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Keyword cannibalization is something to take seriously as it can potentially damage your rankings for multiple reasons.
Keyword cannibalization happens when a website’s information architecture relies on a single keyword or phrase on multiple parts of the website. While this can occur unintentionally, having a bunch of pages that target the same keyword can cause problems. It can also occur when you don’t respect Google’s guidelines regarding keyword stuffing across multiple pages. Most of the time the purpose of keyword stuffing strategies is to rank for a specific term.
The thing is, Google won’t know which page is the most relevant for a specific query if multiple pages wish to rank for the same term.
Google will crawl your site and will see dozen of different pages being “relevant” for the same keyword. But, Google will have to choose between those pages the one that seem to be the most valuable to the query. If you were expecting to gain SEO value with this strategy and rank your whole website higher thanks to this keyword, you have no chance. Moreover, you miss other great SEO opportunities:
Ann Smarty has shared additional interesting feedback on why keyword cannibalization is an issue.
If you are facing keyword cannibalization, use 301 redirects to send the link juice and relevance to one single page. Identify all the pages with this problem and choose the best version. Use a 301 on every “duplicate” to the version you picked. Your visitors will then land on the right version and Google will rank the most valuable page for a query.
To sum up, instead of attempting to rank your site for one single keyword, focus on long tail phrases, which will bring you much more satisfaction and will avoid this kind of issue 😉