Bold and Strong Tags for SEO

bold-strong-seo

What matters to search engines in terms of onpage optimization is the text they can access and read from your pages and not how you format it. Google and the rest won’t give you a page one rankings simply because you visually emphasized some text, no matter if you do that with <B>/<STRONG> or <I>/<EM>.

Their algorithms are built to extract words, themes and meanings from documents and not to rank pages based on visual appeal.

In my opinion, the font styling elements have little to no influence on search engines rankings. Search engines could probably assign more weight to b/strong or i/em elements IF there’s a match between what they think the page is about AND what you want to emphasize. If there isn’t, then you can bold/italic your targeted keywords ten times, nothing will happen.

The B Tag

There’s so much controversy about it. While the majority of SEO professionals say that the bold tag (or strong) is really an onpage SEO factor,  others deny its usefulness. For some reason, SEOmoz’ On-Page Grader checks for the presence of B or STRONG when grading how well a page is optimized:

bold, strong and SEO

Is Missing Bold or Strong Tag Bad for SEO?

However, on the search engine ranking factors list from the same source, B or STRONG tags are listed down at position #16, with minimal influence on rankings:

b tag and strong tag ranking factor seomoz

Bold and Strong Tag Can  Influencing Page’s Theme

Not only that I agree with them, but I would even give less weight to this elements.

According to Matt Cutts, Google treats the B and STRONG tags with the same weight. However keep in mind that <b> and <strong> and <i> and <em> may look the same, but there’s actually a difference:<b> and <i> will tell the browser what the text should look like while <em> indicates emphasis and <strong> indicates a semantic emphasis, which can be conveyed by screen readers for people with accessibility issues.

To increase the chances of ranking better I prefer using <strong> rather <b>.  The rendering in browsers will be the same for both tags, but search engines might give more importance to <strong> rather than <b>. However, this is just a personal preference and not something tested.

For more information on the optional and standard attributes of a B tag, please visit the HTML <b> tag page on w3cschool website and the W3 page on font style elements.

Definition and Usage of Font Style Elements

We’re going to refer to TT, I, B, BIG, SMALL, STRIKE, S and U elements. These HTML elements are used to style text within HTML documents.

STRIKE, S and U are deprecated, while TT and BIG are not supported by HTML 5. Since most of them are visual styling elements, they tend to not have influence on search engine algorithms.

The I tag (which displays text in italics) and B (which adds weight to the font face) are the only ones known to have some influence on rankings. However, they don’t add any semantic value to a page, and it’s advisable to use <EM> and <STRONG> if you want to communicate a semantic meaning to search bots.

BIG and SMALL tags have been discussed in this article.

The I element represents a span of text in an alternate voice or mood, or otherwise offset from the normal writing style in a manner indicating a different quality of text, such as a technical term, a thought, a taxonomic designation, an idiomatic phrase from another language, or a ship name in Western texts. – source

EM should be used when you want to stress a portion of the text. It probably communicates more meaning to search engines than the I tag.

Example:

<b>text</b>

<strong>text</strong>

Designers should know

  • Bold or strong have quite a straightforward use in web design (adding weight to the font), so there’s not much you can change in CSS.
  • If you want to emphasize a word (or several), don’t apply a CSS class that uses a font-weight:bold attribute; instead use the inline <strong> tag directly in the html code.
  • Links should look different that regular text; blue font, underline, and changing color after being clicked on  is the norm for links. There is no need to bold your links (if anyone has tested this, please let me know).
  • Don’t underline your content with a blue line – that is misleading and/or confusing to users.

SEO professionals should know

  • We really don’t know how well search engines read and understand CSS.
  • Bolded keywords with <strong> or <b> and not with CSS font weight attributes.
  • Use <strong> rather than <b>.
  • Don’t put a whole page in bold/strong. This may convey to search engines that everything is equally important, and as a result search engines will disregard all content in bold.
  • Use the <strong> tag a couple of times, preferably to enhance the semantics of the page. This might be especially important when emphasizing words to that will help search engines understand vague concepts (arm, as body part opposed to arm, as a river)
  • Work with the copywriter. He/she will want to emphasize some keywords anyways.

Programmers should know

  • It’s a good usability idea to emphasize the search query keywords (i.e., when you search something on Google, Google will bold your keywords, for skimming and readability purposes):

search query words are bolded

  • When you automatically bold keywords (or change background color for the search terms) make sure you do so for search engine traffic where you can extract the query term.

