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Complete HTML Reference Guide for SEO — Bold or Strong Tag and SEO

There’s one thing that everyone in SEO (and Internet marketing in general) should know – what matters the most to search engines is purely the text content they can read (leaving aside backlinks and social signals). Google and others won’t be impressed and influenced simply because you bold or italicize some text, no matter how (B or STRONG, I or EM). Their algorithms are made to extract themes and meanings from documents, not rank them based on visual appeal.

In my opinion, the font styling elements that are going to be discussed in this article have little to no influence on how search engines rank your pages. Search engines could probably give more importance to your 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. Otherwise, you may bold your targeted keywords 10 times, and nothing will happen.

The B tag, yes! 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 are denying it’s usefulness. SEOmoz is checking for the presence of this html element when they grade how well a page is optimized:

bold, strong and SEO

Is Missing Bold or Strong Tag Bad for SEO?

On the search engine ranking factors list from the same SEOmoz guys, the bold 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 SEOmoz’s minimal influence on raking, but I would even give them less weight.

According to Matt Cutts , Google treats the bold and strong tag 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.

Since everything on the web is related to semantics, to increase my chances of ranking better I use <strong> rather <b>, since the rendering in browsers will be the same for both tags, but search engines might give more importance to <strong> rather than <b>.

Definition and Usage of Font Style Elements

We’re going to look into the  TT, I, B, BIG, SMALL, STRIKE, S and U elements. As the heading suggests, these HTML elements are used to style the text content 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 an influence on search engine algorithms.

For more information on the optional and standard attributes of a B tag, please visit the HTML <b> tag page  on w3shool website and the W3 page on font style elements .

w3 schoolThe I tag, which displays text in italics and <B>, which adds weight to the font face, are the only ones that could eventually influence 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 something to search engine 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.


<b>Bold text</b>

<strong>Strong text </stong>

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

  • At this time we don’t know how well search engines  read and understand CSS, so make sure that bolded keywords are actually bolded with <strong> or <b> and not with CSS font weight attributes.
  • Use <strong> rather than <b>.
  • Don’t put a whole page or paragraph in bold. It will convey to a search engine that everything on that page is 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 visual flow of layout.
  • The best approach is to work with the copywriter, who will want to emphasize some of your 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

  • Bolding the keywords targeted by the SEO guy is important. So when you work with the 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  (in less than 1 second).
  • It’s good to have the targeted keywords in the headline (<H1> should have the most weight and biggest size). 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).
  • Bold the targeted keywords at least once in your copy (once every 250 words is a good ratio).

Are you a web designer, copywriter, programmer or search engine optimizer that has a suggestion about this tag, and how can be used for better rankings in search engines? 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%.