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Bold Keywords for SEO: Do They Really Help? (And How to Do It Correctly)

If you’ve ever dabbled in content creation, you’ve likely encountered advice about using bold keywords for SEO.

But here’s the burning question: Does this tactic boost your website’s search engine ranking, or is it just another digital marketing myth? 

That’s what I set out to find.

This article explores the impact of highlighting keywords and debunks the common misconceptions.

Bonus point: You’ll also learn to use bold effectively to elevate your content game!

Table of Contents

How Do Google Crawlers Treat Bold Elements?

Google’s John Mueller shed some light on this matter back in 2021.

He mentioned that bold is a factor that the crawlers consider when determining a page’s topic and importance.

So, when you use bold text on a webpage, you are essentially highlighting specific words or phrases that you believe are crucial for conveying your content’s message.

I won’t dig deep into the technical details, but the gist is that the algorithms can calculate an Information Retrieval (IR) score to measure a document’s relevance to the search query.

As it happens, this score can be influenced by various ranking factors. The bold formatting technique is one of those factors.

For instance, content that is bolded may carry more weight in determining a page’s relevance compared to regular text. Similarly, matches in the title or those typed out with larger fonts might receive higher weighting in calculating the IR score.

Does Bolding Keywords Really Make a Difference?

The impact of bolding keywords in SEO is relative and closely tied to the overall content on the webpage.

In essence, the results of formatting tweaks typically align with the algorithm’s initial understanding of the page. Simply put, bolding doesn’t lead to significant rank changes.

Don’t just take my word for it.

Semrush conducted a test involving nearly 500 blog pages to see the impact of <strong> elements. The results? Inconclusive.

That’s not a surprise when you consider that SEO is a multifaceted discipline.

While content formats may have some influence, it’s essential to recognise that Google SEO encompasses many factors that collectively determine a page’s ranking on the SERP.

How to Test the Effect of Bold Content on Your Blog Posts

You can follow a simple and systematic methodology to test the effect of bolding on your SEO process.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to conducting a single-variable test:

1. Page and Keyword Selection

Choose a page on your website that already ranks reasonably well for the selected keyword.

Next, identify the most important keyword or phrase you want to work on. This bolded term should be relevant to the content on your page and align with your SEO goals.

2. Code Insertion

HTML code close up

To make the chosen content bold, insert the proper HTML code.

Your options include the <b> and <strong> tags. While these tags are slightly different, either will suffice for the test.

3. Monitoring the Changes

Now, all that’s left is to monitor changes in organic traffic and rankings.

Avoid making any other alterations to the page during the testing period to control the other variables.

3 Tips for Bolding Content Like a Pro

Ready to test bold keywords? Here are some SEO tips and tricks to help you out:

1. Keep It Sparse and Strategic 

If I were to give you one tip only, it would be: less is more.

For one, an article brimming with bold keywords may appear cluttered and unprofessional—no bueno.

Even if we ignore the aesthetics and user experience aspect, there are search engine penalties to consider. The last thing you want is to stuff keywords into the content just to have something too bold!

So, how do you keep things balanced?

One approach is to analyse competitor averages, which can provide insights into the best practices in your niche. This should also help you determine how much bold text is okay for your word count.

Additionally, you can extract all the bold words from the SERP snippets. By compiling and analysing this keyword list, you can avoid redundancy and pinpoint the most relevant terms.

Of course, relying on common sense is just as valuable. Think about which parts of your content readers might want to find quickly!

A blogger reading and writing online

2. Consider the Overall Accessibility

While bolding relevant keywords can enhance the content, it’s important to consider the reading experience for all users.

Some folks might find bold harder to read in long sections and entire paragraphs. Plus, screen readers may not grasp the formatting.

The fix? I’d recommend conducting regular audits to make sure your posts remain readable and navigable.

3. Don't Worry Too Much About the Differences Between the Tags

The <strong> tag indicates importance, while <b> defines bold text purely for styling purposes.

But don’t get bogged down by semantic differences. In practice, search engines treat these tags the same.

Matt Cutts, a renowned software engineer, confirmed this years ago.

Wrap-Up

Bold keywords can play a role, albeit a nuanced one. They offer a visual cue to readers and search engines, but their SEO impact remains modest.

Remember that the SEO process is a complex orchestra of various factors.

Bolding a few sentences here and there is never a replacement for posting high-quality content and adjusting the keyword density!

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Phillip Stemann
Phillip Stemann
I love SEO. It's what I live and breathe. I took a different approach than the average SEO expert. I started as a programmer, transitioned into the technical aspect of SEO, which I've always found interesting, and then focused on content using the right tools, which I'm reviewing on my YouTube channel.

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