How to Avoid SEO Suicide by Searching for Cannibals Before Writing a New Article
How to Avoid SEO Suicide by Searching for Cannibals Before Writing a New Article


Search engine optimization (SEO) is a game of strategy and precision, one that demands meticulous attention to detail. However, a common mistake many website owners make is the keyword "cannibalization," a scenario where multiple pages on a site compete for the same or similar keywords. The consequence? These competing pages can inadvertently dilute your website's search engine rankings, effectively biting off the very hand that feeds them in the SEO world.

Enter the groundbreaking concept of "Searching for Cannibals." This isn't a hunt for flesh-eaters but a unique and revolutionary approach to ensure your multiple articles are not competing but complementing each other in search engine rankings. By carefully evaluating your existing content before creating new articles, you can prevent these "cannibalistic" behaviours and improve your site's SEO performance.

The Problem at Hand

Many website owners and content creators fall into the trap of writing multiple articles focused on identical or closely related keywords. While the intent may be to dominate the search results for those terms, this approach often backfires. Instead of strengthening your SEO, it compromises it, pitting your pages against each other and making it more difficult for any single article to rank highly.

Objective of This Article

In this guide, we'll delve deep into the concept of Searching for Cannibals as a safeguard against SEO pitfalls. We'll provide you with a step-by-step strategy for identifying potential keyword cannibalization issues before they occur, allowing you to fine-tune your content strategy and avoid SEO suicide.

The Importance of Keyword Cannibalization

What is Keyword Cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization occurs when multiple articles or pages on the same website vie for ranking with the same target keywords. In simple terms, instead of each page contributing to your site's authority on a topic, they end up eating into each other's chances of ranking well. This essentially turns your content into its competition, leading to decreased visibility and lower traffic.

Why is Keyword Cannibalization Harmful to SEO?

The adverse effects of keyword cannibalization on SEO are multifold:

  • Reduced Credibility: Search engines may find it challenging to determine which page is more relevant for the targeted keyword, potentially reducing your site's credibility.
  • Diluted Link Equity: Any inbound links that could be focused on one high-performing page are now split among multiple pages, weakening the authority of each.
  • Impaired User Experience: Users may land on a less relevant page due to keyword overlap, leading to a poor user experience and potentially higher bounce rates.

Real-World Example

Consider a fitness blog that has two articles: "Best Morning Workouts for Weight Loss" and "Effective Weight Loss Workouts to Do in the Morning." Both articles target very similar keywords and, consequently, compete for the same search queries. As a result, neither article gains enough traction to rank high, thus losing out on valuable organic traffic.

To effectively avoid keyword cannibalization, several tools can help you audit and identify overlapping keywords:

  • Google Analytics: Use this to check the performance of pages that rank for the same keyword.
  • SEMrush: Offers a keyword cannibalization tool that allows you to see which keywords are triggering multiple URLs.
  • Ahrefs: Similar to SEMrush, it also provides insights into keyword performance and overlap.
  • Siteliner: Helps you find duplicate content within your site that could contribute to keyword cannibalization.

By integrating these tools into your SEO strategy, you can effectively avoid the pitfalls of keyword cannibalization and refine your approach to content creation.

Step-by-Step Guide to "Searching for Cannibals"

Navigating the perilous waters of SEO can be challenging, but our unique approach, termed "Searching for Cannibals," can be your lifesaver. This innovative methodology allows you to avoid keyword cannibalization, thereby ensuring that your SEO strategy remains not just viable but also effective. Here's how you can implement this approach:

To start, you'll need to use Google's site search feature to scour your website for potential keyword overlap. To do this:

  • Open a Google search bar.
  • Type site: followed by your website's URL. For example, site:harb. co.

This action filters the search results to only display content from your specified domain, making it easier to spot any cannibalization.

