Since the dawn of contemporary SEO, it has been theorised that the use of bold has SEO value both in terms of improving the on-page experience and appealing to Google’s crawlers, which apparently appreciate the appropriate use of bold.
We have official confirmation from the horse’s mouth; Google’s John Mueller has gone on record to confirm that the strategic use of bolding can indeed make a positive contribution to a site’s SEO score.
Is This More Than a Stylistic Issue?
Specifically, Mueller was quizzed in a recent Google Search Central SEO office-hours hangout as to whether the use of bold is exclusively a stylistic issue. SEOs have always believed in bolding as a potential ranking factor, but no official word had been provided by Google.
“This is something that comes up every now and then. I double checked before the session, actually, and Matt Cutts did a video, I think, in like, 2012 or something around that about bolding and strong on pages.
So usually, we do try to understand what the content is about on a web page, and we look at different things to try to figure out what is actually being emphasized here, and that includes things like headings on a page.
But it also includes things like what is actually bolded or emphasized within the text on the page. So to some extent that does have a little bit of extra value there, in that it’s a clear sign that actually you think this page or this paragraph is about this topic here.
And usually that aligns with what we think the page is about anyway, so it doesn’t change that much.
If you want to kind of like simplify it to one word answer, does bolding important points on a paragraph help the SEO, yes it does. It does help us to better understand that paragraph or that page.”
Careful Moderation is Key
He made it abundantly clear that getting carried away with bolding can have the opposite of the intended effect:
“The other thing is that this is to a large extent relative within the web page. If you go off and say well I will just make my whole page bold and then Google think we’ll think my page is the most important one, then by making everything bold essentially nothing is bold because it’s all the same.”
In summary, this would suggest that the strategic use of bold can be great for giving Google the heads-up on the most important parts of any given piece of text. But when bold is used too liberally, it dilutes the potential value of the whole thing.
Food for thought, particularly for those who have a tendency to overuse bold in their web copy.