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The right way to Determine and Deal with Key phrase Cannibalisation in 2019


When you learn the title of this weblog and by some means, even just for a second, thought concerning the iconic film “The Silence of the Lambs”, welcome to the membership — you aren’t alone!

Even though the time period “cannibalisation” doesn’t sound very appropriate for digital advertising and marketing, this core idea has been round for a very long time. This time period merely identifies the problem of getting a number of pages competing for a similar (or very related) key phrases/key phrase clusters, therefore the cannibalisation.

What can we imply by cannibalisation in search engine marketing?

This unlucky and sometimes unnoticed downside harms the search engine marketing potential of the pages concerned. When multiple web page has the identical/related key phrase goal, it creates “confusion” within the eyes of the search engine, leading to a wrestle to determine what web page to rank for what time period.

As an illustration, say my imaginary e-commerce web site sells footwear on-line and I’ve created a devoted class web page that targets the time period ‘ankle boots’: www.distilledshoes.com/boots/ankle-boots/

Understanding the significance of editorial content material, over time I determine to create two weblog posts that cowl subjects associated to ankle boots off the again of a key phrase analysis: one publish on find out how to put on ankle boots and one other concerning the prime 10 methods to put on ankle boots in 2019:

One month later, I realise that a few of my weblog pages are literally rating for a number of key phrases that my e-commerce class web page was initially seen for.

Now the query is: is that this good or unhealthy for my web site?

Drum roll, please…and the reply is — It relies upon on the scenario, the precise key phrases, and the intent of the person when trying to find a specific time period.

Key phrase cannibalisation will not be black or white — there are a number of gray areas and we’ll try to go although a number of situations on this weblog publish. I like to recommend you spend 5 minutes checking this superior Whiteboard Friday which covers the subject of search intent extraordinarily nicely.

How critical of an issue is key phrase cannibalisation?

Far more than what you would possibly suppose — nearly each web site that I’ve labored on up to now few years have some extent of cannibalisation that wants resolving. It’s exhausting to estimate how a lot a single web page could be held again by this problem, because it entails a bunch of pages whose potential is being restricted. So, my suggestion is to deal with this problem by analysing clusters of pages which have some extent of cannibalisation somewhat than single pages.

The place is most typical to search out cannibalisation issues in search engine marketing?

Usually, you may come throughout two important placements for cannibalisation:

1) At meta knowledge stage:

When two or extra pages have meta knowledge (title tags and headings primarily) which goal the identical or very related key phrases, cannibalisation happens. This requires a much less labour-intensive kind of repair, as solely meta knowledge wants adjusting.

For instance: my e-commerce website has three boots-related pages, which have the next meta knowledge:

Web page URL Title tag Header 1
/boots/all /Ladies’s Boots – Ankle & Chelsea Boots | Distilled Footwear Ladies’s Ankle & Chelsea Boots
/boots/ankle-boots/ Ladies’s Ankle Boots | Distilled Footwear Ankle Boots
boots/chelsea-boots/ Ladies’s Chelsea Boots | Distilled Footwear Chelsea Boots

A majority of these key phrase cannibalisation typically happens on e-commerce websites which have many class (or subcategory) pages with the intention to focus on particular key phrases, comparable to the instance above. Ideally, we might need to have a generic boots web page to focus on generic boots associated phrases, whereas the opposite two pages needs to be specializing in the particular varieties of boots we’re promoting on these pages: ankle and chelsea.

Why not attempt the beneath as an alternative?

Web page URL New Title Tag New Header 1
/boots/all Ladies’s Boots – All Sorts of Winter Boots | Distilled Footwear Ladies’s Winter Boots
/boots/ankle-boots/ Ladies’s Ankle Boots | Distilled Footwear Ankle Boots
boots/chelsea-boots/ Ladies’s Chelsea Boots | Distilled Footwear Chelsea Boots

As a rule, we fail to distinguish our e-commerce website’s meta knowledge to focus on the very particular subgroup of key phrases that we should always purpose for — in spite of everything, that is the principle level of getting so many class pages, no? If within the subject, discover right here a weblog publish I wrote on the topic.

The truth that e-commerce pages are likely to have little or no textual content on them makes meta knowledge essential, as it will likely be one of many important components search engines like google take a look at to know how a web page differs from the opposite.