Step 2: Adding Your Target Keywords

Understanding your target keywords is crucial for an effective SEO strategy. After performing the site search:

  • Add your target keywords next to the site search term in the Google search bar.
  • For instance, if you're planning to write about a "peanut butter cookie recipe," your search query would look like the site:harb. co peanut butter cookie recipe.

This will refine the search results, displaying only the content relevant to your target keywords.

Step 3: Evaluating the Search Results

Once the search results are displayed:

  • Carefully analyze each entry.
  • Look for articles or pages that closely resemble the topic you intend to write about.

If you find any such content, you have identified potential keyword cannibalization.

Step 4: Making an Informed Decision

If your search reveals potential keyword overlap:

  • Pause and reconsider your content strategy.
  • Discuss this with your SEO team or manager.

It may be more beneficial to update an existing article or shift your focus to a different aspect of the topic instead of creating new content that will compete with what's already there.

By following these four steps, you can make well-informed decisions that will fortify your SEO strategy and prevent self-sabotage.

Common Questions and Concerns

Navigating through SEO can be like walking through a maze filled with twists, turns, and potential pitfalls. Many of you have asked pertinent questions that delve deeper into the intricacies of keyword cannibalization and 'Searching for Cannibals'. Let's address some of those now.

Search Intent: Can Different Intent Save Me?

Many users have questioned whether having different 'search intent' for similar articles can ward off cannibalization. While it's true that one article might aim to inform and another to sell, they could still end up competing if they target identical keywords. It's vital to map out the search intent accurately for each piece of content.

Low SEO Rankings: Can a New Article Perform Better?

If an older article is performing poorly, is it advisable to publish a new one targeting the same keywords? It's a risky endeavour. Instead of improving visibility, you might dilute the ranking potential of both articles.

Articles vs Landing Pages: Same Topic, Different Format?

Is it wise to have a landing page and an article targeting the same keyword? Generally, it depends on the intent. A landing page designed for conversions and an informative article could co-exist but tread carefully. Monitor both pages to ensure they are serving their respective purposes without cannibalizing each other.

Alternative Solutions

If you find yourself in the treacherous waters of keyword cannibalization, don't panic. There are lifeboats available.

Merging Content

One effective strategy is to consolidate similar content. If you have multiple articles vying for the same keyword, consider merging them into a comprehensive guide. This not only improves user experience but can also give a significant boost to your SEO rankings.

Focusing on Search Intent

Instead of targeting the same keyword with multiple content pieces, try to diversify the search intent. For instance, one article could be an ultimate guide, while another could be a product review. This nuanced approach reduces the risk of keyword cannibalization and broadens your content's reach.

By proactively addressing these common questions and offering alternative solutions, you're well on your way to creating an SEO strategy that's both robust and flexible.

The Psychology Behind Cannibalization

Believe it or not, psychology plays a crucial role in how keyword cannibalization can affect your website. At its core, this issue often arises from a lack of strategic focus, where an overzealous approach to content creation results in self-competition.

Lack of Strategic Focus

When it comes to SEO, more isn't always better. A scattergun approach to targeting keywords—creating multiple pieces of content that aim for the same search terms—can create confusion for both search engines and users alike.

Choice Overload for Search Engines

The concept of "choice overload" isn't just applicable to humans; it applies to search engines as well. When faced with multiple pages from the same site targeting the same keyword, search engines may struggle to identify which page is most relevant, thus diluting the ranking power of each.

Identifying Types of Cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization can manifest in various forms, making it essential to recognize the specific scenario you might be facing.

Subdomain vs. Main Domain

Having a subdomain compete with the main domain is a classic example of cannibalization. The search engine may get confused, leading to lowered rankings for both.

Competing Blog Posts

Two or more blog posts targeting identical keywords can cannibalize each other. This form is the most straightforward and often the most common.

Product Page vs. Blog Page

When a product page and an informative blog post target the same keywords, they could unintentionally end up pitting against each other. In this scenario, understanding search intent becomes crucial to resolve the conflict.

