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Basic HTML for Better SEO: What Does Google Think?

Updated on February 3, 2015

Good Use of HTML Does Make A Difference, on Squidoo and the Web

Have you ever wondered if Google likes it when you make bold text? What about headlines, how does Google view those? What about lens tags, how many is too many and how does Google look at them?

In the Squidoo Forums there are questions asked regularly about HTML and/or CSS and how to use it in your lens - and there are a bunch of really good lenses about using HTML and/or CSS in your lens. In this lens I'm not going to teach you how to start using HTML. Instead, I've researched specific examples of how Google actually reads and weighs the HTML you do use. When you make bold text, Google sees that. When you make it italic, it sees that too. Also when you add a link, and what words you use in a link. And what words other pages use to link to your lens.

content is king
content is king

Recent Search Engine Updates Make Content Important

These aren't hard and fast rules - and as you'll read in a million places, your priority needs to be writing the best content you possibly can. That will take you farther than any other HTML tricks or keyword gimmicks. Good content will last, and good content likes to be shared by people socially (Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.).

Google, with recent Panda and Penguin updates (and a bunch of little tweaks after each one), is getting smarter all the time - all search engines are. They're being programmed to look at pages more realistically, more like real people.

This means they're harder to fool, but that's very good news for you and me who otherwise do not have a chance of competing with savvy, gimmick-filled internet marketers.

How Does Google View Bold and Italic Text?

Good Use of Bold & Italic Text Can Make a Biggest Difference for Real Readers

One of the first and most basic things you can do to make a few words or a sentence pop out is to make it bold or italic. You do this using the and tags for bolded text and the and tags for italicized text.

The difference between these tags is important to know. For example, the tag tells the browser strictly what the text should look like while tells the browser that the words needs special emphasis. It's a visual-vs-semantic difference. Browsers render them both bold, but software used by people with disabilities (such as screen readers) will most likely give more important to the STRONG tag rather than the B tag. The same is true for and , respectively. But keep in mind the way a screen reader renders the page has nothing to do with how the page ranks in Google.

Google will see these tags and will note what words are effected by them. But these are HTML tags aimed at visually styling the page, not inherently related to content, so...

Does using bold or italic text really make a difference in SEO? Likely, very little real effect is gained from an SEO standpoint. Google knows that if it places too much weight on words enclosed by , , , or then it can be easily fooled by marketers cramming keywords into the page to falsely get a high ranking.

The search engine hawks at SEOMoz place such tags about #16 in important factors of SEO... basically, meaning any positive effect of using them is negligible at best. That being said, they also say that using more than once on a page for a keyword is too much.

Google is reported to have a slight preference for the tag, but with such a negligible difference using may be preferable due to it's semantic use (screen readers ignore text whereas they read text with more emphasis). They both look the same to the viewer.

Not putting undue emphasis on these tags allows the writer to use them judiciously, in a way that will help the reader get the point(s) of the lens without confusion. There's no temptation to cram or into the lens for SEO benefits and simultaneously confuse your reader.

VERDICT: Do use , , , and to highlight aspects of your article and make the main points stand out. Don't use them for better SEO. Do use them for readability and highlighting important points.

title tags correlation to SEO
title tags correlation to SEO

Is Google Really In Love With Page Titles?

Search Engines Like Pages with Descriptive Titles Better than Pages Without Them

Yes. That's the short answer. The reason Google loves title tags (which is the

HTML tag) is because they tell you what the page is about.

The graph at the right shows the importance Google gives to keywords in the page title - the high end of the red line (left part of the graph) means Google is giving more weight to a title that utilizes keywords better. Using a keyword closer to the beginning of the title also makes a difference as you can see.