2) At web page content material stage

When cannibalisation happens at web page content material stage (which means two or extra pages are likely to cowl very related subjects of their physique content material), it usually wants extra work than the above instance, because it requires the webmaster to first discover all of the competing pages after which determine on the most effective strategy to sort out the problem.

For instance: say my e-commerce has two weblog pages which cowl the next subjects:

Web page URL Goal of the article
/weblog/how-to-clean-leather-boots/ Suggests find out how to care for leather-based boots so that they last more
/weblog/boots-cleaning-guide-2019/ Exhibits a 121 information on find out how to clear various kinds of boots

A majority of these key phrase cannibalisation usually happens on editorial pages, or transactional pages supplied with substantial quantity of textual content.

It’s elementary to make clear one thing: search engine marketing is usually not the principle driver when producing editorial content material, as completely different groups are concerned in producing content material for social and engagement causes, and pretty so. Particularly in bigger companies, it’s straightforward to underestimate how advanced it’s to discover a steadiness between all departments and the way simply issues will be missed.

From a pure search engine marketing standpoint, I can guarantee you that the 2 pages above are very prone to be topic to cannibalisation. Regardless of the actual fact they’ve completely different editorial angles, they are going to in all probability show some extent of duplicated content material between them (extra on this later).

Within the eyes of a search engine, how completely different are these two weblog posts, each of which purpose to handle a reasonably related intent? That’s the important query you need to ask your self when going by means of this process. My suggestion is the next: Earlier than investing time and assets into creating new pages, make an effort to overview your present content material.

What are the varieties of cannibalisation in search engine marketing?

Merely put, you possibly can come throughout 2 important varieties:

1) Two or extra touchdown pages in your web site which are competing for a similar key phrases

As an illustration, it could possibly be the case that, for the key phrase “ankle boots”, two of my pages are rating on the identical time:

Web page URL Title tag Rating for the key phrase “ankle boots”
Web page A: /boots/all Ladies’s Boots – Ankle & Chelsea Boots | Distilled Footwear Place 8
Pabe B: /boots/ankle-boots/ Ladies’s Ankle Boots | Distilled Footwear Place 5

Is that this an actual cannibalisation problem? The reply is each sure and no.

If a number of pages are rating for a similar time period, it’s as a result of a search engine finds components of each pages that they suppose reply to the question not directly — so technically talking, they’re potential ‘cannibals’.

Does it imply it’s essential to panic and alter all the pieces on each pages? Certainly not. It very a lot will depend on the situation and your goal.

State of affairs 1

Within the cases the place each pages have actually excessive rankings on the primary web page of the SERPS, this might work in your benefit: More room occupied means extra site visitors on your pages, so deal with it as “good” cannibalisation.

If so, I like to recommend you do the next:

  • Take into account altering the meta descriptions to make them extra attractive and distinctive from one another. You do not need each pages to indicate the identical message and fail to impress the person.
  • In case you realise that amongst the 2 pages, the “secondary/non-intended web page” is rating increased (for instance: Web page A /boots/all ranks increased than Web page B /boots/ankle-boots/ for the time period ‘ankle boots’), you need to verify on Google Search Console (GSC) to see which web page is getting essentially the most quantity of clicks for that single time period. Then, determine whether it is value altering different components of your search engine marketing to higher tackle that specific key phrase.

As an illustration, what would occur if I eliminated the time period ankle boots from my /boots/all (Web page A) title tag and web page copy? If Google reacts by favouring my /boots/ankle-boots/ web page as an alternative (Web page B), which can achieve increased positions, then nice! If not, the worst case situation is you may revert the modifications again and preserve having fun with the 2 outcomes on web page one of many SERP.

Web page URL Title tag Rating for the key phrase “ankle boots”
Web page A: /boots/all Ladies’s Boots – Chelsea Boots & many extra varieties | Distilled Footwear Take a look at and determine

State of affairs 2

Within the cases the place web page A has excessive rankings web page one of many SERPS and web page B is nowhere to be seen (past the highest 15–20 outcomes), it’s as much as you to determine if this minor cannibalisation is value your time and assets, as this will not be an urgency.

When you determine that it’s value pursuing, I like to recommend you do the next:

  • Hold monitoring the key phrases for which the 2 pages appear to indicate, in case Google would possibly react in another way sooner or later.
  • Come again to this minor cannibalisation level after you may have addressed your most vital points.