By understanding the psychology behind cannibalization and recognizing its various types, you'll be better equipped to devise an effective SEO strategy that maximizes your site's potential.

The Role of Analytics

Effective management of keyword cannibalization isn't just about prevention; it's also about diagnosis. Google Analytics, along with other SEO analytics tools, can be invaluable for spotting cannibalization before it wreaks havoc on your rankings.

Utilizing Google Analytics

To identify keyword cannibalization using Google Analytics, navigate to the "Acquisition" section and then click on "Organic Search." Here, you can filter the results using your target keywords to see which pages are driving traffic for those specific terms.

Metrics to Watch Out For

Key metrics to keep an eye on include the number of sessions, bounce rate, and average session duration. A sudden drop in these metrics for a page that used to perform well could be a sign of cannibalization by a newly published article.

Competitive Analysis

Being aware of what your competitors are doing can also provide insights into your SEO strategy and potential keyword cannibalization issues.

Why Monitor Competitors?

If you notice a competitor's page moving up in the rankings for a keyword that you've been targeting, it's worth investigating whether one of your pages is cannibalizing another.

How to Perform Competitive Analysis

There are several tools available for competitive analysis, like SEMrush and Ahrefs. These tools can show you which keywords your competitors are ranking for and may alert you to potential cannibalization issues on your site.

By staying vigilant through analytics and competitive analysis, you're not only safeguarding your existing SEO efforts but also setting the stage for more refined strategies moving forward.

Semantic Search and Cannibalization

Google’s semantic search capabilities have significantly evolved over the years, impacting how multiple articles on similar topics are ranked.

On one hand, semantic search can help mitigate cannibalization. Google's ability to understand context means that it can differentiate between two articles that target similar keywords but cover different aspects of a topic.

On the other hand, if two or more articles on your website target nearly identical user intents, the semantic search may worsen the cannibalisation. In these cases, Google could find it difficult to ascertain which page offers more value, potentially affecting the rankings of both.

The Role of User Engagement

Often overlooked, metrics related to user engagement can serve as potent indicators of keyword cannibalization.

Bounce Rate and Time on Site

A high bounce rate or low average time spent on a page may suggest that the content didn't match the user's intent. This could be due to another similar article on your website that better addresses the search query, causing self-competition.

Click-Through Rate (CTR)

A lower-than-expected CTR for a page that historically performed well could also be a sign. It may mean another article from your website is stealing clicks, leading to keyword cannibalization.

Keyword Mapping for Large Websites

When managing a website with a voluminous number of pages, the challenges around keyword cannibalisation multiply. The larger the site, the harder it becomes to keep track of every article, blog post, or product page that targets a specific keyword.

The Need for a Keyword Map

A keyword map is indispensable for large websites. This document serves as a 'control centre,' keeping track of which pages are targeting which keywords. It's a proactive way to avoid internal competition and ensure each page serves a unique purpose.

Automated Solutions

For exceptionally large websites, it may be beneficial to employ automated tracking tools. These tools can flag potential instances of keyword overlap, allowing you to take corrective action before any damage is done.

Long-Tail Keywords as a Solution

Long-tail keywords offer a nuanced approach to SEO that can minimize the risk of cannibalization.

The Benefits of Specificity

Long-tail keywords are generally more specific and less competitive than shorter, more general keywords. This specificity can serve as a natural barrier against cannibalization. When each article targets a distinct long-tail keyword, the chances of overlap diminish.

Content Depth and User Intent

Long-tail keywords often align more closely with specific user intents. By focusing on these, you can create more targeted and useful content. This not only pleases your audience but also reduces the likelihood that multiple pages will compete for the same broad keyword.

Decision Trees for Content Creators

In the labyrinthine world of SEO, content creators often find themselves at a crossroads, pondering whether a new article will add value or simply dilute existing efforts. To guide this process, a decision tree can be invaluable.

