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Keywords on pages in bold - beneficial or harmful to SEO?
G_Lee




msg:4550692
 5:46 pm on Mar 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Hello:

I am redesigning a webpage in which I have the opportunity to place keywords in bold. Is there any SEO benefit to this? Also, with the Panda and Penguin updates, are there negative consequences to making keywords bold?

I have been unable to find current thinking on this matter.

Thanks.

 

tedster




msg:4550757
 12:59 am on Mar 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

Here's the kind of question I'd ask: Is there a user benefit to placing the keywords in boldface? Would it make the page's communication clearer?

Google's algorithm today is trying to understand useer interaction with your website, not just trying to add up the various ways keywords are used. In older days (especially the 90s) algorithms working in a more mechanical fashion, like walking through a checklist and assigning points for each kind of usage. Today, things are much more subtle and you are well off to put your energies toward enhancing customer/user experience.

I'm not aware of any negative effects. However, there might be if you go over the top.

G_Lee




msg:4550758
 1:07 am on Mar 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

Hi:

If I were to place all the keywords in boldface for each on-page occurence, I would find it a bit overwhelming and spammy, given my keyword density.

However, moderate use of boldface would improve on-page user interaction. Do you think that would be a reasonable approach?

aristotle




msg:4550778
 1:39 am on Mar 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

I almost never use boldface on isolated words within sections of content. If the content is well-written, the reader will be able to recognize important words without any extra help.

Also, I'm wondering why you're considering using boldface only on keywords. If you're going to use it at all, why not use it on all important words, not just keywords?

G_Lee




msg:4550781
 1:49 am on Mar 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

Actually, I have been implementing it on contextually important text. My inital concern was for using boldface on all recurrences of keywords for SEO.

TheOptimizationIdiot




msg:4550786
 2:16 am on Mar 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

Part of it depends on how you actually make the text bold. Meaning, if you use <span class="b"> it's not exactly the same as <b> or <strong> but according to the HTML5.1 docs what you're talking about seems to be inline with the intended use of the <b> element.

The b element represents a span of text to which attention is being drawn for utilitarian purposes without conveying any extra importance and with no implication of an alternate voice or mood, such as key words in a document abstract, product names in a review, actionable words in interactive text-driven software, or an article lede.

[w3.org...]

G_Lee




msg:4550788
 2:34 am on Mar 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

Hi

I'v been using the <strong> element to apply boldface.

TheOptimizationIdiot




msg:4550790
 2:38 am on Mar 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

I wouldn't do that personally, unless it's something that <strong> is intended to be used for, such as a warning.

ZydoSEO




msg:4550804
 4:10 am on Mar 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

Every site I've ever seen do this look like total crap. Every Forex Trading site on the planet seems to use this technique... Cheesie... Spammy... yuk.

reebes




msg:4550969
 5:16 pm on Mar 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

I dont see any benefit to it and I saw someone else here say it just looked cheesy and spammy and I agree with that. I have worked with many sites that were built by the business owner and they always go crazy wiht highlighting the words and even make them other colors. This doesnt help IMO. I just think of it as a user not a SEO does that influence me at all? Maybe once in a while but normally no, a well placed link to something useful on another page is much useful for a user.

gouri




msg:4550972
 5:26 pm on Mar 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

If you have a number of bullet points on a page, for example, a few four-sentence bullet points, and you want to bold the first sentence in the bullet points, is it better to use <b> or <strong>? I have this on several pages.

I am currently using <strong>, but am wondering if I should maybe you <b>, and could using <strong> perhaps contribute to over optimization? Some of the bolded sentences do include keyword phrases and/or related phrases.

Thanks.

TheOptimizationIdiot




msg:4550976
 5:33 pm on Mar 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

It really depends on how it's done, so maybe better than discouraging based on personal preference it's better to just answer the question from an SEO perspective? IDK, just thinking it seems odd to me personal preference or like/dislike of the use of specific way of styling something is in an SEO discussion when those aspects are really neither here, nor there, as far as "spam flagging" goes.

