I recently did a long tail experiment to catch a few different search phrases.
See my introduction to the long tail, The New Long Tail of SEO, if you don’t know what I mean by that term.
Okay. Here’s the story.
Adventures in Blogging and Article Writing (since 1993)
One of the places I browse often for SEO wisdom and trends is SearchEngineLand. Here’s a good article they recommended: 33 Ways to Get Penalized By Google. Nothing earth-shattering there, but a good reminder of core best practices.
In other news, Fluff points out that Hubpages is back on Quantcast, and shows a slight uptick from the July 23 Panda 2.2 update. Way to go, HP! I don’t expect it ever to regain the hyper-inflated numbers it had before– I honestly do not believe its quality/spam ratio is more than double Squidoo’s– but I expect it to be fairly comparable.
I’m really pleased that Michael Martinez of SEO-Theory dropped by to check out my fledging experiments in boldface and SEO, although his shrewd comments remind me yet again why it is so much easier to parrot “common SEO wisdom” than test it.
Anyway, in my test pages, I’ve been flop-flopping which page of each pair has the boldface. At first, it took one to two weeks to see any shift in SERPs, but now Google has decided they are regularly-updated pages, and it’s picking up the changes within a few days now.
I’ve done 4 flip-flops where the only changes were switching which page of the pair was bold, and sure enough, each time I’ve done it, Google soon changes which one of them is listed first, which listed behind a “Similar results” link. I cannot be absolutely sure I’ve isolated all factors, but I think that’s enough for me, Jane Q. Blogger and Squidoo author, to be fairly confident that Google gives a little extra weight to text in boldface.
Of course, in this case, the biggest confirmation is that Matt Cutts of Google said that Google treats <b> and <strong>, <i> and <em> “with exactly the same weight.” Taken literally, “the same weight” could be zilch, but he wouldn’t have mentioned them unless Google gave them some significant weight. The only question is how significant. I’m guessing not much, but — here we go again — I haven’t tested enough to tell.
Note that <b> is actually a bad habit. I should have been testing <strong>. Back in the day, HTML mixed up two fundamentally different things: how to display something (bold, italic) versus what it is (a paragraph, a title, a header, a key word or important point). <b> and <i> are like specifying that you want medium rare without specifying that you’re talking about hamburger. It’s better to use tags to specify THINGS, and CSS to specify (if you must) how they look.
Does boldface text really have more SEO value than plain text?
I am persuaded by the rigorous testing and skepticism of Michael Martinez of SEO-Theory that when he says emphasized/boldfaced text has some (although not huge) SEO benefit, he’s checked it. He often castigates people for dispensing SEO advice that they haven’t verified using controlled experiments (with all other variables isolated, so one knows for sure which factor is causing the result).
Since I’m guilty as charged, I conducted a few experiments. I discovered that (a) it’s really hard to eliminate all factors but the one you’re testing for, and (b) yes, it looks like boldface gives a SLIGHT seo boost.
Left: The image I used for the lens logo of each test lens, renamed with that test’s keyword.
Click “More” to read the details of my tests and results.