What is a Decision Tree?

A decision tree is essentially a flowchart that outlines the various paths and outcomes based on certain criteria. To avoid keyword cannibalization, this flowchart can guide content creators through a series of questions to determine whether a new piece of content will compete with existing ones.

How to Implement

The decision tree should start with identifying the target keyword and then proceed to questions such as:

  • Does this keyword already exist in our content library?
  • What is the search intent behind this keyword?
  • Can this new content offer a unique angle or added value?

By systematically going through these questions, the chances of unintentional keyword overlap can be minimized.

While the term "Searching Cannibals" has a unique ring to it, branding it officially requires navigating the legal landscape.

Trademark Basics

A trademark protects a name, term, or symbol used to identify a product or service. This means that once you've trademarked "Searching Cannibals," no one else in the same field can use it without your permission.

Steps to Trademark

  • Preliminary Search: Before filing a trademark application, search to make sure the term isn’t already trademarked.
  • Application: Apply with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or the corresponding entity in your country.
  • Legalities: Once filed, there may be a legal review to ensure no existing trademarks are infringed upon.

By securing a trademark for "Searching Cannibals," you not only protect your intellectual property but also solidify your brand identity in the ever-competitive SEO landscape.

Expert Opinions

Nothing strengthens an argument like expert backing. SEO veterans have long warned about the dangers of keyword cannibalization.

Quotes from the Field

  • "Keyword cannibalization can confuse search engines and dilute your content's impact. It's not just about search rankings but also about delivering a better user experience," says Jane Doe, a 10-year SEO veteran.
  • "By not tackling keyword cannibalization, you're essentially competing with yourself. It’s like running a race but also setting up hurdles in your lane," remarks John Smith, SEO Analyst at XYZ Corp.

A Case Study: Before and After Implementing Cannibalization Checks

To illustrate the impact of keyword cannibalization, let's look at a real-world example.


  • Website A had 10 articles targeting the keyword "organic dog food."
  • Average SERP ranking for those articles: Page 3

After Implementing Cannibalization Checks:

  • Reduced to 3 core articles targeting different aspects of "organic dog food."
  • Refreshed and consolidated older posts.
  • Average SERP ranking after 3 months: Page 1

This dramatic shift in SERP ranking shows that when it comes to SEO, less can indeed be more.

Call to Action

We've unpacked a lot about SEO cannibalization and how to avoid it, but the journey doesn't end here. Do you have your own experiences with keyword cannibalization? Perhaps a unique solution or strategy? Share your insights in the comments below or tweet us at [Your Twitter Handle].


In the ever-evolving landscape of SEO, understanding and mitigating keyword cannibalization is not just an option; it's a necessity. As we've seen, allowing multiple pages to compete for the same keywords not only confuses search engines but also dilutes your 

SEO efforts, effectively lead to self-sabotage or what we've termed as 'SEO suicide.'

From conducting a methodical "Searching for Cannibals" audit to leveraging long-tail keywords, we've laid out a comprehensive roadmap. This guide equips you with tools and insights, right from Google Analytics metrics to the psychological aspects of 'choice overload,' to nip this issue in the bud.

Taking a proactive approach by incorporating these strategies into your content plan will not only enhance your SEO efficacy but also safeguard your website from the peril of cannibalization. Whether you're an SEO novice or a seasoned expert, the steps outlined here are essential for anyone serious about bolstering their online presence.

time to take charge of your SEO strategy, dig deep into analytics, and keep a vigilant eye on potential cannibalization. Remember, SEO success is not just about being ahead of your competitors; it's also about being in harmony with your content.

So, why wait for a pitfall when you can take informed, proactive steps today? Your journey towards an optimized, cannibalization-free website starts now.

Feel free to revisit this guide and share your experiences and additional tips in the comments below, as we continually aim to create a community of informed and proactive SEO practitioners.

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