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.

Why keyword cannibalization is a problem?

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:

  • Conversion rate: why wasting your time on different pages with the same goal if one of these is converting better? You should focus your efforts on one of these pages instead of spending energy on lower-converting version targeting the same traffic.
  • Content quality: if you are targeting multiple pages with the same keyword, they should also be about the same subject. What you risk is duplicate content, poor quality content, or replicates and you are lowering your chances to receive referrals and links.
  • Internal anchor text: if you are targeting different pages with the same subject, you are missing chances to concentrate the value of internal anchor texts on one page.
  • External links: external links can boost the SEO value of a page targeting one keyword. But if you have different pages targeting the same keyword, then your external links will be split between those different landing pages. You are thus sharing external link value among different pages instead of focusing it onto one.

Ann Smarty has shared additional interesting feedback on why keyword cannibalization is an issue.

How can you solve keyword cannibalization ?

Use canonicals

Instead of replicating the same keyword on every page, you should implement variations of this one and link back to the canonical source for the specific term. Then Google will be able to know which version is the most relevant for each of these queries. While you should keep Google in mind for your SEO, don’t forget your users: having multiple pages targeting the same term is not optimal in terms of user experience. With this solution, you also ensure that you deliver a better experience and more relevant information.

Use 301 redirects

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 😉