SEO plugins like Yoast for Wordpress and in YouTube videos recommend using bold text for your keywords to improve search engine rankings. Does bolding your text actually work for SEO? What about bold anchor tags?


2 Answers 2


Be careful! The cited link (http://moz.com/search-ranking-factors/survey) is a list of reported beliefs from SEOs. It often does not reflect reality, but rather how far afield our so-called SEO experts are while living in an echo-chamber of their own making. This yearly survey is evidence of the echo which is growing quite weary. It is no wonder why the average webmaster is confused.

For a period, Google did give weight to italics and bold terms thinking that these were valuable clues, but since that too could be gamed and bold and tactic terms were used in an effort to spam search engines and to gain a disproportionate advantage, that practice ended many many years ago. Bold and italics DO NOT effect SEO except for secondary effects. The mark-up is relatively ignored and the text is weighted exactly the same as all the rest. I say relatively because I suspect that the parser/filter rule likely still exists where these terms are indexed, but that the weight is 0.

Having said that, bold and italics terms can have a secondary effect of increasing engagement thus increasing the "time on page" and "time on site" metrics and possibly "pages visited" and a site may see a modest increase in conversion rates as a result. However, from a marketing stand-point, this is a terrible thing to do. Another secondary effect that may exist is that keyword matches may be made against bold and italic text much like the description meta-tag is matched to search queries though I suspect that would be less likely. Even though there is no weight assigned to these terms, matches can be made given the right circumstance meaning that the pool of matches does not rise to an expected level and some lower criteria is used to make the match.

You have to remember that most SEOs are parroting what they have read or heard which changes daily. So what was true 5-6 years ago still echoes about as fact when in reality, Google made the change a long time ago.

As a hint for future questions such as this, ask yourself if the purported fact can be manipulated? In this case, the answer would be "Yes." Bold and italics terms can be manipulated. If you find yourself answering "yes", then the answer to the question of whether the purported whatever is an SEO factor is clearly "No." The only exception that remains are links, title tags, header tags, image alt text, and description meta-tags. There my be a few more minor cases that have not come to mind. That is it. It truly is that simple folks.

Ref: https://plus.google.com/+MarkTraphagen/posts/Ex7p2rDx2Do You will want to read this, but AJ Kohn essentially echos what I just said but shorter.

  • 2
    In a nutshell it really doesn't make a difference.
    – John Conde
    Jan 29, 2015 at 1:38
  • @JohnConde Yes. Perfectly said. That would be the TL;DR version! There are some secondary effects and I checked out a few things and adjusted my theory very slightly.
    – closetnoc
    Jan 29, 2015 at 1:41
  • The ref is not available anymore :/
    – sodimel
    Oct 31, 2019 at 13:56

Google cares about how users perceive a page. Bigger bolder text in prominent locations is weighted more for rankings.

Recent SEO tests have shown that it doesn't matter if you use HTML tags like <h1> and <b> or whether you use CSS to style your text to the same effect. Google treats the two the same and pays more attention to the bigger, bolder, text above the fold.

I highly doubt that making text bigger and bolder will have much effect once it is already big and bold. Its not like you can say "I'll rank better if I make this text bigger and bolder than it already is." It's more than Google will know what your page is about when you put the main idea including keywords into the most prominent text on your page.

When you want to rank for a search phrase:

  • Make sure your users see it
  • Use it in your page title
  • Use it in big, bold, prominent text compared to other text on your page (but not so big and bold that it gets in the way or looks odd.)
  • Use it on multiple pages of your site
  • Explore related concepts by creating additional content and being the site on the web that is most comprehensive on the subject.
  • Use synonyms when appropriate
  • Don't do something unnatural like bolding just the keywords but not the equally important surrounding text.
  • Don't overuse the keyword. You really only need to use it a couple times in the right places. Concepts like keyword density have never been shown to increase rankings. Using a keyword too many times can make your writing stilted and get you an over-optimization penalty.
  • The concept of keyword density takes into account not to overuse your keyword. 2% keywords is the optimal portion for a good SEO. Jan 3, 2017 at 21:52
  • There is no such thing as "optimal keyword density". Pages at the top of search results vary widely on the keyword density metric. Even if there were, 2% is way too high. That is 1 out of every 50 words. Using a term more than two or three times on a page usually starts to feel spammy and unnatural. It is usually much better to focus on synonyms and clarity than on keyword reuse. Jan 3, 2017 at 21:56

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