Is there a difference between the “strong” and “b” tags in terms of SEO?

By | November 7, 2019


Today’s question comes
from Jean-Marc in Paris. Jean-Marc wants to
know, in terms of SEO, what is the difference
between strong and the b tag for emphasis
on certain words of text. From the user perspective,
both tags have the same effect, words are shown in bold. Which tag should we use,
in which circumstances? OK, this sounded like
a familiar topic. And I felt like I’d
answered this one before. So I went and I searched,
went through my mail. And I think we had
answered it before. But it was in 2006. So I’m going to give
you the state of the art answer as of 2006. I don’t think the answer
has changed in any way, but let me just add
that small caveat. Back then, whenever we
checked, strong and b were treated the exact same in
terms of ranking and scoring and how they’re indexed
and all that sort of stuff. Likewise, there’s
also the E-M, the em, and the i, stands for
italics, and those were treated exactly the same. And you could use
either one, and it wouldn’t make a difference
in terms of Google ranking. So things might have
changed since 2006. But I really kind of doubt it. I was always under
the assumption that b and i have kind
of been deprecated. But it looks like they’re
still around in HTML5. It does seem like
strong and em are sort of the new hotness that
a lot of people prefer to use. But technically, one is
talking about the presentation and is definitely saying bold. The other one is sort of a
semantic label that says, well, treat this as strong. But in practice, every
browser just goes ahead and makes it bold. So the short answer is,
don’t worry about it. As far as I know,
Google will treat the strong and the bold
the same and the em and the italics the same. And so you don’t need
to worry about it from that point of view. So whatever you want to do as
far as deciding the semantics and whether you feel strongly
about one way or the other, that’s totally fine. Because I don’t think that
it will matter to Google.

46 thoughts on “Is there a difference between the “strong” and “b” tags in terms of SEO?

  1. ROLANDPICTURES Post author

    I think? You are big guy in G and still not 100% sure? 😀

    Reply
  2. egyptik Post author

    The tags have the same effect on normal browsers, but there is a fundamental difference between them.

    Bold is a style – it means to add more "ink" around the letters so they stand out. That unfortunately means nothing to a blind person.

    Strong however is an indication of how something should be understood. Strong could mean "bold" in a browser, but it could also mean a lower tone for a speaking program for blind people (Jaws). Do some searches for "Tim Berners-Lee" and "the semantic web" 🙂

    Reply
  3. Christian Morgan Post author

    @RolandPictures – nobody knows how it works any more – the Google engine has gone Skynet and develops itself these days!

    Reply
  4. Antonio Ooi Post author

    Ya…..again, for "users", not for "search engine". ^^

    Reply
  5. Alex Alexi Post author

    Is there a difference between the "Hummingbird" and the "Google Adwords" updates?

    Reply
  6. Kyle Risley Post author

    There are many engineers making updates to the algorithms that return search results. It is not always understood how each small change will affect others and it's not reasonable to expect someone to keep track of them all.

    I know what you mean, and it is frustrating to hear "I think," but not even Amit fully understands each and every ranking factor and they play with each other.

    Source: Talked with someone on the search quality team.

    Reply
  7. No Configuration Post author

    I think they dont care if you are using these tags. If they would, it would be easy to use it for spam.

    Reply
  8. Nick Soares Post author

    Thats him reducing liability, when he says "I Think" its a for sure thing 🙂

    Reply
  9. Pomme-de-terre Post author

    Strong or b, it´s a question of the past i think, the question is, what is a good content When you sell the same product like 90% of your opponent…

    Reply
  10. Michael Quinn Post author

    You THINK they are the same. How about asking around and finding out?????

    Reply
  11. Hobbit Stomper Post author

    He's talking about Google as if it's a person…. Skynet is that you?

    Reply
  12. Benoit Quimper Post author

    I wish you had answered whether they carry any weight at all. As a web user, rarely am I interested in bolded parts.

    Reply
  13. Adrian Madaras Post author

    I think we should use 'b' (bold) not 'strong' for having *smaller pages*, because Google think is the same, but it care about *page size*.
    I do understand that tags has differences like 'egyptik' said, thanks for that.