State of affairs 3

Within the cases the place each pages are rating in web page two or three of the SERP, then it could be the case that your cannibalisation is holding one or each of them again.

If so, I like to recommend you do the next:

  • Test on GSC to see which of your pages is getting essentially the most quantity of clicks for that single key phrase. You must also verify on related phrases, since key phrases on web page two or three of the SERP will present very low clicks in GSC. Then, determine which web page needs to be your main focus — the one that’s higher suited from a content material perspective — and be open to check modifications for on-page search engine marketing components of each pages.
  • Evaluation your title tags, headings, and web page copies and attempt to discover cases the place each pages appear to overlap. If the diploma of duplication between them is basically excessive, it could be value consolidating/canonicalising/redirecting one to the opposite (I am going to contact on this beneath).

2) Two or extra touchdown pages in your web site which are flip-flopping for a similar key phrase

It could possibly be the case that, as an example, the key phrase “ankle boots” for 2 of my pages are rating at completely different instances, as Google appears to have a troublesome time deciding which web page to decide on for the time period.

Web page URL Rating for the key phrase “ankle boots” on 1st of January Rating for the key phrase “ankle boots” on fifth of January
Web page A: /boots/all Place 6 Not rating
Pabe B: /boots/ankle-boots/ Not rating Place 8

If this occurs to you, try to discover a solution to the next questions:This can be a widespread problem that I’m positive lots of you may have encountered, during which touchdown pages appear to be very risky and rank for a bunch of key phrases in a non-consistent method.

When did this flip-flopping begin?

Pinpointing the precise second in time the place this all started would possibly make it easier to perceive how the issue originated within the first place. Possibly a canonical tag occurred or went lacking, perhaps some modifications to your on-page components or an algorithm replace combined issues up?

What number of pages flip-flop between one another for a similar key phrase?

The less pages topic to volatility, the higher and simpler to handle. Attempt to establish which pages are concerned and examine all components that may have triggered this instability.

How typically do these pages flip-flop?

Attempt to learn the way typically the rating web page for a key phrase has modified: the less instances, the higher. Cross reference the time of the modifications together with your information of the location in case it may need been attributable to different changes.

If the flip-flop has occurred solely as soon as and appears to have stopped, there may be in all probability nothing to fret about, because it’s possible a one-off volatility within the SERP. On the finish of the day, we have to keep in mind that Google runs take a look at and modifications nearly on a regular basis.

The right way to establish which pages are victims of cannibalisation

I’ll clarify what instruments I usually use to detect main cannibalisation fluxes, however I’m positive there are a number of methods to succeed in the identical outcomes — if you wish to share your suggestions, please do remark beneath!

Instruments to deploy for kind 1 of cannibalisation: When two of extra touchdown pages are competing for a similar key phrase

I do know all of us love instruments that make it easier to velocity up lengthy duties, and one among my favourites is Ahrefs. I like to recommend utilizing their incredible methodology which is able to discover your ‘cannibals’ in minutes.

Watch their 5 minute video right here to see find out how to do it.

I’m sure SEMrush, SEOMonitor, and different related instruments provide the identical capacity to retrieve that form of knowledge, perhaps simply not as quick as Ahrefs’ methodology listed above. When you shouldn’t have any instruments at your disposal, Google Search Console and Google Sheets will likely be your pals, however it will likely be extra of a handbook course of.

Instruments to deploy for Kind 2 of cannibalisation: When two or extra touchdown pages are flip-flopping for a similar key phrase

Ideally, most rank monitoring instruments will have the ability to do that functionally uncover when a key phrase has modified rating URL over time. Again within the day I used monitoring instruments like Linkdex and Pi Datametrics to do exactly this.

At Distilled, we use STAT, which shows this knowledge beneath Historical past, inside the principle Key phrase tab — see screenshot beneath as instance.

One caveat of those sorts of rating instruments is that this knowledge is usually accessible solely by key phrase and would require knowledge evaluation. This implies it could take a little bit of time to verify all key phrases concerned on this cannibalisation, however the insights you may glean are nicely well worth the effort.

