Updated: June 9, 2023.

Learn how to detect and fix keyword cannibalization with JetOctopus.

One issue that can sneak up on even the most diligent SEO enthusiasts is keyword cannibalization. This pesky problem can negatively impact your rankings and overall performance.

But fear not, because I’m here to introduce you to JetOctopus, a very handy solution for detecting and resolving keyword cannibalization!

In this article, I will show you how JetOctopus can help you win the SEO battle against cannibalization.

So, buckle up, and let’s dive into the sea of keywords, armed with the powerful JetOctopus on our side!

Keyword cannibalization

How to detect keyword cannibalization (TL;DR)

If you haven’t already done it, set up a JetOctopus account (free trial), connect Google Search Console to JetOctopus, and navigate to GSS Keywords > Cannibalization. It’s all there.

How to detect keyword cannibalization with JetOctopus (video)

Here is my video on the topic.

What is keyword cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization occurs when several pages on your website end up battling each other for the same target keywords, creating an SEO dilemma.

This internal competition confuses search engines as they struggle to pinpoint the most relevant page for a given query.

This confusion can hurt your website’s search engine rankings, leaving you scratching your head and wondering why.

Here is how keyword cannibalization is defined in Wikipedia.

Featured snippet showing the definition of keyword cannibalization taken from Wikipedia

But don’t worry, I’m here to help you tackle keyword cannibalization head-on!

Why you should check for keyword cannibalization?

As an SEO consultant and SEO auditor, I can’t stress enough the importance of checking for keyword cannibalization on your own or your client’s websites.

Here are some key reasons why:

  • Improved search engine rankings: Eliminating cannibalization allows each page to rank better for its intended target keywords.
  • Clear content focus: Resolving cannibalization ensures every page has a distinct purpose, making it easier for search engines to understand and index the content.
  • Enhanced site authority: By avoiding internal competition, your website’s overall authority on a specific topic can be strengthened, leading to better search visibility.
  • Efficient use of resources: Addressing cannibalization helps you allocate time and effort to unique, high-quality content, rather than spreading resources thin across similar pages.
  • Streamlined internal linking: With clear content distinctions, it’s easier to create an effective internal linking strategy that benefits your website’s SEO performance.

And more!

I hope I have convinced you that this is an important topic and you should not neglect it.

How to detect keyword cannibalization in less than 30 seconds

There are many ways of checking for keyword cannibalization on a website but the fastest and easiest one is to use JetOctopus!

Yes, I love JetOctopus and this is one of my favorite SEO tools of all time. It’s not because they are my sponsor but because I genuinely like this tool so I am happy to promote it.

Here is what you need to do:

  • Open the Google Search Console Keywords report.
  • As you can see, this report contains a lot of useful views and visualizations of your GSC data.
GSC Keywords Overview in JetOctopus
  • Navigate to Cannibalization and select the date range you want to analyze. In most cases, you want to analyze at least 60-90 days’ worth of data.
Keyword Cannibalization report in JetOctopus
  • View Cannibalized queries, Cannibalized impressions, and then Cannibalized clicks to analyze cannibalization within these three areas. I cannot stress enough how important this report is!
  • Click View Pages under Cannibalized queries to learn the truth about the website…
  • Here is the list of cannibalized keywords on my website.

Now it’s your task to determine if these are real issues and whether you should address them.

How to determine what page Google thinks is the most relevant for a given keyword

The single best way to determine what Google thinks is the best page for a given keyword is to simply type the keyword together with the site: Google search command.

Use the site: command

If I want to determine the best page for the keyword “SEO audit” on my website, I have to type the following into Google:

SEO audit site:seosly.com

The result for the search command typed into Google: SEO audit site:seosly.com

In most cases (but not all), you should try to fix it so that all the signals and authority are not split into all these pages but are transferred to the main one.

