I am trying to tweak the SEO of my Website, I have read a 400 SEO Bible PDF document that I came across. An aspect of my website that was not included in my SEO optimisation.

The STRONG and EM HTML tags. They do what B and I (bold/italic) tags do but they are very much needed by Google's bot, apparently, in order for it to understand what the page is about, and to index it in its particular way.

Now, I have around 28K products, each has among other fields a Title(varchar) and Desc(text) fields. Title and description.

I am now updating the titles and descriptions with <strong></strong> and <em></em> tags around the words I think are important and mostly, good keywords for me.

But since my website was already done with SEO in mind, the title and descriptions were inside <H1> and <H2> tags.

I thought and thought and managed to leave the text with <strong> and <em> clean in 2 places (the breadcrumbs /home/here/submenu/submenu2/ and the description), and the text stripped from STRONG and EM tags in the <h1> which is the title of every page.

There are more pages to think of optimising in this way and my question is :

Is it wise to leave the titles something like this?

<H1><strong>Parker pen</strong> <em>model 38Ak1</em></h1>

or just remove (with PHP) the <strong> and <em> tags and just have:

<H1>Parker pen, model 38Ak1</h1>

It is essential for me to understand if it's SEO wise to do this, so I'll do the same in other kinds of displaying pages and other arrangements on my website.

  • This is mostly a copy of stackoverflow.com/questions/14359854/…. Jan 16, 2013 at 14:13
  • 1
    Google has been saying for years that, from an SEO point of view, it treats strong/b (and em/i) the same. Matt Cutts Video - originally posted on Google Video on July 31, 2006 and moved to YouTube on Apr 25, 2011.
    – MrWhite
    Jan 16, 2013 at 14:28
  • it's a question allright, addresed to more of you experienced users regarding employment of STRONG and EM tags related to H1,h2..header tags Jan 16, 2013 at 14:28
  • yes, it's a copy, i posted there cause the site was designed for it, but since noone cared to answer, i moved it here, where I knew there were a lot of people actually answering and knowing what they were saying Jan 16, 2013 at 14:38
  • It's more useful all round to have questions on the appropriate site, rather than where people answer. Jan 16, 2013 at 15:44

5 Answers 5


Matt Cutts has made it abundantly clear that clean, relevant content presented semantically and coded well is ultimately what Google is looking for. I recommend following him in the various social media and looking up his YouTube archive. Also, Danny Sullivan provides a lot of real-world information that is generally data-driven.

My personal opinion is that 'em' or 'strong' tags inside of an h-anything amount to overkill.

Google already views content wrapped in header tags as important. I don't know whether the extra emphasis would help. If it appears to Google that it resembles keyword stuffing, it might hurt. Might make for an interesting test...

Anyway, my not-yet-data-supported personal opinion is that for SEO purposes you might be better served by including related keywords in your item's blurb, and emphasizing your target keywords in a semantically natural way -there-.

SEO is a moving target on purpose, as Google doesn't want people gaming the system. Your 400 page bible may be a good start, but the older it is the more you're likely to have to tweak the advice. Following the guys I mentioned above, as well as other reputable SEO resources,has worked well for me. Sorry about not linking - I am at the gym on my phone.


Only google has silver bullet.

Just use simple rules

  • one H1 per page
  • one H2 per page
  • a little H3
  • use strong em if you haven't another choice. Assume that for blind people this tag increase sound level in text-to-speach.

For SEO will be better if you create smart system crosslinking inside you site. This boost ranks better than this games with tags.

  • What evidence do you have for these "rules"?
    – GDVS
    Jan 17, 2013 at 13:31
  • @GDav about h1-h3 - my own observations on google services and my sites. Google devs says that we haven't penalty if big page has 3 or more h1 but I prefer use schema title=h1. So no evidences
    – b1_
    Jan 17, 2013 at 13:50
  • I agree from my knowledge and experience, use one < H1 >, maybe few < h2 >, then more < H3 > and so on.....makes sense Jan 17, 2013 at 15:11
  • 1
    @AdrianTanase b1's "rule" is "one h2 per page", yet you say a "few", so in what sense do you agree? Could just as well say "use some headings".
    – GDVS
    Jan 17, 2013 at 15:47
  • 2
    Most pages would get a wrong outline if you'd only use one h2.
    – unor
    Jan 17, 2013 at 21:47

Unless you can find actual evidence about the usefulness of strong or em tags, don’t use them pointlessly (like around the content a heading). In general, anything written about SEO should be taken with suspicion: many claims have been made without backing them up with facts.