Google Information Studio Dashboard

When you’re searching for a speedier strategy, you may construct a Google Information Studio dashboard that connects to your GSC to offer knowledge in actual time, so that you don’t need to verify in your experiences once you suppose there’s a cannibalisation problem (credit score to my colleague Dom).

Our instance of a dashboard includes two tables (see screenshots beneath):

The desk above captures the complete checklist of key phrase offenders for the time period chosen. As an illustration, key phrase ‘X’ on the prime of the desk has generated 13 natural clicks (total_clicks) from GSC over the interval thought-about and altered rating URL roughly 24 instances (num_of_pages).

The second desk (proven above) signifies the person pages which have ranked for every key phrase for the time period chosen. On this specific instance, for our key phrase X (which, as we all know, has modified URLs 24 instances within the time period chosen) the column path would present the checklist of particular person URLs which have been flip flopping.

What options ought to I implement to sort out cannibalisation?

You will need to distinguish the various kinds of cannibalisation you might encounter and attempt to be versatile with options — not each repair would be the identical.

I began pertaining to doable options after I was speaking concerning the various kinds of cannibalisation, however let’s take a extra holistic strategy and clarify what options can be found.

301 redirection

Ask your self this query: do I actually need all of the pages that I discovered cannibalising one another?

In a number of cases the reply is no, and if that’s the case, 301 redirects are your pals.

As an illustration, you may need created a brand new (or very related) model of the identical article your website posted years in the past, so you might think about redirecting one among them — usually talking, the older URL may need extra fairness within the eyes of search engines like google and doubtlessly would have attracted some backlinks over time.

Web page URL Date of weblog publish
Web page A: weblog/how-to-wear-ankle-boots Might 2016
Web page B: weblog/how-to-wear-ankle-boots-in-2019 December 2018

Test if web page A has backlinks and, if that’s the case, what number of key phrases it’s rating for (and the way nicely it’s rating for these key phrases)What to do:

  • If web page A has sufficient fairness and visibility, do a 301 redirect from web page B to web page A, change all inner hyperlinks (coming from the location to web page B) to web page A, and replace metadata of web page A if vital (together with the reference of 2019 as an example)
  • If not, do the alternative: full a 301 redirect from web page A to web page B and alter all inner hyperlinks (coming from the location to web page A) to web page B.


In case you do want all of the pages which are cannibalising for no matter cause (perhaps PPC, social, or testing functions, or perhaps it’s simply because they’re nonetheless related) then canonical tags are your pals. The principle distinction with a 301 redirect is that each pages will nonetheless exist, whereas the fairness from web page A will likely be transferred to web page B.

For example you created a brand new article that covers an identical subject to a different present one (however has a distinct angle) and you discover out that each pages are cannibalising one another. After a fast evaluation, you might determine you need Web page B to be your “primary”, so you need to use a canonical tag from web page A pointing to web page B. You’d need to use canonicalisation if the content material of the 2 pages is numerous sufficient that customers ought to see it however not a lot that search engines like google ought to suppose it is completely different.

Web page URL Date of weblog publish
Web page A: weblog/how-to-wear-ankle-boots-with-skinny-jeans December 2017
Web page B: weblog/how-to-wear-high-ankle-boots January 2019

What to do:

  • Use a canonical tag from web page A to web page B. As a reinforcement to Google, you possibly can additionally use a self-referencing canonical tag on web page B.
  • After having assessed accessibility and inner hyperlink fairness of each pages, you might need to change all/some inner hyperlinks (coming from the location to web page A) to web page B for those who deem it helpful.

Pages re-optimisation

As already touched on, it primarily entails a metadata kind of cannibalisation, which is what I named as kind 1 on this article. After figuring out the pages whose meta knowledge appear to overlap or by some means goal the identical/extremely related key phrases, you will want to determine which is your main web page for that key phrase/key phrase group and re-optimise the competing pages.

See the instance earlier within the weblog publish to get a greater concept.

Content material consolidation

This sort of resolution entails consolidating a component or the whole content material of a web page into one other. As soon as that has occurred, it’s all the way down to you to determine whether it is value preserving the web page you may have stripped content material from or simply 301 redirect it to the opposite.

You’d use consolidation as an possibility for those who suppose the cannibalisation is a results of related or duplicated content material between a number of pages, which is extra prone to be the sort 2 of cannibalisation, as acknowledged earlier. It’s important to ascertain your main web page first so you’ll be able to act on the competing inner pages. Content material consolidation requires you to maneuver the offending content material to your main web page with the intention to cease this downside and enhance your rankings.

