SEO is such a broad topic that it can be difficult to really know what parts of your store and content will actually have an impact. Despite that, we’re always looking for all the small opportunities that will improve a page’s chances of climbing up SERPs.
Today we’re looking at one of those small opportunities - formatting. Is this something that truly matters for your SEO? And if it is, what are some general rules to follow?
Quick Recap: What is formatting?
Formatting involves using HTML elements that change how text appears on a page. This might be through using bold or italic text, or through <strong> HTML tags. It also includes the use of header tags, such as H1 and H2.
This is especially helpful when writing blogs or creating landing pages for your store. It helps both users and search engines better understand how your content is laid out and can act as a sort of summary. They can scan the page and see exactly what the “highlights” are.
In the above snippet from an article by Gooseberry Intimates, the H2 header tag makes it clear the topic of this particular section of an article and the bold text highlights and summarizes the most important parts of this section.
Does formatting affect SEO ranking?
Google’s algorithm is shrouded in secrecy, and we aren’t often given specifics about what is and isn’t a ranking factor. When it comes to formatting, it’s actually a little unclear. HTML formatting alone isn’t going to influence ranking, for example if you’re simply highlighting keywords in bold. However it might influence ranking through user experience.
User experience is at the top of Google’s priority list. The better the user experience on a page, the more likely it will be to rank. Formatting helps both users and bots understand and interpret content on a page, so in this way it is going to help with SEO. Google’s John Mueller had this to say in 2021:
So while it’s not a direct ranking factor, it’s a small optimization you can do that’s going to help bots and users. That in turn can help your ranking along with other on-page optimizations.
4 tips to improve your formatting
Formatting’s influence on SEO may be somewhat ambiguous, but there’s one thing that’s for certain - formatting is still useful. It can help user experience, and it can aid search engine crawlers. That alone makes it worthwhile. Anything which can aid UX and search crawling is a good thing because that will influence SEO.
#1 - Use header tags to summarize content and show hierarchy
Header tags such as H1, H2 and so on show users and search engine crawlers the hierarchy or importance of content in a page as well as the topics within that page. The H1 tag is the title - so this would be the product name on a product page, or the primary title of a blog. H2 would denote a subsection within that page, H3 denotes subsections within an H2 tag, and so on.
Using these correctly will help customers and search bots to scan the content and understand it better.
#2 - Emphasize content using bold, italic, and underline
Using bold, italicized, and underlined text may not do much for ranking, but it helps to highlight phrases and words within text. This can improve the user experience, as it shows readers important content.
As for its impact on SEO, it can still help to show bots potentially important points within a larger piece of content. If you’re writing a blog for example, it gives something more specific for a bot to look for.
Use this kind of formatting sparingly - highlighting an entire block of text will do nothing to help users or bots. Focus on useful phrases and keywords throughout your content that will aid users in scanning it and bots in finding those important points.
#3 - Provide extra resources using internal and external links
Adding both internal and external links to pages is a great tool for both customers and search engines. While not strictly formatting in the same way as header tags, linking is still an important part of the content of any page on your site. It provides users with a better experience, and this won’t go unnoticed by search engines. Links also provide search engine crawlers with a better sense of topical relevance between pages.
Linking is a really easy tool to implement into your content - simply make it part of the process for reviewing any content on your site. Are there any additional resources a reader or customer might find useful? If so, find the opportunities to link and add them in. For example, if you’re writing a gift guide blog article, include links to the products mentioned. If you mention your FAQ on a product page, link to it. The extra effort will be appreciated, as well as improving your page’s SEO.
#4 - Use images and graphics to enhance your content
Visual content is perhaps the best way to enhance any piece of ecommerce content. After all, how do customers know what they’re buying without an image? If they’re reading a blog about how to brew the perfect cup of coffee with an aeropress, surely some demonstrative images would help? 93% of customers consider product images to be a key factor when making a purchasing decision.
Images and other graphics are an easy addition to content that have a big impact on user experience. For product pages, have more than one product image to show the customer the product from different angles. This is especially important if you’re selling apparel, furniture, or another product which may look different from certain angles. Add extra images throughout the product page demonstrating the product’s unique features or qualities, or graphics to help determine size, materials, or other features.
When it comes to other content on your site such as landing pages or blog articles, consider what visual content would be the most helpful for users. That might be an image demonstrating how a product is used, or a diagram showing a technique, for example.
For all images and graphics you add, ensure they’re optimized for SEO by checking image file sizes, and adding alt text. The former will help with page speed, and the latter will help with accessibility and image keywords.
Formatting is something that’s often taken for granted when creating content for a store. However it’s also something that can have an impact on user experience and in turn, SEO. When you’re looking for any and every opportunity to help boost chances of climbing SERPs, formatting can be an easy win.