Thoughts on Keyword Cannibalization in Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Faraz
Does Keyword Cannibalization really bad for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Many SEO users beginners do these mistakes, target same keywords on mutiple pages in meta tags and content.
What're your say on this and what're your experiences?
P.S. This is my friend's question who's doing his first SEO project.
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Mike
It's a conversion rate optimization problem.
Keyword cannibalization does not exist in the way some SEO users talk about it. It's a myth. Google ranks the page that deserves to rank. Having multiple pages on the same site targeting the same keyword doesn't magically hold them all back.

Bergen
Hi Mike – To your comment there, I'm just curious as to whether you see a disruption in keyword rankings as a result? Like a case where one page takes over the other for a given keyword, causing inconsistencies and ultimately volatility in rankings.
Just curious if this has been something you've observed in the scenario you mentioned above. -OR- if this is a non-issue and those pages simply rank for their respective keywords without issue – Thanks!
Mike » Bergen
The pages simply rank. If your internal link structure is strong, you generally won't see pages swapping out.
Bergen
Thanks for the clarification! I always appreciate everyone's knowledge of what they are seeing out on the front lines.
I think everyone's biggest fear is having one page trump the other's performance. Or worse, yo-yo back and forth.
I feel the same as you. I've only seen this type of cannibalization behaviour once on super lean sites where the page in question for cannibalization is the home page vs. a brand new inner page. I've seen a bit of volatility with the preferred pages going back and forth, but it did eventually settle on the right page. But at that stage other factors apply too with a site of such a small size > 5-6 pages, so not exactly the same and to your point it would of actually been a lack of internal linking opportunities so that's quite fascinating to me.
ie. the client decided to expand on their service by adding a dedicated page, previously that service was only briefly mentioned as a value-added on the home page in passing.

Roth
It's not a myth. I've had a client that optimized two pages for the same keywords, one day one of these pages was on the first page on google, the next day the other one was on the first page. Like a roller coaster, up down, up down, the positions changing between them every day.
Another problem is if you use off-page SEO trying to rank 'wrong' pages with 'wrong' keywords ('wrong' anchor), you can actually hurt your positions. Google seems even more sensitive after the last updates.

Faraz » Mike and Martinez,
What should we do in this situation?
Martinez » Faraz
Create good content, don't worry about what SEO "experts" say is good or bad for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and see what the search engines do with the content.
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Mike
It's a myth in that people feel that having two pages targeting the same keyword somehow "confuses" search engines and holds them both back from ranking higher.
The situation you described is easy to fix with a few internal links to the preferred page.
Roth » Mike
Yes, easy to fix. Very. 👍
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Faraz » Roth
Did you solve your issue with "internal linking"? Can you please explain me how?
Roth » Faraz
Meta titles and meta texts need to be different for all pages. This is the easiest thing to fix.

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Martinez
Keyword cannibalization is a complete SEO myth. When a search engine decides to show 2 or more pages from the same site in 1 search result, that's a good thing. While search algorithms do make mistakes, you have no control over how many pages from a site are chosen to appear in the search results. You're not violating from deep, dark principle of search optimization.
The search engines decide what is appropriate for their searchers.
That said, if you're targeting a single query with each post or page on your site (not the brightest of SEO strategies, but a common one), then it doesn't make sense to keep writing content about the same keyword over and over again. You might get the benefit of ranking 2 or more pages in the same search result but you're departing from your strategy at the expense of not covering other queries.
And you don't want to rewrite the same content 20, 30, 100 times just because you run out of ideas. You can rewrite what you have or replace.
But there is no reason to dwell on "keyword cannibalization". It's not bad for SEO because it doesn't exist in the search engines' algorithms.
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Diego
Hmmm. But conceptually, this would be what they are talking about?
And what is the answer? Just boost up the competing pages so they rank below the money page? Or move the content into the money page so that the money page gets a boost?
Martinez » Diego
It becomes a trade-off, in terms of what you plan to achieve strategically.
Unless I'm working on a reputation management campaign, I don't consciously attempt to rank 2 pages from a site in the same search results. It happens quite a lot as I build out content around a topic.
But when you're still in that early phase of site development, where you have a list of topics or keywords you want to cover, you should focus on the long game.
Give the search engine a lot of content to digest. Take whatever it gives back. The more it gives, the more justified you are in your approach.
If you find yourself writing about a topic you've previously covered, ask yourself, "Am I saying something new?"
If the answer is yes, then put it out there. Maybe you'll get 2 listings in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). Maybe you'll just flip the listings.
But you're not cannibalizing anything.
True keyword cannibalization occurs when you rewrite old content or redirect old content to a new URL (with new but similar content). That's where you're sacrificing old content to help new content. That's what cannibalization is all about.
And it's a very popular SEO strategy. People just don't have sense enough to call it what it is.
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Diego
It just sounds like a lot of people are confused about the terminology. The Same thing occurs with Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA), Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (EAT), etc.
Martinez » Diego
"It just sounds like a lot of people are confused about the terminology. "
Which is exactly why I have been calling for the industry to form a standards body for over a decade.
Unfortunately, people wrongly believe that if the industry adopts standards that means everyone has to take certification tests (which would be required only for professional licensing – a whole different ball of wax).
Diego
In any case, I always appreciate your thoughtful answers. Too bad I have to log in to my alt account to see them since you block my main account. 😂
Martinez » Diego
"since you block my main account."
Sorry – but I block people when it looks like things are getting angry. I do that as much to silence myself as to stop seeing what someone else says.
Send me a private message from this account and I'll unblock your other.
Diego » Martinez
Let me frame it this way: I have a money page that I want to rank for "diet pills", I also have support pages that are "diet pill safety" and "diet pill brands". The "diet pill" never fluctuates for "diet pills" but DOES rank and DOES fluctuate for "are diet pills safe" and "best diet pills". The support pages also fluctuate. This would be so-call cannibalization, yes?
Martinez » Diego
" This would be so-call cannibalization, yes?"
It's called fluctuation, just as you describe it.
It's your decision to limit how a search engine perceives a page's usefulness and relevance. They have no guidelines or algorithmic restrictions showing 2 or more pages from the same host in the search results.
If you don't want to have more than 1 page in a Search Engine Result Page (SERP), you don't have to try to get more than 1 there. But on the rare occasion when the search engine decides to show 2 pages from your site, don't panic and assume you're violating some guideline.
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These may satisfy you:
» Some Pages Are Ranking for the Same Keyword | Internal Linking Others to the Most Satisfying Page | Keyword Cannibalization
» What SEO Parts do They Include Duplicate Content?

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