For a couple useful non-spammy examples, try

The w3.org TOC [w3.org...] [scroll a bit to get there].
To see "multicolor elements" on the same page try [w3.org...]

I personally find the orange used for <code> within a link in the TOC helpful when I'm looking for information on a specific element/attribute/object.

You'll find orange, green and blue throughout the page on different elements if you follow the second link and personally, again, I find it very helpful.


I also think it works fairly well on the php.net site where they highlight the important words with <em><code> [php.net...]

...could using <strong> perhaps contribute to over optimization...

That's one key reason I avoid the use of elements, except as described in the docs.

The big 3 (Google, Bing, Yahoo!) all sent teams of people to work on HTML5, which basically means they have agreed to it as a standard and their algos have to start somewhere, which, imo, really has to be with the "correct interpretation" of HTML elements/markup and then "trying to figure it out from there" when people do their own thing.

In other words I'd use <b> not <strong> in your situation, cause you're talking about <strong> on a lede and that's where they've said <b> is appropriate.

ZydoSEO




msg:4551002
 6:48 pm on Mar 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

If you are bolding bulletted items like this:

    This is bullet one: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Morbi tincidunt, eros sed condimentum cursus, nisl neque fringilla est, at consequat urna mi vel ante. Fusce facilisis tincidunt felis eu tempus. Phasellus ultricies nulla sagittis purus adipiscing non porta purus dictum. Vestibulum ullamcorper accumsan iaculis. Vestibulum eget ligula nisl. Quisque sollicitudin diam sed elit fringilla eu laoreet dui pretium.

    This is bullet two: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Morbi tincidunt, eros sed condimentum cursus, nisl neque fringilla est, at consequat urna mi vel ante. Fusce facilisis tincidunt felis eu tempus. Phasellus ultricies nulla sagittis purus adipiscing non porta purus dictum. Vestibulum ullamcorper accumsan iaculis. Vestibulum eget ligula nisl. Quisque sollicitudin diam sed elit fringilla eu laoreet dui pretium.


then no problem... have at it.

If you are defining a word like, "Some Keyword Phrase is defined by some sentence or two describing what that keyword phrase means", then that is also fine.

But if you have a page that you are trying to rank for "Some Keyword Phrase" and slight variations and you bold every occurence of that phrase and its slight variations on the page with <b> or <strong> simply to try to game the system similar to the following:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, some keyword phrase adipiscing elit. Morbi tincidunt, eros sed condimentum cursus, nisl neque fringilla est, at consequat urna mi vel ante. Fusce facilisis tincidunt felis eu tempus.

Phasellus ultricies nulla sagittis purus adipiscing non porta purus dictum. Vestibulum some phrase variation accumsan iaculis. Vestibulum eget ligula nisl. Quisque sollicitudin diam sed elit fringilla eu laoreet dui pretium.

Another phrase variation ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Morbi tincidunt, eros sed condimentum cursus, nisl neque fringilla est, at consequat urna mi vel ante. Fusce facilisis tincidunt felis eu tempus.

Phasellus ultricies nulla sagittis purus adipiscing non porta purus dictum. Vestibulum ullamcorper accumsan iaculis. Vestibulum eget ligula nisl. Quisque sollicitudin diam sed elit fringilla eu laoreet some keyword phrase pretium.


then you'll not only be making your site appear as spammy to users, but you are also likely sending negative signals to search engines about your page. I would not be at all surprised if this were one of the signals used by Panda to profile sites as low quality. I cannot think of one reason that being so bold happy would benefit a user. The only reason that I could think of for doing this would be to manipulate rankings.

As I mentioned... only a few years ago pretty much every site ranking on page 1-3 for "forex trading" utilized this technique of bolding targeted keyword phrases everywhere they appear on the page. Today, NONE of the sites ranking for that phrae on the top 2 pages at least utilize that technique. There is likely a good reason all such sites have disappeared from the SERPs.

