Will Using strong or bold Tags Affect My SEO Rankings? This was the question that Matt Cutts, head of Google’s spam busting team, answered in a recent video. The reason that it might have an impact is that the bold tag is supposed to have been deprecated, so the concern is that if your page is using an old tag Google may penalise your site for not being up to date.
In case you are not familiar with HTML, the basic language that is used to build websites, I’ll explain what tags are. When you look at a webpage in your browser you see text and graphics in various places on your screen. The way that the page is laid out before you is based on how the page has been coded. Webpages use what are called “tags” to delimit different elements on the page. Your browser then uses the tags to decide where on your screen to place each block of text and images. Tags are often in pairs, an opening and closing tag. The bold tag makes the text that is contained within it bold. The strong tag also makes text bold. So what’s the difference?
Now this next concept is a little difficult to get your head round to start with. The bold tag bold is a styling tool, it tells your browser to make the text bolder than that around it. The strong tag strong is semantic, it gives meaning and emphasis to text within it. For most people the effect is the same the text incorporated in the tags will be bolder than the text around it.
Where this becomes important is for the visually impaired who may be using a program that reads web pages to the user. These programs typically use the strong tag to change the tone of the voice but ignore the bold tag.
In Matt’s video he says that Google treats both tags in the same way and they will not penalise you for using either. One of the way that Google will probably use both tags is to try to infer the meaning of your page from the text that is in bold. Text that is highlighted is usually important on a page. However if you think that by making all your text bold this will improve your rankings, think again. Having too much bold text on a page looks spammy so you need to tread carefully when emphasising text on your page.
Additionally although it may not affect your search rankings you should take into account the accessibility of your site. Every site owner wants their content to be viewed by as many people as possible and by providing a great user experience. Although users with special needs may only be a small percentage of users you should always look to try to make your site as inclusive as possible. Web developers go to extensive lengths to ensure their websites have cross browser compatibility and we should also put the same effort into making websites accessible for all users.
If you would like to learn more about website accessibility the RNIB have fabulous information on their website.