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I am highlighting key words on my web pages using the <b> tag. I have set all <b> tags to font-weight: normal in my global stylesheet and was wondering if this would be considered a 'black hat' technique by search engines? My colleague seems to think so but i'm not too sure as it's just styling. Does anyone know or have an opinion?

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What Word tag are you referring to? – John Conde Aug 19 '11 at 16:38
Sorry, my formatting didn't work. I'm referring to the bold tag. – codemonkey Aug 19 '11 at 16:44
up vote 4 down vote accepted

If you're using the <b> tag but making it look like normal text then this is black hat SEO. The only reason why someone would do this is to manipulate their search engine rankings. That's a blatant violation of the search engines' terms of service.

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Do you know that for a fact? – codemonkey Aug 19 '11 at 16:52
This is SEO 101. While not explicitly mentioned, this page covers it quite well. Basically, don't serve up content only for search engines and avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. – John Conde Aug 19 '11 at 17:12
I understand what you're saying but the reason I transformed the style of bold tags to normal weight is for a cosmetic purpose. It wasn't my intention to hide it from the user. – codemonkey Aug 19 '11 at 17:20
If the text isn't going to be bold, why use the bold tag at all? – John Conde Aug 19 '11 at 17:28
I understand now. I've set all my b tags to font-weight: bold again. You're right. What is the point in using them if the user can't see them. – codemonkey Aug 20 '11 at 10:43

Semantically the bold tag doesn't mean much and therefor I wouldn't consider it to be black hat SEO tactics. If however you were to do the same to the strong or em tags you are definitely abusing their use.

However, it might not be explicitly mentioned but like everyone has been saying it probably won't do your SEO any good. John makes a good point, why would you use it if it isn't for styling? Check WHATWG for more information on the exact semantics of the different tags and choose the right on for your needs.

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Thank you for your input, Wouter. – codemonkey Aug 20 '11 at 10:42

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