We are in the process of publishing FAQ's on our website. For this I am creating the templates and ask myself the following question:

What tag should I use for the questions? I've chosen <strong> for the moment, but I'm not sure if <h3> would fit better here.

<div class = "accordion-heading">
    Here is the question
<div class = "accordion-body schedule">
  Here is the answer

Can somebody tell me if the strong tag is more important than a h3 headline for Google, or is there a better solution than my current one?

  • 1
    It doesn't matter what tags you use. Google cares more about how the pages look to users than how the HTML is structured. I've seen evidence that styling a <div> to be big and prominent at the top of the page gives the same weight as using an <h1> that would do so without CSS. Googlebot now renders pages, so there is no longer any need to rely on tags to try to tell it what is important. Dec 18 '17 at 10:39
  • I don't like the word "accordion" in your class names. Accodions are usually ways of hiding some content from users until they click. If you want good SEO, you shouldn't use them. Google often won't even index text that isn't shown to users on page load. If it does index it, it won't rank well for its keywords. It is far more important to show all the text on the page initially than it is to try to optimize your tags for SEO. Dec 18 '17 at 10:41
  • Hi @StephenOstermiller :), Thank you first for your detailed answer. Actually, I was of the same opinion as you, but I've been told that tags (or a clean and meaningful HTML structure - especially with respect to html5) are still important to Google. The fact that the enlarged representation of the elements via CSS also plays a role, however, was new to me. I will definitely find out more about this topic.
    – Codehan25
    Dec 18 '17 at 11:03
  • @StephenOstermiller The problem with the Accodion element or generally invisible content is known to me. But since the space for my FAQ's on the website is very limited, it was a question of user experience / design vs. here. SEO. To create a balance here, I work with structured data (schema.org). Are you talking about the keyword visibility here? I saw this term today within an SEO tool, but did not know its meaning.
    – Codehan25
    Dec 18 '17 at 11:04
  • Right, if the keyword is not visible to users, Google won't be rank it well. When you say "space is limited" what does that mean? Web pages can be very long and scroll down. It is generally better to let a page scroll than to use accordions for SEO. It is also unfriendly to users to hide FAQ items until clicked because it prevents users from using ctrl-f to search for the content they want. Dec 18 '17 at 11:32

When in doubt, always follow the WHATWG web standards and you will always be correct. Search engines can change. Web standards change rarely or slowly and search engines look to web standards just like their browsers do (which they also author).

<h3> is a heading for a section in your document. So is that phrase a heading? If not, then <strong> can work but that element is never to be used for styling! If you want to style it, use CSS. Otherwise, <strong> isn't needed at all and you can use <div> or some other element like a <span> (more relevant).

So let's see what the HTML standard has to say:

These elements represent headings for their sections.

Is that true with that phrase?

Let's see what it says about <strong>

The strong element represents strong importance, seriousness, or urgency for its contents.

Is that true here?

Do not confuse SEO with presentation. If one is to follow the advice of "Google doesn't care about tags", then you might as well just use <div> for everything and be done with it. But Google is the chief editor for the HTML web standards. If Google didn't really care, why is it so important to them to supply an employee to do such a thing for many years?

Google has stated that they consider element usage and meaning based on how web sites use them. Use them properly and you are never wrong.


What I've learned about the changes in website markup: For years web professionals have built sites based on appearance. Now, I would never say that your site shouldn't look good and it's certainly not what I'm insinuating here. But there is a reason to use <h3> and a reason to use <strong>. That reason is "Semantics". When you code for Semantics, you aren't giving up on design, but you are making an effort to design for the world. By that I mean, for everyone. People who have disabilities and may not be able to read, or see, or use a mouse.

Say, I'm unable to "see" the page. If the page has been coded with Semantics in mind, then a program can "read" the page to me. If you surround text with <strong>, those words will be emphasized (by the reading bot). If you surround text with <h3>, the bot will read those words as if they were the heading for a book chapter, and would have expected to find <h1> and <h2> tags before it.

So, whether you decide on <h3>, <strong>, or to use CSS styles to get the look your after... if you are designing a page based solely on how it looks, you won't be designing it for accessability.

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