If you’re not sure what on-page SEO is, I can basically describe it this way: it’s the collection of on-page (and on-site) aspects of what you can do to improve how appealing your page is to search engines.
Generally speaking, there are 2 aspects, or sides, of SEO: on-page, and off-page. Off-page has to do with the aspects of SEO that are not on your page, such as incoming links from other sites.
If you’ve ever followed an on-page SEO checklist (especially one from a number of years ago), you may have seen something to the effect of, ‘Did you bold, underline, or italicize your main keyword?’
The idea was that by adding extra emphasis to your main (or secondary) keywords, you were telling the search engines that you were emphasizing the importance of such words.
But, that’s ‘old school,’ isn’t it? Does it still work today?
Well, the validity of bolding was asked during the English Google SEO Office-Hours From November 12, 2021.
“Someone was arguing that bolding important parts in a paragraph can boost your SEO. Does it?”
The video below is queued to the 40-minute, 22-second mark, which is when this was brought up:
John Mueller’s response was:
“Yeah, I think 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.
Why You Should Be Wise in Your Use of Emphasis
“The other thing is that this is, to a large extent, relative within the web page.
“So if you go off and say, ‘Well, I will just make my whole page bold, and then Google will think my page is the most important one,’ then by making everything bold, essentially, nothing is bold because it's all the same.
“Whereas, if you take a handful of sentences or words within your full page where you say, ‘This is really important for me,’ and you bold those, then it's a lot easier for us to say, ‘Well, here's a lot of text, and this is potentially one of the most important points of this page.’
“And we can give that a little bit more value. And essentially, what that kind of goes into is everything around semantic HTML where you're giving a little bit more meaning to a page by using the proper markup for the page.
“And from our point of view, that's good. It helps us to understand the page a little bit better. So if you want to simplify it to a 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.”