Understanding Content Cannibalisation in SEO: A Deep Dive

16 January 2024

In the world of websites and online searches, there’s a tricky problem called content cannibalisation. Imagine you have multiple pages on your website fighting for attention on Google, all using the same or very similar keywords. That’s content cannibalisation. In this blog, we’re going to break down what it is, why it’s a problem, and how a digital marketing agency can help fix it.

What is Content Cannibalisation?

Content cannibalisation occurs when multiple pages within a website vie for the same or similar keywords. Essentially, these pages are in internal competition, diluting the clarity of the site’s content for search engines. The consequences of content cannibalisation can include diluting keyword rankings and the reducing overall authority of the website.

An analogy for content cannibalisation would be like having two friends telling you the same story at the same time. You end up confused, not sure which story to focus on. On websites, this happens when different pages are all trying to talk about the same thing. Search engines get confused, and no page stands out, which means none of them show up high in search results.

It is an easy mistake to make. As multiple pages appearing in search results may sound like a good thing on surface value. If one page is ranking #4th and the other is ranking #10th, for a keyword such as ‘SEO experts’, that means you have two potential pages for users to click on instead of one. However, if only one page targeting the keyword was posted, the result may be an article ranking 1st, garnering a better click through rate overall due to increased visibility.

Identifying Content Cannibalisation

Recognising content cannibalisation is the first step towards addressing the issue. Identify any pages of yours that share the same keywords and are designed for the same user intentions. If the website can garner more traffic by combining the two similar pages into one, then there should only be one page addressing the issue.

This issue can commonly occur if your subcategory pages are not well optimised. For example, you are a SEO consultant trying to target different suburbs in Melbourne. In this scenario, you have subpages for the suburbs of Carlton, Moonee Ponds, and Kensington. However, on these subpages you use the same keyword of ‘SEO Consultant Melbourne’. Google will have trouble identifying which of these subcategory pages is the most authoritative.

A helpful technique you can use is by typing ‘site:domain keyword’ into Google. This identifies which pages are ranking for this specific keyword.

Keyword Result Testing

After this, use a clean browser login such as private browser or cleared history to search up the specific keyword, and test whether your pages are competing in the results. (Not an issue if they are pages 1 & 2)

Impact on Keyword Rankings

The impact of content cannibalisation on keyword rankings can be significant. As mentioned, when multiple pages compete for the same keywords, it can lead to a dilution of authority for each page, resulting in lower rankings across the board. From a potential readers perspective, it is better to have a single ‘one stop shop’ authoritative source on a topic, rather than having to split your knowledge of a topic across two or three different readings.

Additionally, backlinks that were originally directing to a single page for information, are now directing to two. Search engines struggle to determine which page is the most relevant, and as a result, none of them may achieve optimal visibility, or your more relevant page will be considered less relevant as the algorithm determines that the content you are providing does not match the keyword accurately enough.

Prevention and Resolution Strategies

Proactive measures are key to preventing content cannibalisation from occurring in the first place. During the content creation process, careful consideration is given to keyword mapping and ensuring that each page has a unique focus. Content writers should identify whether their selected keyword has already been used on another page, and whether that page contains similar content, or more relevant content.

In some circumstances, it may be appropriate to combine the content from two pages and redirect all backlinks to a single, more authoritative source page. Additionally, you can target different keywords on the competing, less authoritative page. This may involve researching new keywords to target if you believe your page content isn’t relevant enough.  Balancing variety with strategic alignment helps maintain a healthy site structure and prevent content cannibalisation.

Another preventative measure is using 301 redirects from old URLs to new ones to guide both users and search engines. This involves updating the server configuration, testing the redirects, updating internal links, and ensuring that the sitemap reflects the changes. SEO experts then keep an eye on the website performance, and use tools like Google Search Console to notify search engines. These steps help maintain a smooth transition, preventing content overlap and providing a better user experience.

SEO Consultant’s Perspective

From the perspective of a SEO consultant, addressing content cannibalisation is part of a broader strategy to enhance a client’s SEO performance. A SEO consultant can conduct a thorough content audit, leveraging their expertise to identify and resolve instances of internal competition.


Yoast SEO

Back-end tools such as Yoast SEO can help identify if you have previously used a keyword.

Many keyword mapping tools are available to identify which pages are targeting which keywords. Or, if your site is small, a simple excel spreadsheet and search through your site’s back-end can help identify page keywords. Meanwhile, an agency can use specialised software to look at a page’s historical performance data and identify where this is causing issues for page performance.

Do you need a digital marketing agency to manage your keywords?

Content cannibalisation is a nuanced challenge in SEO that demands attention and strategic intervention. As websites strive for optimal visibility and rankings, the role of a SEO consultant becomes increasingly vital.

If you need assistance navigating the complexities of SEO and dealing with content cannibalisation, get in contact with our team of experts at AWD Digital today. Our agency is well equipped with all the tools and skills to optimise your website’s SEO, improve keyword rankings, and reduce any chance of content cannibalisation.

Reach out to us today and embark on a journey towards digital success.

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