For instance, you may need created a brand new article that falls beneath a sure content material theme (on this occasion, boots cleansing). You then realise {that a} paragraph of your new web page B touches on leather-based boots and find out how to care for them, which is one thing you may have coated in web page A. In case each articles reply to related intents (one focusing on cleansing leather-based solely, the opposite focusing on cleansing boots normally), then it’s value consolidating the offending content material from web page B to web page A, and add an inner hyperlink to web page A as an alternative of the paragraph that covers leather-based boots in web page B.

Web page URL Date of weblog publish
Web page A: weblog/how-to-clean-leather-boots December 2017
Web page B: /weblog/boots-cleaning-guide-2019/ January 2019

What to do:

  • Discover the offending a part of content material on web page B, overview it and consolidate essentially the most compelling bits to web page A
  • Exchange the stripped content material on web page B with a direct inner hyperlink pointing to web page A
  • Typically after having consolidated the content material of a web page to a different, there isn’t a scope for the web page the place content material has been stripped from so it ought to simply be redirected (301).

How can I keep away from cannibalisation within the first place?

The easiest way to forestall cannibalisation from taking place is an easy, but underrated process, that entails key phrase mapping. Implementing an accurate mapping technique on your website is a key a part of your search engine marketing, as vital as your key phrase analysis.

Carson Ward has written an superior moz weblog publish concerning the subject, I like to recommend you take a look.

Don’t take ‘intent’ as a right

One other option to keep away from cannibalisation, and the final tip I need to share with you, entails one thing most of you’re acquainted with: search intent.

More often than not, we take issues as a right, assuming Google will behave in a sure approach and present sure kind of outcomes. What I imply by that is: Whenever you work in your key phrase mapping, don’t overlook to verify what sort of outcomes search engines like google show earlier than assuming a sure consequence. Typically, even Google will not be positive and won’t all the time get intent proper.

As an illustration, when trying to find ‘footwear present concepts’ and ‘present concepts for shoe lovers’ I get two very completely different SERPs even if my intent is form of the identical: I’m searching for concepts for a present which entails footwear.

The SERP on the left reveals a SERP for a question of “shoes gift ideas”. It shows a row of images from Google Photos with the hyperlink to see extra, one editorial web page (informational content material), after which the remainder of outcomes are all transactional/e-commerce pages for me to purchase from. Google has assumed that I’d wish to see industrial pages as I could be near a conversion.

The SERP on the precise reveals a SERP for a question of “gift ideas for show loves”, displaying a row of Google Procuring adverts after which a featured snippet, taken from an editorial web page, whereas the remainder are a mixture of transactional and editorial pages, with Pinterest rating twice within the prime 10. Clearly Google will not be positive what I would favor to see right here. Am I nonetheless within the consideration part or am I transferring to conversion?

The instance above is simply one of many many I encountered when going by means of my key phrase analysis and mapping process. Earlier than going after a sure key phrase/key phrase cluster, try to tackle all these factors:

  • Test if one among your present pages has already coated it.
  • In that case, how nicely have you ever coated the key phrase goal? What are you able to do to enhance my focus? Is there any cannibalisation that’s holding you again?
  • When you do not have a web page for it, is it value creating one and what implications will it have in your present pages?
  • Test what outcomes Google is displaying for that key phrase goal, because it could be completely different out of your expectations.
  • After getting created a brand new web page/s, double verify this has not created unintentional and unplanned cannibalisation additional down the road through the use of the information on this publish.


Key phrase cannibalisation is an underrated, however somewhat vital, downside, particularly for websites which have been operating for a number of years and find yourself having a lot of pages. Nonetheless, worry not — there are easy methods to observe this problem and hopefully this publish can assist you velocity up the entire course of to search out such cases.

Many of the instances, it’s only a matter of utilizing essentially the most logical strategy whereas contemplating different search engine marketing components comparable to backlinks, crawlability, and content material duplication. If doable, all the time take a look at your modifications first earlier than making use of it at site-wide stage or making them everlasting.

When you, like me, are a fan of data sharing and also you suppose there are higher methods to assist with cannibalisation, please remark beneath!

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