SEO optimization is great, but there's a fine line between helpful tweaks and techniques that backfire.

In fact, over-optimizing your website can have dire consequences, such as sudden ranking drops and a poor user experience.

I’d like to caution you against some common red flags. In this article, I’ll discuss efforts that lead to website over-optimization and how to deal with each case.

What is SEO over-optimization?

Over-optimization occurs when SEO tactics are used excessively or inappropriately. It's mainly done to improve website rankings quickly, especially if they’re hit by Google updates. Unfortunately, over-optimization often comes at the cost of content quality and user experience.

Some website owners, especially beginners, get overly enthusiastic about optimization because they lack experience. In their attempts to impress search engines, beginner SEOs might not realize when they overdo it.

On the other hand, some webmasters deliberately use deceptive tactics to trick algorithms and boost their website's performance.

But remember, more isn't always better. While webmasters hope for a quick ranking boost, over-optimization can have the opposite effect.

How you might over-optimize your website

Even though you may have good intentions to improve your rankings, these actions are likely to harm your website:

Stuffing content with keywords

Keyword stuffing occurs when you use too many key terms throughout text elements. This isn't just limited to the main body content. For example, some webmasters cram keywords into image alt texts instead of describing the picture content. Others may also stuff keywords into headings (H1-H6), meta tags, and anchor texts.

This practice is especially popular in competitive niches, where webmasters try to outperform rivals in the number of keywords. However, keyword stuffing often results in content that feels awkward to readers and suspicious for search engines.

In terms of readability, keyword stuffing simply disrupts the natural flow of the text. Users find such content difficult to read, which leads to high bounce rates.

Search engines are getting smarter too. Since keyword stuffing is an attempt to manipulate the system, Google usually penalizes sites that use such methods. As a result, your rankings drop, and so does your traffic.

Note: Keyword stuffing is often used along with cloaking, a black-hat SEO tactic. Webmasters hide keywords by setting the font color the same as the background, which makes the text invisible to users but still detectable by search engines. This violates Google Search Essentials, so I recommend avoiding such tactics.


If you want to stick to a more balanced approach to keyword optimization, you can use Content Editor in WebSite Auditor. This tool will help you strike the right balance by providing SEO suggestions for content optimization.

In WebSite Auditor, go to Page Adit > Content Editor.

Content Editor tool in WebSite Auditor

Here, you can select an existing page on your website (or upload text for a new one) and type the keywords you want to add to the page. WebSite Auditor will then analyze how these keywords are used in the text and provide insights into their frequency. Plus, the tool will suggest more relevant keywords and show how your optimization score improves as you make changes.

Adding irrelevant keywords


Some SEOs believe that cramming content with keywords, regardless of their relevance, will boost their website rankings. However, a focus on keyword density often sacrifices content quality.

Adding irrelevant keywords to content is a bad idea as it creates a disconnect between the user's search intent and what they really find on your page. Users expect relevant and helpful content when they click on a link. But if they encounter pages filled with irrelevant stuff, users get frustrated and leave.

Like in the case of keyword stuffing, search engines can quickly detect irrelevant keywords and consider such pages spammy. And here search engine penalties come again.


If you suspect that some of your pages contain irrelevant keywords, you can quickly check them using Rank Tracker. Navigate to Keyword Research > Ranking Keywords and enter the exact URL.

Tracking ranking keywords

The tool will display a list of keywords the page ranks for. You can then review the list to see if any irrelevant terms are included. Or, you can use filters by clicking the funnel icon to narrow down the keywords based on specific words or phrases.

Filtering keywords in Rank Tracker

If you find irrelevant keywords, you can edit the page's content to align better with the topic.

As in the previous case with keyword stuffing, you can use WebSite Auditor’s Content Editor to edit any page and get a bunch of optimization recommendations.

Optimizing multiple pages for one query

Some website owners create and optimize multiple pages for the same query. They believe it provides in-depth coverage of the topic and increases the chances of ranking for related long-tail keywords.

