Have you just logged into your favourite keyword and rank checking tool to discover that your rankings have dropped significantly on several keywords?  It can be a very disheartening, not to mention confusing experience. What the heck happened? These keywords were ranking last week, but not today…(gnashing of teeth, hair being pulled).

The reason could be SEO keyword cannibalization.

What is SEO Cannibalization?

SEO cannibalization occurs when multiple pages within a website target the same or very similar keywords, unintentionally competing against each other in search engine rankings. This phenomenon can lead to confusion for search engines, making it challenging to determine which page is the most relevant for a particular query.

Why this can be a major problem:

  • Keyword Confusion:
    • Search engines may struggle to understand which page to prioritize for a specific keyword, potentially causing a decline in overall rankings for the targeted keyword.
  • Fragmented Authority:
    • When multiple pages compete for the same keyword, the authority and link equity of the website are divided among these pages. This fragmentation can hinder the overall performance of the site in rankings.
  • User Experience Issues:
    • SEO cannibalization can result in a confusing user experience. Visitors may encounter multiple pages with similar content, leading to frustration and a higher likelihood of bouncing from the site, reducing conversion rates.

How can SEO Cannibalization be avoided?

The best method is to make sure it can’t happen from the get-go. That is, do your keyword research and set up your pages correctly from the start.

Before creating content, conduct comprehensive keyword research to identify relevant and unique target keywords for each page. Tools like Google Keyword Planner and SEMrush can assist in this process. What you’re looking for are keywords that have the best balance between difficulty rating and volume. Meaning you want words that are being googled at a reasonable monthly rate, but are not too difficult to rank for. SEMrush and Ubersuggest.com both provide this information at a glance. This pre-planning will ensure each page on your site is optimized for a different keyword.

How can SEO Cannibalization be fixed?

But what if you’ve been adding content to your site without really paying attention to this issue, or someone else set up the website to begin with, and now you’re discovering you might be a victim of SEO cannibaliozation? All isn’t lost, it can be fixed.

Each page on your website should serve a distinct purpose and provide unique, valuable content. Avoid duplicating content or creating pages that are too similar in focus. Regularly audit your existing content to identify any overlapping or conflicting keywords. Use tools like Google Analytics or SEO platforms to analyze the performance of your pages. If you’re using Toast in a WordPress website, it will tell you if you’ve used the same focus keyword before. If you find you have more than one page per keyword, select one of the content pages as the primary page for that keyword.  Now, you have some options:

  • Internal Linking – Once you’ve set the primary keyword for the page as the focus keyword, you can still optimize for other keywords by linking them to the other pages that are primary for them. For example, if you have page with focus keyword, “chakra energy healing”, but you want to establish your business as an authority on other related topics, like spiritual coaching”, include some mention of spiritual coaching on the page, linking that anchor text to the other page on your site which has spiritual coaching as its primary keyword.
  • Set canonical tags – If you find that you still have multiple pages that also talk about chakra energy healing, set your canonical tag to the primary page, and tell the other pages that your focus keyword page is the primary one for that keyword. What you’re doing is steering Google to the correctly determined chakra energy page, allowing it to see the “real” page for that keyword without getting confused (at least that’s the theory).  As far as I can tell, it works.
  • Consolidate similar pages –  If you identify pages with overlapping content and keyword targeting, consider consolidating them into a single, comprehensive page. Then use a 301 Redirect to point the redundant pages to the consolidated one.


Understanding and addressing SEO cannibalization can mean the difference between a healthy and optimized site, and a site that continually brings ranking frustration. By conducting thorough research, creating unique content, and implementing strategic SEO practices, you can avoid the dangers of cannibalization and ensure that each page on your site contributes positively to your overall search engine visibility. When you find your rankings suddenly falling, cannibalization may not be the only reason for it, but it’s definitely something to watch for.