How to fix keyword cannibalization

Below are a few tips on how to fix keyword cannibalization based on my experience:

1. In most cases, you can fix the cannibalization issue with one or all of the following:

  • Redirecting cannibalizing pages to the main one using 301 (Moved Permanently) redirect and updating all internal links to point to the cannibalized page (the main one).
  • Merging the content of the cannibalizing pages with the content of the cannibalized pages to end up with one awesome page. This usually brings the best results in terms of SEO.
  • Removing the cannibalizing pages and making them return status code 410 (Gone). Do this if these are low-quality pages that don’t have any good backlinks and you want Google to forget about them.
  • You can also add a rel="canonical" tag to the cannibalizing pages to point to the cannibalized page if you want to keep them on your website and you believe they are separate from the main page. Keep in mind, however, that Google treats rel="canonical" as a hint and may still make a different choice. To verify what Google considers the canonical URL, use the Google Search Console URL Inspection tool.
Checking the canonical using the Google Search Console URL Inspection

2. When selecting what page to keep and what pages to redirect, always take into account Google’s opinion on the main page but also look at what backlinks the cannibalized and the cannibalizing page has. If the cannibalizing pages have some good external links, make sure to redirect them. Don’t return 410 in that case!

3. Always keep an open mind and use your human SEO brain. As you can see in the example above, Google thinks my service page is more relevant than my 20K-word guide on SEO audits.

  • Is a 301 redirect from a cannibalized page good to the main one a good idea in most cases? Yes, but it depends on everything in SEO.
  • Should I redirect my guide to the service page? Of course not!
  • In this case, I would probably rewrite my service page a bit so that it is focused on a slightly different topic/keyword and monitor if that changes. A rel="canonical" is also an option to consider here.

Keyword cannibalization best practices

And here are a few overall best practices for handling keyword cannibalization on a daily basis:

  1. Conduct periodic SEO audits to uncover potential cannibalization issues and keep your content optimized. Or simply check the Cannibalization report in JetOctopus on a regular basis.
  2. Assign unique primary keywords to each page, ensuring they serve distinct purposes and avoid competition. I love having a Google Sheet listing all pages of the site together with the main keyword mapped to each.
  3. Utilize long-tail keyword variations to target more specific search queries and minimize overlap. This is what I want to do with my “SEO audit” cannibalization issue.
  4. Merge closely related pages into a comprehensive, authoritative piece to eliminate competition. But don’t forget about redirects when doing so!
  5. Ensure each page’s title tag and meta description accurately reflect its unique focus. Sometimes it may only be the title tag that is causing the cannibalization issue instead of the main content of the page.
  6. Review and optimize your internal linking structure to reinforce the main topic of each page. Always use descriptive internal anchor text that includes the target keyword or its slight variation.
  7. Apply canonical tags to indicate the preferred version of similar content and guide search engines accordingly. But keep in mind that Google treats it as a hint so it may or may not listen to your suggestion.
  8. Employ 301 redirects when consolidating content to maintain link equity and avoid duplicate content issues. Always update internal links so that they point to the redirect target pages.
  9. Track keyword rankings regularly to spot any fluctuations that may signal cannibalization issues. But don’t forget that gone are the days of 10 blue links and you should look way beyond keyword rankings!

Final words of wisdom on keyword cannibalization

As we wrap up our dive into the sea of keywords, remember that JetOctopus is your trusty sidekick for detecting and resolving keyword cannibalization. Keep a keen eye on your content, follow best practices, and you’ll be sailing towards SEO success in no time.

Don’t miss my other JetOctopus guides and resources:

Olga Zarr is an SEO consultant with 10+ years of experience. She has been doing SEO for both the biggest brands in the world and small businesses. She has done 200+ SEO audits so far. Olga has completed SEO courses and degrees at universities, such as UC Davis, University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins University. She also completed Moz Academy! And, of course, has Google certifications. She keeps learning SEO and loves it. Olga is also a Google Product Expert specializing in areas, such as Google Search and Google Webmasters.