Console and Ahrefs. Others including Majestic, SEMRush and Moz also work fine.

anchor text percentages