What's the difference between title and headline (


etc. - we'll go through these next) tags? The tag can only be used once on a page - it's the title of the page you see in the browser (so if your lens was a book, then the Title would be, literally, the title of the book). It's what you see in search engine results and what you see in your bookmarks once you bookmark a page. Oftentimes, it's the very first thing a new reader sees as they visit your lens. If you bookmark a page, this is the title (the highlighted text in the "name" box):

For this lens I've lifted screenshots from my own lens, 6 Best Unusual Tie Knots

The title is not the URL of the web page - although Squidoo will by default make them the same as you use the 'Create a New Lens' wizard. We'll talk about the URL, or web path, of your lenses later.

On Squidoo, this is how you edit the

tag of your page: (notice the "edit title" button to the right of the title)

Unlike the actual URL of the lens, you can edit and publish the title as many times as you want. You will probably end up tweaking your titles over time to get the best click and traffic results.

Now, just as with anything you put on your page this tag can be 'hacked' also and crammed with keywords, but Google is smart enough to know when you're trying to cheat their system. If you write your headlines and titles as if you're writing for a real live person, Google can tell - and they will give you some kudos and bump your page up a bit as a reward. Write your titles like a normal person reads them, and Google will like you.

Using keywords in your title is one of the best ways to tell Google what your page is about and to help your ranking - it gives the basic idea of what you're talking about so people can scan it easier.

SeoMOZ notes that "keyword usage in the title tag [is] the most important place to use keywords to achieve high rankings."

But can't you just cram as much into the

tag to really blow your SEO ranking out of the water? Short answer: No. When creating titles for your lens(es), a good rule of thumb is to keep the length of your title under 70 characters. This isn't a hard and fast rule, but it is a good guideline to follow based on research and experience of SEO professionals.

VERDICT: If you could get your keyword right only once on your page, let it be in the title. Do write normal titles and include your keyword. Don't cram too many keywords into the title. Do keep the title succinct and descriptive. Don't turn it into a novel.

Is Google Really In Love With... HTML Header Tags?

Header Tags Can Greatly Improve Readability for Your Readers

Short answer: Kinda, but not a lot. HTML header tags (

through ) are the best way webpages can be sectionalized. Think of header tags this way: If you use them correctly, when grouped together they make up a concise table of contents and give a brief synopsis of what the lens talks about. Header tags used to carry more importance in SEO than they do today.

People don't read an article unless they have a keen interest in the topic. Nowadays, we scan articles and pick out the highlights (and here's why people scan webpages).

Using descriptive header tags lets the reader quickly know what's in the lens as a whole and find a specific section in your lens they want to read. For this reason also, you'll hear the recommendation to write shorter, more concise paragraphs - people can scan smaller blocks of text faster than they can scan larger blocks.

Do header tags make a difference in SEO? Yes and no. The

tag is the one to watch for - the others (

through ) have little if any impact on SEO ranking.

HTML header tags through have little if any impact on SEO ranking.

Squidoo removes the question for you by automatically creating the

tag for you; it uses the same phrase you use in the page title. The rest of the tags are also ready-made for you by Squidoo. In the screenshot below, the

tag is the bigger wording, and the is the smaller one beneath it.

Note: Squidoo will not let you use header tags in your modules. If you insert text in a header tag, the text will be removed when you save out of the module.

VERDICT: Using your keyword in the

is important, but not vitally so. Given that Squidoo does makes the tag for you without offering you a choice, worry about the title tag and forget it.

How Important Is the URL?

Accurate URLs Can Be a Shot in the Arm for Users Remembering a Webpage Later

The short answer is, Yes, it's important - but not absolutely vital.

URLs (Universal Resource Locators) are the readable, text-based versions of IP addresses (Internet Protocol addresses). The way computers used to locate webpages, way back when, was by connecting to a website using something like this: - instead of this:

Google and Bing (don't knock Bing 'til you give it a fair try) like URLs to be descriptive, and having keywords in there is important also. However, as with anything, trying to cheat can be harmful so only use one or two keywords in your URL. Once more, Google is smart enough to know when the URL is more readable to the user, so if you craft your lens URL to make sense to someone looking for that topic you will be fine.

