SEO cannibalization occurs when two or more pages (URLs) of the same website are trying to rank in Google for the same keyword. As a consequence, neither of these URLs will rank correctly, as the search engine will not be able to decide which of the two is the one that best responds to a query (search intent).
Cannibalization occurs when there is no publishing plan or no tracking of keywords used in the creation of website content has been kept track of.
This is a common problem on many sites and occurs, almost always, unconsciously, so it is very important to detect it in advance or fix it as quickly as possible. Usually, the best solution is to edit the content, either by merging the content of both URLs or updating the older one, as well as the use of redirects.
Although it may seem the same, SEO cannibalization is not the same as duplicate content, so you can’t use the same tools to detect it either. In this sense, to detect a cannibalization, it is enough with compare the URLs of the website and look for those that target the same keyword, especially those that target the same search intent.
To solve this problem, the first step to take is to decide which of the two URLs is the one you are most interested in positioning and assign the keyword to it. This web page should concentrate all the content of the rest of the cannibalized URLs and be the only one that is positioned for that particular term. In this sense, often the best solution is to rewrite the content to add all the information from the other URLs and those that we do not want to position are redirected using a 301, because if they are removed, the authority and visits that they have generated are lost.
One way to decide which of these URLs to leave, is to analyze and see which one has more visits, less bounce rate and which one converts better. In short, it is necessary to stay with the one that is performing better. In this sense, it is also possible to adapt the content of the other URLs, changing the keyword and dealing with other topics.
Finally, it is also possible to create a canonical URL, so that Google knows what is the most important content related to a keyword. However, this is not the best option, as much of the authority flow is lost and Google may ignore the “canonical” tag.
Also, once the cannibalization problem has been solved, it will be necessary to study what caused it, as it could be a bad choice of keywords or a problem with content generation and editorial calendars. It is important to perform a good keyword research, focusing on the use of “long tail keywords” to avoid SEO cannibalization problems.