Meanwhile, such pages start to compete for rankings in the SERP. This happens because search engines can’t decide which page is the most relevant to rank for that specific keyword. This matter is known as keyword cannibalization.

Optimizing multiple pages for one query is detrimental for several reasons. Firstly, search engines can’t identify the most authoritative page and may not rank any of the competing pages at all.

Secondly, keyword cannibalization also confuses users. When they search for a specific query, they may encounter multiple pages from your site that offer slightly different content. It looks strange and drives users away.


To check if multiple pages rank for the same keyword on your website, you can use Rank Tracker. Open your project, go to Preferences > Rank Checking Mode, and tick Track multiple results for keyword.

Then, navigate to Rank Tracking > Tracked Keywords and update your rankings by clicking on the corresponding button on the top panel.

Finding pages ranking for one keyword

Once the info is updated, switch to Ranking details and check the column Google Rank. If you see a little circle with dots next to a rank, this keyword has multiple pages ranking for it. Click on the circle to see those URLs.

Note: Not all pages that rank for the same keywords necessarily represent keyword cannibalization. In some cases, those pages will be enriched results that elevate your site's visibility on the SERP. This happens a lot with pages in the top 10 search results. Instead, find underperforming pages that compete for one query and aim to get them into the top 10.

Over-optimizing URLs

If you believe that packing multiple keywords into a URL will boost its relevance for search queries, I'm afraid to disappoint you: the situation is quite the opposite.

Long, awkward URLs don't play well with usability. They're tough for users to read and share. Plus, there's a psychological aspect to consider – lengthy URLs can seem suspicious, making visitors hesitate before clicking.

Search engines aren't fans of long URLs either. They might have trouble crawling and indexing them, which could hurt your website's visibility in the SERP.


If you want to identify pages with long URLs on your website, you need to create a project and run a site scan in WebSite Auditor. Once the check is complete, go to Site Structure > Site Audit and find the Too long URLs factor in the list.

Too long URLs

If your pages have lengthy URLs, the tool will display a list of such links and provide recommendations for fixing this issue.

Overusing links

Adding useful links to your content is a nice way to enhance the user experience and improve the page's authority. But it’s very easy to overdo it here. And so, in an attempt to show all the useful resources you have, you start bombarding users with links in almost every sentence of the text.

At this point, visitors may simply get distracted by the links, especially outbound ones, and leave this page (or your website at all).

Search engines may interpret pages with an excessive number of links as spammy or low-quality and penalize your site.

Note: While there’s no strict rule of thumb, Google has previously suggested keeping the number of links on a page under 100. Though Google doesn’t enforce this as an obligatory limit, it’s better to stay reasonable about the number of links per page.


To identify pages with over 100 outgoing links, initiate a project in WebSite Auditor. Then, navigate to Site Structure > Site Audit and find the Pages with excessive number of links factor.

From there, you can review the list of pages with too many links and ensure that all linked resources are appropriate for each page.

The temptation to see a fast SEO boost can be strong. Some webmasters might choose to artificially inflate their website's authority. While building backlinks is crucial for SEO, doing this too quickly can trigger search engine alarms and be a red flag of over-optimization.

In the worst case, unnaturally high backlink velocity can be the reason for removing your website from search results.

What's backlink velocity?

Backlink velocity refers to the speed at which your website gets backlinks from other websites. Search engines prefer a natural increase in backlinks over time.


Your inner rationality radar is the main tool for preventing sharp backlink growth. Backlink velocity primarily depends on factors like your website's age, industry, and existing backlink profile.

Don't chase after a ton of backlinks in a short time. Instead, focus on quality over quantity. Build relationships with other websites in your niche, write guest articles for them, and create awesome content that people naturally want to link to.

Plus, regularly monitor your backlink profile to ensure a healthy and natural growth rate. For that, you can use SEO SpyGlass. By navigating to Backlink Profile > Summary, you can check the key backlink statistics for your website, including your backlink history.