If for some reason you truly do find it aesthetically pleasing to your eye then I would suggest NOT using <b> or <strong> and instead use CSS to add emphasis to those phrases you might otherwise bold.

TheOptimizationIdiot




msg:4551016
 7:06 pm on Mar 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

If for some reason you truly do find it aesthetically pleasing to your eye then I would suggest NOT using <b> or <strong> and instead use CSS to add emphasis to those phrases you might otherwise bold.

You don't "add emphasis" with the use <b>.
See the documentation I previously cited for more info.

In fact, the only way to "add emphasis" is with <em>.

but you are also likely sending negative signals to search engines about your page.

Have you actually tested this or are you assuming?

gouri




msg:4551050
 9:01 pm on Mar 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

@TheOptimizationIdiot and @ZydoSEO,

Thanks for your responses.

I have created an example of the type of bullet point that I am referring to. This is only an example.

Working out helps to lose weight. It increases your metabolism so you burn more calories throughout the day. The exercise itself also burns calories. You also add muscle.

The first sentence is in a <strong> tag, and I would appreciate if you could help me with the following (I should mention that I have been impacted by Panda and Penguin):

(1) On one page, I have over 10 bullet points and, therefore, over 10 <strong> tags like the one that I have above. Within most of the strong tags, there is a keyword phrase or related phrase or terms related to the subject of the page. Could so many <strong> tags on the page be causing over optimization? The page has a lot of words on it, but I am wondering if many of these tags is having some sort of impact. Should I use <b> tags instead?

(2) A lot of the actual information in each bullet point is after the first sentence. Could placing the first sentence in a <strong> tag be putting an emphasis on the first sentence in the bullet point and having an impact on rankings? Maybe the first sentence is being weighed more than the sentences following it and I am, therefore, not ranking where I can be. Would it be better to use the <b> tag?

(3) Is font-weight:bold in CSS the equivalent of the <b> tag?

(4) Is there an equivalent in CSS to the <strong> tag? I looked and did not really find one.

I really appreciate your help.

ZydoSEO




msg:4551178
 3:21 am on Mar 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

@TheOptimizationIdiot

There are LOTS of ways to "add emphasis" to keywords in a document.

Emphasis: 1.Importance, value, or prominence given to something.


Yes.. I'm well aware of <em>... and strictly speaking from an HTML perspective, this is one way to "add emphasis". But not everyone sees things though such literal lenses as you seem to.

One can "add emphasis" or "give prominence" to words in an HTML document in many ways... by making it a header element, by bolding it, by italicizing it, and by making font sizes larger to name a just few.

Not everything in life has ONE answer. Just like there are other ways to "Bold" keywords on a web page other than only using <b>, there are also other ways to "emphasize" ("give prominence to", "make standout", or whatever you choose to call it) keywords on a web page than only using <em>.

TheOptimizationIdiot




msg:4551190
 3:53 am on Mar 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'm sorry, does that mean you've tested your conclusions or not?

TheOptimizationIdiot




msg:4551203
 4:34 am on Mar 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

I self snipped the last one, cause I don't want to argue this any more, but I will say I'm totally LMAO at your suggested use of <em> as what I would think is the right way to emphasize (dictionary definition of emphasis) keywords:

The em element represents stress emphasis of its contents... The placement of stress emphasis changes the meaning of the sentence...

Stress Emphasis in Liguistics
stress, in phonetics, intensity given to a syllable of speech by special effort in utterance, resulting in relative loudness... it may serve to distinguish meanings, as in English, in which, for example, stress differentiates the noun from the verb in the word “permit.”

[britannica.com...]

jo1ene




msg:4551482
 7:23 pm on Mar 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

I bold key phrases in each paragraph so readers can skim through. I try to incude a key word phrase in doing so, but I don't just go bolding words in general.

Kendo




msg:4551489
 7:30 pm on Mar 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

In older days (especially the 90s) algorithms working in a more mechanical fashion, like walking through a checklist and assigning points for each kind of usage.


