There’s plenty of evidence that bolding text makes copy more readable. Research from the Nielsen Norman Group found that 79% of users scan any new pages they come across, with just 16% reading every word. Bolding key words and phrases is a great way of drawing readers to the areas you want them to focus on and highlighting the most important information – making copy instantly scannable.
With search engines becoming increasingly ‘human’ in the way they read and rank web pages, it makes sense that they would also place a greater importance on bolded words. And if the bolded words and phrases map to topics you wish to rank for, you would hopefully see a slight uplift in SEO.
What do the experts think?
However, as usual when it comes to understanding the intricacies of Google’s algorithms, it is very difficult to say for certain exactly what impact bolding text has, if any.
Moz’s latest bi-annual Search Engine Ranking Factors survey, which asked SEO experts to rate how important they felt bolding and italicising keywords is, saw the practice ranking as the 15th most important page-level SEO factor, suggesting that any direct impact is negligible.
However, the head of Google’s webspam team, Matt Cutts, has hinted that the search engine might look favourably on bolded phrases. In a video blog he clarified that there is no difference between bold and strong tags in terms of SEO. Many commentators have inferred from this that both have a greater impact than plain text.
Rules for going bold
- Don’t overdo it – bolding every other sentence can look spammy and be counter-productive, making your piece more difficult to read.
- Don’t focus on individual words – only bold self-contained phrases which would make sense out of context.
- Keep it natural – leave your bolding until you’ve finished your piece and then go through adding bolded phrases where they feel most natural.