Backlink profile in SEO SpyGlass

If you spot any sudden spikes in backlink velocity, take steps to investigate and address the issue.

Multimedia overload

Implementing multimedia elements like images, infographics, and videos makes your content more engaging and visually appealing. But it’s too easy to turn an informative blog post or a service landing into a colorful magazine page.

In fact, multimedia overload can create several problems. From a technical perspective, it will likely affect the page loading speed and provoke compatibility issues across different devices.

From the readability angle, too many visuals can make it difficult to focus on the written content and hinder the user experience.


Since multimedia elements can significantly increase page size, you can check if your website contains such heavy pages using WebSite Auditor. Go to Site Structure > Site Audit and find the Too big pages factor. The tool will display a list of pages >3MB on the right.

Checking too big pages in WebSite Auditor


If you want to find the heavy pages and check their details, navigate to Site Structure > Pages. In the Page size column, you can filter pages by their size (ascending or descending) by clicking on the column name.

Checking page resources in WebSite Auditor

Click on any page of interest in the table and then select any parameter in the panel below. For instance, you can click Images to see the list of pages used on this particular page or All Resources to check every element, including applications and videos.

This data can help you make an informed decision about how to handle the page’s multimedia elements to improve its speed and readability.

Too many redirects

Redirects come in handy for many purposes, such as restructuring your website, updating URLs, or managing broken links, among other cases. However, too many redirects can also bring negative outcomes.

Each redirect adds an extra processing step for the browser, which can slow down page loading times and frustrate users. Additionally, excessive redirects can confuse search engines, leading to indexing issues. Finally, they may cause a loss of link equity, as each redirect dilutes the authority passed from the original URL.


To check if you have any issues with redirects, use WebSite Auditor. Go to Site Structure > Site Audit and check the Redirects section. Here, you’ll see the number of 301 and 302 redirects on your site. You can review the list of redirects on the right to ensure their use is justified.

Checking redirected pages

Additionally, you can see whether your website has long redirect chains. If any chains are detected, I recommend addressing this issue and minimizing unnecessary redirections. Otherwise, search engines risk getting lost in those redirect mazes and not indexing your pages correctly.

Detecting redirect chains


Numerous pages with thin content

The idea of creating tons of pages to target more keywords might seem like a shortcut to SEO success. However, given limited resources and time, webmasters may sacrifice quality and publish pages with thin content. As a rule, this is a recipe for over-optimization.

Pages with thin content typically have a word count of less than 300 words. Thus, they can’t cover a topic comprehensively. Since visitors are unlikely to find valuable information on these pages, they just leave your website.

Search engines also perceive websites with many thin content pages as low-quality and lower their position in search results.


To check if your site has pages with thin content, open WebSite Auditor and navigate to Site Structure > Pages. In the table, locate the Word Count column, which shows the number of words on each page. To find pages with low word count, apply filtering like on the screen below.

Pages with thin content

If you have pages that bring little value, consider expanding their content or merging them with similar topics to create more comprehensive pages.

Stuffing your footer with keywords offers little to no SEO advantage. Search engines prioritize content and keywords within the main body of your webpage, so footers generally receive less attention from crawlers.

Plus, an overloaded footer becomes difficult for users to navigate. It disrupts the visual flow of the page and goes against the user-centric experience.


A well-designed footer can leave a positive last impression on your visitors, so use it strategically. There’s no magic pill, just common sense and compliance with design guidelines.

The footer content and links should be relevant and helpful to users rather than solely aimed at manipulating search engine rankings. Your footer should also clearly display your contact information, including your email address and phone number (if applicable).


Striking a balance between optimization and user experience is the key to managing a website.

I hope that the red flags outlined in this article will help website owners avoid over-optimization pitfalls and ensure their sites remain visible and valuable in the long run.

If you have something to add to my over-optimization list, please share your thoughts with us in our Facebook community!

Published: 19 April 2024 02:37