Is Your SEO Effort Being Eaten by Keyword Cannibals?

Is Your SEO Effort Being Eaten by Keyword Cannibals?

Is your website a keyword cannibal? Keyword cannibalization is an SEO term that describes what happens when you have more than one page targeting the same keyword. For example, let’s say you have a page on your garden shop website with title, heading, and keyword focus “potted shrubs”. You want people to find you when they use that term in search. At some point, you decide to write a blog article about caring for potted shrubs and inadvertently (or even intentionally) you also use the keywords “potted shrubs” in the title, heading, and throughout the blog post. After you publish the article, you find the article outranking your main “potted shrubs” page, or, you may fined both pages ranking poorly.

What happened? Simply put, you’ve confused Google. You’ve decreased the relevance and popularity of your main target page by optimizing a blog post for the same keywords. Google sees two pages with very similar keyword weight and has to choose which one is most relevant. If you have two pages with same or similarly keyworded content, you effectively decrease the importance of both pages.

How to prevent keyword cannibalization

When planning your SEO strategy, it’s a good idea to be clear exactly what pages are targeting what keywords.  This should be done during the website design phase and you should keep a watchful eye on what pages target what keywords throughout the life of your website. For your  website’s main pages, you should have a list of primary and sometimes secondary keywords that each page targets. This list is a “do no duplicate” list. Never create another page or blog post that targets those same keywords. Yes, link back to the target page from those secondary pages, but use variations on the main keywords and optimize the secondary page for those variations only. Does that mean you cannot ever use the main page keywords in the secondary page (often a blog post page)? No, but it does mean that you should do so sparingly. Use variations and long tail keywords that are still about “potted shrubs” but that use variants.


Your have a main page on your website that is optimized for “buy potted shrubs online”. You decide you’d like to write an article about buying potted shrubs so you can link back to the main potted-shrubs.html page in an attempt to increase the popularity of the page. You decide the title of the article is “What To Look For When Purchasing Potted Outdoor Plants”. The blog article is still about potted plants and will likely mention shrubs sparingly (amongst other plants) and when you are writing that paragraph on shrubs, quite naturally you’d link to your “buy potted shrubs online” page. However, that page would also provide information on potted flowers, potted trees and potted green beans. The article is optimized for “Buying Outdoor Potted Plants”  and “Outdoor Potted Plants Online”. The weight of the page leans toward these keywords and is not competing with your main page.

Keyword cannibalization avoidance tips

  •  Each page of your website and blog should have a unique keyword focus. Title tag, headings and keyword emphasis should be unique for each page.
  • Create a list of pages and keyword targets for your website’s main pages. The list may have two columns: a “keyword column” and a “target page” column. The keyword column may closely correspond with your title tag (being the most important on-page ranking element). It may contain one main key phrase and secondary key phrase. Although this may change over time as you adjust your SEO strategy, for our purposes the list will be used to ensure you aren’t creating competition by optimizing more than one page for the same keyword.
  • When creating secondary pages or blog posts, refer to your main keyword/target page list. This will help you avoid duplicating the keyword focus of existing main pages. Don’t optimized secondary pages using main page keywords.
  • Create a second list of long tail keywords for blog posts and secondary pages. This list will be different than the main keyword/target pages list. Not only do you want to avoid conflict with your main keyword list, but you also want to ensure that blog posts are not optimized for the same keywords
  • For obvious reasons, main site pages generally target keywords with higher targeted traffic and blog posts are great for long tail keywords. It doesn’t make sense to create dedicated pages on your main site for every possible permutation and keyword idea. Your site would become impossible to navigate and your visitors would have trouble finding the important content they are looking for amongst the forest of long tail keyword pages.  This is very general rule and every website will differ. Most websites will target a few long tail keywords within the main site, but you have to cherry pick those that make sense within the context of your products/services and site structure.

Is your website victim of cannibalization? Contact Websessive for an SEO audit of your website with detailed recommendations that once implemented will improve rank performance.

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