It's no different today. Just a few thousand more lines of code.

Kendo




msg:4551491
 7:40 pm on Mar 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

Do you really believe that it makes a difference as to whether text is emphasised, bold, underlined or in italic?

Do you really believe that while the search spider is retrieving data from a web page, removing all of the unnecessary junk like HTML that is not part of the message so that they can evaluate meaning, duplication, proper grammar, etc (as we are led to believe is so important), that they will then put all of the junk back into the data and re-assess it all over again just to evaluate what can be merely bad taste and obnoxious design?

TheOptimizationIdiot




msg:4551495
 8:05 pm on Mar 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

[0042] M(p): Number of interesting instances of the possible phrase. An instance of a possible phrase is "interesting" where the possible phrase is distinguished from neighboring content in the document by grammatical or format markers, for example by being in boldface, or underline, or as anchor text in a hyperlink, or in quotation marks. These (and other) distinguishing appearances are indicated by various HTML markup language tags and grammatical markers. These statistics are maintained for a phrase when it is placed on the good phrase list 208.

[appft1.uspto.gov...]

[0055] If the candidate phrase is not in the good phrase list 208 then it is added to the possible phrase list 206, unless it is already present therein. Each entry p on the possible phrase list 206 has three associated counts: [0056] P(p): Number of documents on which the possible phrase appears; [0057] S(p): Number of all instances of the possible phrase; and [0058] M(p): Number of interesting instances of the possible phrase. An instance of a possible phrase is "interesting" where the possible phrase is distinguished from neighboring content in the document by grammatical or format markers, for example by being in boldface, or underline, or as anchor text in a hyperlink, or in quotation marks. These (and other) distinguishing appearances are indicated by various HTML markup language tags and grammatical markers. These statistics are maintained for a phrase when it is placed on the good phrase list 208.

[appft1.uspto.gov...]

[0057] M(p): Number of interesting instances of the possible phrase. An instance of a possible phrase is "interesting" where the possible phrase is distinguished from neighboring content in the document by grammatical or format markers, for example by being in boldface, or underline, or as anchor text in a hyperlink, or in quotation marks. These (and other) distinguishing appearances are indicated by various HTML markup language tags and grammatical markers. These statistics are maintained for a phrase when it is placed on the good phrase list 208.

[appft1.uspto.gov...]

netmeg




msg:4551497
 8:23 pm on Mar 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

#overthinking

TheOptimizationIdiot




msg:4551498
 8:25 pm on Mar 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

...the data associated with the features of one of the links including at least one of a font size of anchor text associated with the link, a position of the link within a source document, a position of the link in a list, a font color associated with the link, attributes of the link, a number of words in the anchor text associated with the link, actual words in the anchor text associated with the link, a determination of commerciality of the anchor text associated with the link, a type of the link, a context of words before or after the link, a topical cluster with which the anchor text of the link is associated...

18. The one or more server devices of claim 16, where the data associated with the features of the one of the links includes at least two of: the font size of anchor text associated with the link, the position of the link within a source document, the position of the link in a list, the font color associated with the link, the attributes of the link, the number of words in the anchor text associated with the link, the actual words in the anchor text associated with the link, the determination of commerciality of the anchor text associated with the link, the type of the link, the context of words before or after the link, the topical cluster with which the anchor text of the link is associated, whether the link leads to a target document on a same host or domain, or whether an address associated with the link embeds another address.

[patft.uspto.gov...]

The use of color, tagging, etc. is only in 4 patents I'm remembering so far. Maybe they just throw it all out and applied for these patents just to have them, but I doubt it.

FranticFish




msg:4551757
 3:17 pm on Mar 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

Just had to check my calendar to make sure it was 2013 and not 2003 :)

Kendo




msg:4551860
 7:55 pm on Mar 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

So Google tried to patent commonsense procedures?

a = 2
b = 3
c = a + b / 0.5

This formula is no less patentable than the gibberish above!

garyr_h




msg:4552010
 8:55 am on Mar 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think b and strong can be easily abused and confused with overoptimization, especially if the words inside the tags are keywords used in the title, description, or h1. I have been avoiding them like the plague and instead use a span around words that would normally be bolded by w3c standards, just to make sure.