Copywriters should know

  • When you work with a designer to emphasize some words (through size, color and positioning), keep in mind that users first have to decide if they landed on the proper page or not  (sometimes in less than 1 second). Let him do it.
  • It’s good to have the targeted keywords in the headline, both from search engine and users points of view. Don’t bold keywords wrapped within a heading element (unless that is done to highlight the search query that sent the visitor to the landing page).
  • As an old SEO practice, you could bold/strong the targeted keywords in your copy but don’t over do it. This is not as important as you might think.

Are you a web designer, copywriter, programmer or search engine optimizer? Have a suggestion about this tag and how it can be used for better rankings? Please leave a comment or contact the author with your suggestions.

Pitstop Media offers ROI focused internet marketing services. If you need a SEO company to help you rank #1 or with pay per click management and/or PPC optimization please contact us for a free, no obligation quote. We’ve helped companies rank first on Google in short periods of time, for highly competitive terms, and we’ve reduced paid advertising cost by as much as 48% while increased AdWords conversion rates by as much as 410%.

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Bold and Strong Tags for SEO, 8.4 out of 10 based on 28 ratings

About

Traian is Founder and Director of Search Marketing at Pitstop Media Inc. He has more than 11 years experience in helping small and medium businesses generate and convert organic traffic from search engines. Connect with Traian on Google+

 

23 Responses to “Bold and Strong Tags for SEO”

  1. Mark @ Alchemy United said:

    Aug 14, 10 at 11:23 am

    Nice post, thanks. A couple things…

    1) I would think that search engines have to give at least some value to bold/strong. That is, both indicate that phrases tagged as such must have more value, as defined objectively by the author/site.

    2) That said, either can be redefined in the CSS, no? For example, one can be bold/strong and actually render the letters in a higher weight. The other can be defined to match the attributes of the paragraph tag. With this keywords can be a “bolded” without the look of the page being compromised (in a nasty sorta way).

    Do the search engines check for this? I suppose it’s possible. But even so, if a site/author is saying “these are important” wouldn’t Google & Co wish to use that insight?

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  2. TraiaN said:

    Nov 09, 10 at 6:49 pm

    Mark, for some reason I didn’t see your comment until now. sorry about the late reply. 1) bold is used to alter the look and feel of the page, while strong will alter the semantics 2) this is almost similar with hidden text (same text and background color) and could potentially be flagged as spam. I don’t recommend using that technique. You can tell search engines what’s important in so many ways, without trying to be sneaky :)

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  3. HTML Phrase Tags and SEO – The Complete HTML Reference Guide for SEO said:

    Apr 21, 11 at 12:58 pm

    [...] Indicates emphasis.strong: Indicates stronger emphasis. This tag has been described in the Bold or Strong Tag and SEO article.cite: Contains a citation or a reference to other sources. This tag has been described in [...]

  4. Nath @ Gothic Store UK said:

    Oct 19, 11 at 1:59 am

    Stop using deprecated tags for your styling, and start using css, thats what its there for!

    Plus google dont give any extra weight to bold, strong or italic these days.

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  5. Giang said:

    Nov 08, 11 at 12:25 am

    Thanks, I always use strong tag for my blog and I’m True :D

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  6. psd to magento said:

    Jan 15, 12 at 1:42 am

    Ok, then lets try once, if this helps in ranking a bit.

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  7. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for SharePoint Sites – Part 2 « SPMatt said:

    Mar 12, 12 at 4:53 am

    [...] opportunity so it’s something worth discussing. Take a read of Traian Neacsu’s article Bold or Strong Tag and SEO – Complete HTML Reference Guide for SEO for more information on the topic. The main take away is that styling via CSS won’t have any [...]

  8. kashif said:

    May 08, 12 at 2:53 am

    nice seo trick,,,

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  9. careful reader said:

    Oct 19, 12 at 5:33 pm

    maybe you like to correct this:

    and I put them put them even lower on the list.

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  10. Traian Neacsu said:

    Oct 19, 12 at 9:44 pm

    Thanks for pointing out. I’ve made the change.

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  11. Lucy said:

    Nov 11, 12 at 6:21 am

    Hi, Traian

    Thank you for this nice seo trick.

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  12. Web Design and SEO: How to Make Your Website Look Good and Rank Well said:

    Feb 27, 13 at 10:27 am

    [...] non-deprecated tags, because from an SEO point of view, that doesn’t really matter. There was an incident when someone pointed out that Google was still ranking the old “bold” tag over [...]

  13. Knews Feed » Jayson DeMers: Web Design and SEO: How to Make Your Website Look Good and Rank Well said:

    Feb 27, 13 at 10:44 am

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  22. Web Design and SEO: How to Make Your Website Look Good and Rank Well | Giầy cao gót đẹp said:

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  23. Asima said:

    Mar 12, 13 at 12:19 am

    i am new for seo but your guideline has been use for our site seo,
    thanks lots

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