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  • Writer's pictureRohini Kundu, Dental student and a freelance health and wellness writer

6 Red Flags of Over-Optimization (and how to avoid it)

Updated: Dec 16, 2023

A blog cover page with the title 6 Red Flags of Over-optimization and how to avoid it

Are you over-optimizing? This guide will explain what it is and provide tips to avoid over-optimization.

In this article:


Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an essential practice that makes your website rank on Google.

The more optimized your website is, the better its chance of ranking. But here's the bad news: there is something called over-optimization.

Over-optimization can ruin your website's rankings and reputation. Over-optimization used to work, and stuffing websites with tons of keywords and linking to spammy sites helped them rank.

But this practice does not work anymore.

In April 2012, Google toughened the over-optimization penalty, deindexing many low-quality keyword-stuffed sites. So, are you afraid of your website getting penalized by Google? We have listed some common signs of over-optimization and what to do about them.

What is over-optimization?

Search engine over-optimization is the practice of creating too many SEO improvements on your website, often all at once. It is making so many SEO improvements on your website that it starts to look spammy and unnatural.

Over-optimizing your site can make it look low-quality and irrelevant to Google and your audience.

Google's algorithms, such as Panda and Penguin, penalize your site by lowering your ranking and removing your pages from the index. It can also lead to the banning of your domain.

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Six red flags of over-optimization

1. Using non-relevant keywords

Never include keywords in your article that are unrelated to the article's content.

Your visitors will immediately know that your content differs from what they were looking for when they visited your site. It will ultimately hurt your conversion rate.

Google considers all the keywords you use when indexing your site.

Using too many irrelevant keywords will lower the site's overall strength in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

2. Using keyword-dense URLs

People managing websites tend to cram their URLs with keywords instead of using a well-balanced brand name.

While this might seem like a smart move, it puts you at a risk of over-optimization.

Your brand name is too important to be compromised for a keyword-dense URL.

3. Using too many H1s

H1 is for the main heading of an article, also known as the title. However, a problem happens when you use too many H1 tags on a page.

Using more than one H1 on a page is considered over-optimization. You can use multiple H2s, H3s, or H4s, but always use just one H1 per page.

4. Linking to low-quality, spammy sites

The sites that you are linking to are as important as the sites that are linking to you. If your site links to toxic, spammy, or low-domain authority sites, it could hamper SEO.

The more outbound links you have to spammy sites, the greater the chances of an over-optimization penalty.

Always link your site to others with a strong reputation and good domain authority.

5. Using keyword-rich anchors for internal links

Using keywords as anchors or using the exact URL of the link as an anchor can result in over-optimization.

An anchor text is a text that has a linked website attached to it. Using exact keywords as anchor text means that you are using the same keywords as the page you are linking to.

For example, if you are linking to a website with the keywords “treatment of common cold”, you are using the phrase “treatment of common cold” as the anchor text.

Internal linking is always an excellent way to boost your site's SEO; occasionally, using keywords as anchors is also acceptable. But doing it too much can ruin your link profile.

One alternative to this is to use keywords similar to your target page or website, but not the exact same.

Or you can use a phrase or sentence fragment as the anchor text instead of using the exact keywords.

6. Creating the wrong content

It's likely a no-brainer but writing content for the bots will significantly hamper your SEO strategy. When creating content for your blog, don't try to stuff it excessively with keywords to rank.

Your content should appeal to your visitors and not only the search engines.

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How to de-optimize your blog?

So you have over-optimized your site, and now it's hurting your content's reach.

Find the over-optimized content: Run a website audit to determine which content drove the most minor traffic.

Now, analyze it for possible signs of over-optimization, such as linking to toxic sites and keyword-rich anchor texts.

De-optimize your content: Once you have analyzed your website, you know what is hurting your SEO.

Redirect outdated content that no longer needs to be live. Re-optimize your content using Google's Quality Guidelines.

Checking your re-optimized site: After you have improved the content on your website, it is now time to check how well it ranks on Google.

The best way to do this is to use the tool Fetch as Google. Using this tool directly from your Google Search Console account will help you get the most accurate information about your website and help your content get indexed faster.

It will also help your website move up in the SERP.

Track your search visibility growth: Your final task will be to track your keywords on the search engines.

You will hopefully have better search visibility. If not, then you have more work to do.

It’s a wrap!

Over-optimization happens when you focus too much on technical SEO.

It might seem like a "shortcut" to rank your website quickly, but you do more harm than good.

Google will always prioritize user search intent and rank those websites that answer the users' queries.

Your rankings will invariably suffer if you over-optimize your website without focusing on good content. Aim to have natural-looking pages alongside good content with more productive SEO.

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