Reader Response to Search Engines and Font Tags

    June 27, 2003

In a recent SEO Corner, a reader asked Shari Thurow how search engines are affected by various body elements. Web designer Lee Roberts offers some additional comments to her response.

To recap: Question: Since Netscape handles the spacing around heading tags (<H1>,<H2>, etc.) differently from IE, I have been forced to use large font tags (<font size=”6″>) and bold them, so I can keep the spacing consistent, cross-browser.

I’m aware that search engine spiders look for heading tags, before the rest of the content. Will they pick up on the large font tags in the same way as the heading tags, as prevalent keywords? Will the absence of heading tags be a detriment to my ranking? Should I go back to heading tags, and give up the aesthetics of appearance in Netscape?”

In her response to this question, Shari points out that one should use CSS to eliminate the deprecated <font> tag and that the font sizes would be consistent across all browsers.

Unfortunately, that is only a partial truth.

The question was essentially how does one use the <h> tag and get the spacing the same across various browsers. The answer to that question is use CSS, but that’s only a broad answer. The more correct answer is to set the CSS element “line-height” to a specific pixel height. Let’s say for example that I wanted to take my <h1> tag and make it a font-size of 10pt. In order to have the line-height, which is the measurement from the top to the bottom of the line the characters exist on, to be equal across all browsers I need to ensure that I set the line height or else the browser will set the line height to the expected size of the <h> tag.

Each browser has a default font and font-size. Check your preferences or settings in your browser for that information. When an <h> tag is encountered and a font-size is not established then the browser is programmed to take the default and increase it by a specific amount for each <h> tag. Of course, that increase could be a negative increase if the default font-size is set to a larger font-size than the <h> is expected to have.

Now, for the part about whether search engines would find that a <font size=”6″> equal in weight to an <h> tag. No, search engines make no difference in the font size of any element. A font size of 6, 1, or 24 will always be considered a font adjustment and add no weight to the text.

The concept that needs to be pointed out now is this: If you use <h1> on all of your content expect to be banned. If you improperly utilize codes, your site will be penalized. Learn how to use them correctly. More directly, throw out the old HTML and move on to the XHTML standards and then validate your codes.

Lee Roberts President/CEO of Rose Rock Design, Inc. and owner/developer of the Apple
Pie Shopping Cart
the search engine friendly shopping cart.