Keyword Cannibalization: What Is It and What Should I Do?


When we write our articles, we try to write about different topics without repeating or duplicating them. Just like chapters in a book, each chapter is about a different subject and often these chapters get tied together as you read the story. The point is, repeating yourself over and over not only wastes your readers time, it also confuses search engines because they have to choose one of your articles to rank but you have so many rankings for the same set of keywords. This article will discuss keyword cannibalization and what you can do to prevent and how to rectify it, if it has already happened.

What Is Keyword Cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization occurs when you write content that targets the same keywords in existing content. The problem with this is that search engines have to decide which piece of content to rank when they have more than one page to choose from. You effectively have made the search engines have to work harder because you are giving them more choices than it needs. Much like having to read content generated with JavaScript, duplicate content is also a chore for search engines to scan through. 

How does keyword cannibalization happen? This can happen for a number of reasons. I will list and discuss them in the next section.

How Does Keyword Cannibalization Happen?

Here are a list of reasons why keyword cannibalization occurs:

  • You forgot that you already wrote about a topic a long time ago and decide to write about it again
  • You tried to write about a different sub-topic in a topic that you have already written about but the search engines could not determine that it was any different that what you wrote previously
  • You intended to target a set of keywords in a new article but the search engines determined that your article should rank for a set of keywords that match an already ranking article

Unfortunately, even when you try to stay squarely within your niche, you sometimes end up writing about topics that share similar keywords with what you have already written. This can make it so that your articles are competing with each other for the same set of keywords. This is not ideal and why unique content is so valuable. Unique content is what is needed to differentiate between your articles so that they do not eat each other’s keywords. Again, the search engines do their best to determine what keywords your articles should rank for. So you might get unlucky and rank for the same set of keywords again instead of a different set.

I will now discuss each of the points that I brought up in the list.

I Forgot That I Already Wrote About This Topic

As your website grows, this can become a common occurrence. You already wrote tons of articles and you end up writing a new article on the same subject. More specific niches will more likely have this problem since small niches only have so many topics to write about. If you already published your article then you might see where it lands in the search engines and see if it is competing with your existing article on the same subject. Then you will rank your pages in more than one spot, which can be advantageous in some cases. Let us dive deeper into this.

How Can I Prevent Myself From Writing About the Same Topic Again?

You should review your list of articles and see what you have already written about. If you have written hundreds of articles, there is no way to remember them all. Do not rely on your memory because if you have been writing on your blog for years, that is too much time spent on a blog to memorize every single article. One easy way is to just search your articles using the keyword that you want to write about. If there are a lot of existing keywords that match your search, then you have already written about that subject. If you write a brand new article that can focus on your new topics instead of just being a section in a related topic, then go ahead and write your new article. However, if you feel that you cannot produce an entire article that can stand out on its own, then perhaps you should just update your existing articles with just a section of content.

Should I Just Update Existing Articles to Prevent Keyword Cannibalization?

Knowing when to write new articles and update existing ones is key to writing a good blog. With keyword cannibalization, you will focus on updating existing articles instead of starting new ones. This will not only prop up your existing articles but will also prevent you from duplicating them and confusing search engines.

What Is Wrong With Ranking for the Same Set of Keywords More Than Once?

The problem with two of your pages ranking for shared keywords is that you are now giving people a choice between which page to click on. This will be especially strange if they rank closely on the same page. Unless your meta title and description can clearly differentiate between the two articles, people will have to wonder which one to choose. If the pages are slightly different from each other then people will just have to choose whichever one they think closest answers their question. If you find that you have pages ranking for the same set of keywords, then change your meta data and see if you can add some unique content so that you are no longer competing with yourself.

Keyword Overlap: How Similar Articles Can Rank for the Same Keywords

Remember that your pages can rank for several keywords and a small subset of keywords between those pages might overlap. As long as you are getting traffic from the search engine, you do not need to fret just because your pages might rank for other keywords. I am mentioning this so that you are aware of the possibility of keyword overlap. Keyword overlap can be good if you want several of your pages to rank on the first page and therefore have a higher chance of getting clicks. So keyword cannibalization is not always bad. Let me give you another example.