MikeNoLastName




msg:4552059
 11:10 am on Mar 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

It is so sad we have to even discuss the possibility that G may or may not like bolding.

In so far as the "almighty user experience" is concerned, I believe a lot of <B>ing often has MAJOR utility. Consider a club newsletter with multiple different subjects covered in separate paragraphs. Bolding keywords allows the lazy skim reader (in this time-challenged world) to skip over the subjects they are not interested in and zip right to the topics they are.

Likewise, if you have a <UL> list of, I dunno say, movie theaters in the metro area and what they are showing that evening. <TABLE>ing everything adds SO much unnecessary code overhead to the page (increasing download time) and wastes a lot of screen space requiring more user scrolling. Bolding the theater names which are immediately followed by the movie list and times in an <LI>, can certainly make it easier to quickly distinguish the theater name from the list of movies there. Or alternately perhaps bolding the latest new movie releases people are more likely to be looking for vs. the older movies. This would naturally result in the same movie being bolded many times on the same page if it is playing at many different theaters.

Another example: simple newspaper classified ads listings. Who would NOT naturally bold the name of the item being listed at the beginning of the listing and maybe the phone number?

Pick up any magazine or newspaper you have laying around the office or house and look at the myriad of things they bold just to get attention WITHOUT them considering how it might help them on a search engine and then think how G would PROBABLY penalize this 'natural' bolding if it were on a website.

There are a MILLION examples exactly like this, which I'm sure G has not considered, as actually being a GOOD or natural thing for the user, and instead try to generalize with an ALGORITHM which can only fail. I'm sure the plex whippersnappers don't consider that a lot of the ever-increasing, aging, computerized population find bolding easier to scan through and read on a screen. Or execs in a hurry who just want the factual 'keyword' talking points.

So it boils down to, people are NOT algorithms and G will have to realize that they can not ever generalize even the majority of the examples. Unless they have every page objectively reviewed by multiple humans, specializing in the particular field of the website, they will never have the ideal SE or anything close to it. Since such human review is not infinitely scalable for finite dollars, as they wish it could be (so they can just sit back and watch their results database and profits swell infinitely), they will inevitably fail.

gouri




msg:4552170
 4:04 pm on Mar 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

I have been avoiding them like the plague and instead use a span around words that would normally be bolded by w3c standards, just to make sure.

@garyr_h,

Do you mean <span style="font-weight:bold">Text here</span> instead of <b>Text here</b>?

G_Lee




msg:4552192
 5:01 pm on Mar 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

Hello everyone:

Thanks for all the replies. I am glad that the topic generated discussion.

I will follow-up on my original question.

The page about which I was originally inquiring was ranked on Google Page 1, Position 8 for a while. The page has a moderate amount of on-page optimization; however, with no bold typeface for emphasis, just some <h2> and <h3> headers for organizational purposes.

I needed to add some content to improve click-through and conversion rates, as this content would benefit and interest my prospective clients.

I added about 500 words of keyworded content in 5 paragraphs, each with its own <h3> title.

When I made the original post, I wanted to find out about the SEO effect of boldface keywords.

To err on the side of caution, I placed one occurrence of the targeted keyword phrase (2 word combination) per each paragraph in total in bold, for a total of about 7 occurences.

About a day or so later, my Google ranking went to position 9 and then position 10, which remained for a couple of days. At this time, I was worried about being bumped off Google Page 1 for the search.

I then removed the boldface from the 7 keyword phrase occurences, with no further modifications. I should also mention that I have not been link-building for a couple of weeks

Within one day, my ranking almost immediately rose to position 7 for that particular search, my highest ranking yet.

Perhaps my experience will shed some light on the discussion. Your comments are most welcome.

This 47 message thread spans 2 pages: 47 ( [1] 2 > >
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