Over-Optimization: 9 Signs That Your Efforts Are Working Against You

As marketers, we tend to be obsessed with optimization. After all, it’s our job to make the most of our limited budget to make the biggest impact, creating short-term sales while simultaneously building long-term relationships. But while optimization is a valid strategy, it can also be overdone. That’s why it’s important to know how to spot the warning signs, as well as what to do if your optimization efforts start to falter.

over optimization

9 Signs of Over-Optimization

9 Signs of Over-Optimization That Your Efforts Are Working Against You

1. Decreased Rankings

One of the big risks of over-optimizing your website is the fact that Google and other search engines don’t take kindly to people who try to game the system. If you notice a drop in rankings despite putting in a lot of effort to optimize your site, you may be penalized.

For instance, if you are stuffing your articles with lots of keywords, it may lead to a temporary spike when it comes to your ranking, but it will hurt your rankings in the long run, since Google’s latest algorithm favors content that provides value.decreasing rankSure, relevant keywords are needed, but ultimately, it is about helping the reader and offering high-quality content. Also, there is something known as backlink velocity, which is how many backlinks you have built over a certain period of time.

For example, Google will find it hard to believe that you’ve managed to build 150 backlinks in a day and will suspect foul play and penalize you. Focus on the quality of the links instead of quantity and always rely on white hat SEO tactics, because black hat SEO, no matter how effective it may be at times, will come back to haunt you sooner, rather than later.

2. Decreased ROI

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out. Optimization efforts yield diminishing returns because, after the initial quick wins, it takes a lot of time and effort to make even a minor change. You’ll eventually reach a point at which it’s no longer worth doing – at least, not unless you want to maintain a positive return on investment.

It may sound like a cliche, but optimization is not a sprint. It’s a marathon, which means you should focus on long-term goals and put in the effort which will pay off months from now, or even a full year after. And it won’t necessarily mean it will cost you more. Just be more careful with your choices and concentrate on putting in hard work.

3. Unreadable Content

When you start to focus too much on search engine optimization, it takes your attention away from creating content that people can actually enjoy. Remember that there’s no point bringing people in through search if they’re immediately leaving the site because the content isn’t up to scratch.

Consider switching your focus so that you’re placing more emphasis on creating stuff that people will want to consume. Plenty of marketers get carried away with writing for search engines, so much that they forget their content will be read by actual human beings. If they don’t like it, they will visit your page once, hang around for a few moments, and never come back. Keep in mind that factors such as average time on page and bounce rate are taken into account by Google when deciding on your website’s ranking.

4. Spammy Link Profiles

Take a few minutes to use a backlink checker like Moz’s Open Site Explorer to see what sites are linking to your content. Remember that it’s all about the quality and not the quantity, so if you see a huge number of links from spammy, low-quality websites then it’s a sure sign of bad link building and over-optimization. Worse still, if you can see it then so can a search engine, so you’ll need to contact webmasters individually to ask them to remove the links. If that doesn’t work, you may need to disavow them.

A list of links that have grown organically will usually feature lots of different types of links, such as social media links, in-content links, and so on as opposed to just one. If you really want to assume over your links, try and mimic their diversity in order to climb up the rankings faster.

5. High Bounce Rates

A high bounce rate is a sure sign of a problem, although it can take a little work to figure out exactly what that problem is. Perhaps your meta title and meta description are misleading or perhaps you have a cluttered design or your site displays poorly on mobile devices. Whatever the case, you’ll need to figure out why people are bouncing away and then take steps to address it.

bounce rate high

There are plenty of things you can do to fix this. For instance, these days, people scan the content before deciding whether they will read it or not, and you only have a dozen or so seconds to grab their attention. You are not going to do it with boring and generic titles, or huge paragraphs of text, even if your content is brilliant.

Create catchy titles, break your text into smaller sections and introduce headings for each portion of the text, or write lists. Also, adding visual elements such as images, infographics, GIFs, and videos can help to a significant extent.

6. Unnatural Internal Links

The internal links are the links that point from one part of your website to another, and a common mistake that people make is to over-optimize these links by using unnatural language. For example, an eCommerce website might link from its blog to an item it stocks with the anchor text “buy blue waterproof jacket – size medium/large/xl”. Avoid this by making sure that all of your internal links are written in natural language and would make sense in context whether they were hyperlinked or not.

Also, if you are using the same anchor text for each link, no matter how relevant, it’s going to look suspicious. Making it as varied as possible is important because you need your link profile to look natural and organic as if you haven’t done any optimization at all. In fact, the varied anchor text will help you reach out to a wider audience because you can target other relevant keywords from your niche, not just a handful you have in your sights.

7. Ratio of Homepage Links to Internal Links

One sign of unnatural link building occurs when the vast majority of inbound links point to your homepage, instead of to the pages beneath that. When people discover your site and link to it organically, they’re usually linking to a specific piece of information, such as a blog post with some statistics.

But apart from that, homepages aren’t that great for SEO, because they are there to introduce you or your business. They are not going to have a ton of content that will get expanded every so often. Instead, you may want to link to an article on your blog, which offers very detailed and specific information on a topic, instead of content that is overly promotional. Plus, you are going to be updating your blog all the time, which means even more opportunities to build links.

8. Stuffed Footers

We’ve all come across a website with dozens of links in the footer. This is another sure sign of over-optimization, especially if the links are all repetitive variants of a similar keyword. For example, if each of the links is the name of a different area within a particular region, it’s pretty obvious to both search engines and visitors that the webmaster is trying to game the rankings when it comes to local search.

Your footers should not look like your sitemaps. As we have already pointed out, your goal should be to provide great content, and while there are plenty of places you can put it, a footer is not one of them, especially if you are doing it for the sole purpose of manipulating the rankings.

9. Multiple H1s

The whole point of having header tags is that they allow you to add a hierarchy to a webpage. H1 tags are used for the overall heading of the page, so there’s no reason to have more than one of them. After the initial H1, you should use H2s and H3s as required – and even then, you should use them sparingly.

There is not much to suggest that H1 and H2 headers affect your rankings, or at least it hasn’t been confirmed by Google. However, if you were to think about your website or blog as a book, H1 would be the title of the book, and H2 would be the title of the chapter. Multiple H1s do affect your ranking because they provide a poorer user experience since most users will be confused as to which header is more important than the other.


Consider this article a warning. We’re not saying that you shouldn’t take the time to optimize your site for search, but we are saying you should know when to call it a day. Optimization is great, but you can also have too much of a good thing, especially if you are not adhering to all the guidelines prescribed by Google and all the other search engines.

Regardless of which methods you decide to go with, keep in mind to produce high-quality content in addition to writing for the search engines. If you can manage to establish between the two, you will undoubtedly be successful.


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