An example of "Good-vs-Bad" URLs might go like this:

The URL above is too long to remember, doesn't read naturally, and looks like it's packed with keywords. People really use URLs like that sometimes!

A much better way to write the URL for a lens about tie knots is like this:

Doesn't that make more sense? Google thinks so too, and it will thank you for it. As a ranking factor, having a good URL is not a make-or-break thing - other stuff like good backlinks, good titles, and well written content can easily outweigh the negatives of having a bad URL but Google will give you a bit of a boost if your URL matches the page content as nicely as possible.

In the Squidoo New Lens wizard, the top-most text box is for the page title (very important!) and the next text box down is the lens URL (also important!):

Squidoo will automatically fill in the URL text box for you, but you can change it manually as well. Here's a list of best URL practices to keep in mind as you create each new lens.

VERDICT: Writing clear and easy to remember URLs is vital to how people remember where your lens is if they want to come back later. Google also indexes the keywords used in the URL - so good use of the URL is a factor in better SEO.

good content for best seo
good content for best seo

The Biggest Thing!

The Single Best Thing You Can Do Is...

The biggest way you can benefit your lens' ranking in Google, Bing, or another search engine is by writing good content. You hear this all over the place, basically anywhere you ask about SEO. The reason you hear it so often? Because it's absolutely, 100% true.

Search engines aren't meant to be 'hacked' or 'loopholed' into giving one page a higher rank than another without good cause. Search engines are meant, right form their beginning, to help people find information. They're tools real people use to find what they want. Even if you could cheat your way to top of Google, if you had bad content, most of those users would leave anyway!

Search engines are not meant to be 'hacked' - they're meant to connect people with information. And the better quality information, the better the traffic.

Writing good content on interesting topics increases the chance you find better quality readers - the kind of readers more likely to buy, to bookmark and come back later, and the more likely to share your lens socially. Keyword and market research will help you find good topics to write about.

I hope these tips have helped, and maybe cleared up even a little how Google looks at some of the components on a webpage. Now, let's go make the web a better place. :)

As I do more research I'll try to keep this page updated with what I find.

New Guestbook Comments

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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Thank you so much for posting this guide. In Italy such manuals do not exist, I was forced to learn English.

      If you want, visit my website at least you learn Italian: D

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      @Elsie Hagley: I agreed. This information helps much to do the SEO for website to get top ranking. Vietnam tour expert

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Nice Lens, very helpful. Thank You.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Nice lens! I am seeing tons of helpful information here! Thanks for sharing

      Vietnam Travel

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Great lens, especially for new comers on the internet, interested in what google likes and doesn't like.

      Even I found some new tips I didn't know. Thanks for a wonderful helpful page. Blessed.

    • TheLittleCardShop profile image

      Malu Couttolenc 

      5 years ago

      Excellent tips. I bookmarked for future reference :)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thanks so very much for such useful information and great tips. You rock!

    • ozpetslover profile image


      5 years ago

      Wow, thanks so much for posting these tips.

    • ozpetslover profile image


      5 years ago

      Wow, thanks so much for posting these tips.

    • JBradshaw profile image


      5 years ago

      Very thorough explanation of using Html. Personally, I like when people bold their keywords. Then I can see what keywords they are trying to rank for :) +++Blessed+++

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Ive just started learning SEO. Your lens is a great point. Thanks!

    • Judith Nazarewicz profile image

      Judith Nazarewicz 

      5 years ago from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

      Really useful information and tips! :-)

    • srsddn lm profile image

      srsddn lm 

      5 years ago

      Very useful, specific tips. Sometimes a small change can make a big difference. Thanks for sharing.

    • ChuckDickens profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @Gypzeerose: Wow - Thank you so much for the social love! I think that's a first for my lenses. :)

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      5 years ago

      Really, really good lens! Pinned to my Internet Marketing Potpourri board, out by g+ and blessed.


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