    Reply
  14. Kevin Hardey Post author

    I'm not sure whether the "b" or "strong" are used or not in the algo. But I would in Google's place and it would be easy to factor in and deal with spam. I find that from a "conceptual" point of view and for understanding my content that I prefer to use "b" for text that I want to make stand out but that are not necessarily more "important" in terms of the page "meaning". I then use "strong" when I want the text to stand out and it is relevant to the page "meaning". (Same for 'i' and 'em' btw)

    Reply
  15. Joshua Jacoby Post author

    cool to have something from the source! It does seems like how the text renders is how it is read, not how it is coded. For instance, I could use CSS on a paragraph tag to make my font 40 pixels and bolder, maybe even a text shadow, and all these things should cause Google to treat that text like a heading – in fact, if my h2 is smaller and that paragraph tag is larger, bolder and toward the top, in my observation it will be accorded the greater importance, due to how it renders.

    Reply
  16. Marouane El Kerri Post author

    I bet there's one question Matt can't answer: Why is the check-in behind showing Fes ?

    Reply
  17. texxs01 Post author

    Nope Matt, strong and em the old school way now. HTML 5 is here, we use b and i now. Less characters, more authentic.
    I guess he's been a spokesman for quite a while now… it happens…

    (Stupid Google won't let me use real tags in the comments bout tags)

    Reply
  18. Unique SEO Tips and Tricks Post author

    Great dude! Thanks for sharing the information.

    Reply
  19. Martin Arden Post author

    What I want to know is if there's a difference between "dumb f**k", "dumb s**t", and "dumb a**" when we're describing most so-called SEOs.

    Reply
  20. TOMYSSHADOW Post author

    This is completely false.
    em and strong are used for in-context emphasis. For example, take the sentence "You should NOT go swimming today." The word NOT would use em or strong. It needs extra emphasis or it won't get noticed.
    b and i are used purely for typographical purposes – such as titles, logos, or anything standing on it's own that needs a little extra oomph.
    You also forgot to mention… CSS! If something occurs more than once on your site, such as a button, CSS classes should be used.

    Reply
  21. ameen jeb Post author

    so do we understand that encapsulating content keywords between b or strong tags is not considered as an major optimization factor or not one at all?

    Reply
  22. Anibal Post author

    I don't know why Matt would choose to make a video on a question he does't know the answer to. He could have just emailed Jean-Marc saying 'I don't know'!

    Reply
  23. Windy City Steam Post author

    What about if I don't use either tag, but I make it "bold" with a CSS style? Does google also view that as "important keywords"??

    Reply
  24. Spook SEO Post author

    I think Matt's running out of questions to answer. Maybe tweet him some better ones?

    Reply
  25. GASAK GSAH Post author

    thank you.For example, take the sentence "You should NOT go swimming today

    Reply
  26. KANOS 1 Post author

    So The New tip is use Bold or Strong on your keywords in your website as he said go ahead and use any, he didn't say anything like it will not help with SEO (read between The Lines People)

    Reply
  27. Daniel Fortes Post author

    In '06 I pretty much hated computers and wanted nothing to do with them. Funny how things change.

    Reply
  28. Andrey Andrey Post author

    WOW let me enlighten you people, the difference between <b> and <strong> is the same as the difference between potato and pottato. There is none, please spare me the "but but one is stylistically used and the other is aesthetic" whaaa whaaaa cry me a river your massaging the semantics and wasting everyone time including yours. 

    Reply
  29. Jaden aden Post author

    Anyone focused on Strong and B is wasting valuable time on SEO nuances. Just focus on bring people into a quality site first

    Reply
  30. Remko van der Zwaag Post author

    SEO's should use more common sense and this question shouldn't have been asked.

    Reply
  31. Tim Adam Post author

    Too bad he didnt ask about the <span style="font-weight: bold;">, this is more interesting than the b/strong.

    Reply
  32. Dimitris Mitsos Post author

    "I don't think it will matter to Google" Great answer!! Well it will still matter in terms of speed <b></b> vs <strong></strong> its 10 chars difference so page load will be "faster" with <b>B</b>

    Reply
  33. Gaddiyan Post author

    I was also confused about these tags that how Google treats these tags but they are performing the same … But today its clear that they works same in goolge ranking and in webdesigning..Thanks goolge Webmaster

    Reply
  34. Marco Vanali Post author

    how can you give an answer saying "I think.." i doubt" "I think". I mean if you give an answer before check the documentation . Otherwise you risk to give a wrong direction about how to use the two tags.

    Reply
  35. Hassan Learning Post author

    I agree with with the presenter. Perhaps in the human eye, both are the same, however, should the text formatted <strong> tag is read in screen reader software then it would differentiate the two semantically. Hence, the strong tag would read the software in different vocal inflexion than the other rest text in the paragraph, whereas <b> tag is merely for presentation use only. In my opinion as a good author, it is good practice to use both tags respectively. I hope this help.

    Reply

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