Keyword Overlap and Long Tail Keywords: How Sharing Keywords in a Pool is Beneficial

Long tail keywords are likely to overlap with keywords in your other articles because the longer the keyword tail is, the more keywords there are to share in the pool of keywords in your niche. Just think about two articles, one about “apples” and another one about “green sour apples”. As you would think the article with the long tail keyword is the one about  “green sour apples”. Since the word “apples” is in the long tail keyword, it might rank for the same article about “apples” only. This is because both articles share the keyword “apple” in them. This is not bad as mentioned earlier as you will get more spots in the search engines if your articles rank for “apple”. If they do, then it is easy for people to decide if they just want to read about “apples” or “green sour apples”.

Intentional vs. Unintentional Keyword Overlap

Earlier, I mentioned if you write about the same article again and people cannot tell the difference between the articles. The difference is that one is intentional and the other unintentional. The intentional example involved apples with a clear difference between them. The unintentional one deals with you just forgetting that you already wrote an article.

You might be lucky and get your repeated article to rank. Or, because search engine rankings are never guaranteed, your duplicate article may not ever rank at all. All of that wasted writing for nothing. Your best bet is to take your repeated article and try to take the new parts of it and add it to your existing article on the same article. This is especially good if your existing article already ranks high and brings in the traffic. Of course, if you were keeping an eye on your traffic you would already know that and not write about the same topic again.

Articles That Rank for Unintended Keywords

We cannot choose exactly what to rank for. We can only merely guide and assist search engines in that endeavor because we control our articles, but not the search engines. So we have a clear ownership of who owns what. So we need to do the best that we can with what we can control and then when we hand it over to the search engines, they take over and do their part. As such we sometimes end up ranking for keywords that we did not want to. Sometimes we get lucky and rank for a brand new set of keywords that the search engines find a good match for our article. Other times, we might end up ranking for a set of keywords that match an existing article and what can I say? That is the breaks. A lot of random things will happen on your blogging journey and you will see new things everyday. The key is to understand what is happening and react accordingly so that we can get our content to do the best that it can on the search engines.

Why Is Keyword Cannibalization Important to Know?

This is why keyword cannibalization is important to know. There are cases when it can be beneficial, where many of your pages rank for the same set of keywords in your niche. As I just mentioned, since we do not control exactly which pages rank for which keywords, we have to make the best of whatever situation we are thrown into. This concept is crucial so that you do your best to keep writing articles on different articles so that they can rank for different things. Avoid keyword cannibalization is more about trying to get ranked for as many keywords as possible. This gives your website greater reach because people are more likely to find you if you rank for all sorts of different things people are looking up online.

What Should I Do If Keyword Cannibalization Has Already Happened?

When Two Articles Are About the Same Topic and One is Clearly Stronger Than the Other

If you find that you have several articles ranking for the same set of keywords then you have some options that you can take. First, if you have two similar articles and one is clearly outranking the other and bringing in more traffic, then consider doing a redirect. If you feel that the weaker article cannot compete with the stronger one, then do not waste anymore on the weaker article. Take the weaker article and do what is known as a 301 permanent redirect. This will tell the search engines that the weaker article will now be permanently redirected to the stronger article. This will bring any traffic that the weaker article has to the stronger one. 

This is the preferable action to take over just taking down the weaker article and causing a 404 page not found error. 404 page not found errors are bad because it tells search engines that you have pages that used to be there but no longer are. Then the search engines do not know what to do with these missing pages anymore. The pages generating 404 page not found errors will just be removed from the search engines and you will lose any traffic that they used to generate. Search engines check your pages regularly and will remove pages that they no longer find useful. This is why many people recommended doing 301 permanent redirect instead so that you at least tell search that the old page URL now resides at a new location.

This all comes back to making life for search engines easier and having them go out of their way for you. The more that you do on your end and less that search engines do on their’s, the better your changes to rank are. Search engines like it when you make things easier for them and will reward you with such. Make their life hard and they will do the same for you.


Keyword cannibalization is an interesting topic because many think that it is bad because you are writing about the same topics and getting ranked for the same set of keywords. Sometimes this is unintentional because your articles will more than likely share the same keywords in a niche. This is why I mentioned some new topics in this article like keyword pools and overlap. Overlap inside a keyword pool in your niche will happen as you write more and reference the same topics over and over. This cannot be helped and will cause you to rank many of your articles for the same set of keywords.

Look at the bright side, if you have multiple pages ranking for the same keywords, then you have a higher chance of getting a click. The trick is to make sure that your meta title and description are different between your pages so people know which of your pages to click on when they show up in the search engines.

Knowing when to redirect weak articles that do not offer much besides competition with your stronger articles is important. Sometimes we unintentionally write about the same articles again because we had no idea and did not search through our articles to know if we already covered this topic or not.

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