  • well, noone literally can know what Google code is. that I could have thought just by asking myself :) but SEO Bible (400 pages doc) says that bold and italic with STRONG and EM tags work well on accentuating certain words on your websites, and I think Google algorithm is taking these into account as they are less important than H1 but stronger than plain text. And a text well written with few links, few bolded keywords and few em (italicised) words would be just great HTML coding, that Google certainly takes into account. otherwise how would you put emphasis on the words you want unless using Jan 16, 2013 at 14:31
  • ...these STRONG and EM tags....which are specifically semantic designed... Jan 16, 2013 at 14:32
  • i expected more documented answers, from people who thrive on knowing SEO, since this is a SEO matter Jan 16, 2013 at 14:32
  • thanks for closing my topic as offtopic. really appreciate it. Jan 17, 2013 at 8:33

You should always take a pinch of salt when reading SEO Guides as a lot of these guides on the net claim to be fact when really they base such information on what they believe rather than facts backed with evidence.

It is extremely unlikely that Google will reward any more juice to sites using em, strong, i, span and so forth within their H Tags. As a golden rule the best SEO is to cater for what you believe is best for your visitors. If using strong or em looks better in your headers then use them, but for just SEO purposes thats just crazy and I wouldn't even bother.

It is possible to style the within a header without using a strong tag, for example.

h1 {font-weight:bold;}
h2 {font-weight:400;}

Also you web masters may decide to use span tags over em or strong for example

<h1>Chapter <span>Five</span></h1>

h1 {font-weight:bold;}
h1 span {font-style: italic;font-weight:normal;}

Which would be exactly the same as.

<h1><strong>Chapter</strong> <em>Five</em></h1>

It's worth mentioning that there was a time that Google and other search engines valued the Bold, Italic tags much more than they do today, this was the early days of the internet and before we had things like CSS2, CSS3, HTML5, HTML4. There is just so many ways people can style their pages now. The best way to style a page is with as little code as possible. Using additional tags that is not-required is just messy and should be avoided.

This is not to say strong and em isn't good at all because it does help on the page within the content itself. But with this said other tags help too, span, i, hgroup, em, img, p, b, em, the list goes on and on... The best tags are those which makes sense to use for your visitors and not things read in a SEO books ;)

I base this information based on common sense due to the fact I've pointed out their are just to many ways you can style a header and the fact no one really knows how Google works.

Your best of worrying about how you can improve your site for your audience and offer content that is not offered else where, far to many people focus on the small things. :P

  • 3
    <span>Five</span> and <em>Five</em> are not equivalent, though they might look it to a human visitor if the <span> is suitably styled via CSS. Similarly, your statement "The best tags are those which makes sense to use for your visitors". I'd argue that the best tag is in fact the one which is correct for the job, based on an understanding of the behaviour of relevant technologies (browsers, search engines, etc.).
    – GDVS
    Jan 16, 2013 at 21:13

Having strong or em in a header tag does nothing for SEO. I would remove them.

SEO is all about relevance. Putting text into your headers gives the bots and idea of what the topic or topics of your page is about. Its been my experience with all of my websites that headers with only text and relative as possible titles (as your sound like) I got the best results. I'd have something like

< h1 > Parker Pen < /h1 > < h3 > model 38Ak1 < /h3 >

  • some or maybe...most of SEO testing tools, penalise you if you don't have BOLD or ITALIC (STRONG / EM) keywords on the page you're testing. anyone wonder why ? for example, my score is lower if I don't use STRONG and EM, on most of the SEO testing tools for pages Jan 16, 2013 at 14:34
  • i'm just not ready to give on this....a 400 well documented SEO Bible book says they matter, and now people say they don't matter....it seems exactly in my case when I was using old style mysql_ functions and I needed to change to PDO style but since my portal was huge, I said well...it's same thing with little bit of improving...but in the end I did it....I know it might seem a lot of work to redesign all your website to include <STRONG> and <EM> tags for your keywords, but it might be rewarding for SEO Jan 16, 2013 at 14:36
  • what I'm saying is people say they're not relevant because they don't like adding manually months of STRONG and EM, it's just easier to say they don't work :) but then, why are they there ? what do they mean in a website infrastructure ? semantic importance of "keywords" that's what they do, if you ask me Jan 16, 2013 at 14:37
  • If you could buy a book and be told that magic tags would make you best first on google then EVERYONE would do it. SEO books honestly are just a way to get money from people. Just like SEO companies, etc. This is my opinion. You're free to disagree with it. I've, however, seen companies waste tens of thousands on false SEO promises. True SEO should be putting relavent content on your site and using proper markup.
    – Kansha
    Jan 16, 2013 at 14:45
  • @AdrianTanase - You need to separate the concepts of semantic markup from SEO. Getting the semantics right is a good thing. It means that accessibility tools, search engine indexers, and any other semantic extractors can make the most of your content if they wish to do so. Whether or not they actually do so is another matter. As Jukka says, be suspicious of all SEO advice, just perhaps less so if it came directly from Google or Bing/MS though an official channel. I suggest using elements according to the semantics as described in the HTML5 spec, and leave indexers to make of it what they will.
    – Alohci
    Jan 16, 2013 at 14:52

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