DIY SEO: Step 3 – Headings, Bold and Italics

Oct 16, 2008 | SEO for WordPress

This is the fifth post in our DIY SEO for WordPress series.

We’re heading into more familiar territory in this step. You’re probably already used to highlighting words and phrases within your text using bold and italics. The only thing new here is to be a little more purposeful about your highlighting.

Purposeful Use of Bold and Italics

You want to make sure you highlight your keywords and keyword phrases when they appear in your text. Whether you use bold or italics is up to you – use whichever fits best in your post. With each, a flag is raised to the search engines which means, “Hey – this word or phrase is important.” The more your “important” words and phrases match your keywords and keyword phrases, the more relevant the search engines will consider your content. Makes sense, right?

So, do you have to make EVERY appearance of your keywords and keyword phrases bold or italic? Because, you know, that has the potential to look kind of overstated or strange to the people reading your content. The answer lies in that dance we do when optimizing for both human eyes and search engine eyes. Err in favor of your human readers. If it looks dorky to have every instance of a keyword bolded, then don’t bold every instance of it. If it doesn’t look dorky, bold away! And remember, your opinion of what looks dorky is the one that matters, so just go with your gut. The rest of us will go with the flow, I promise.

Take the Time to Use Headings

The use of headings throughout your text pleases both people and search engines. People like them because they break up your content into manageable chunks and search engines like them because they’re yet another indicator of what your content is about.

Think about it. You’re busy, right? And you’re always pressed for time, or at least it feels that way. So what do you do most when you’re online? You scan. You don’t read everything you see, you scan it to see if you want to take the time to read it. Headings make scanning easier. They draw people in to your content, and if they’re written well, they – alone – should be able to convey your core message.

HTML offers six different heading tags, <H1></H1> through <H6></H6>, and in their default state, H1 is the biggest font-size-wise, and H6 is the smallest.

Of course, search engines don’t care how big the font is (because they don’t have eyes to see it the way we do), but to the search engines, H1 is the most important, H2 is the next most important, and so on down to H6, like in an outline. It’s this hierarchy of importance that’s meaningful to search engines, so remember that as you use headings throughout your content.

I’m pretty sure you can guess what I’m going to tell you next: Make sure you are putting your keywords and keyword phrases in those headings! Headings, bold and italics are important for your readers and for the search engines, so make sure you make good use of all three in your content!

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