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Cascading style sheets (CSS) are a great way to control how Web pages look. They make it easy to separate the presentation from the structure of the content. However, some people go overboard and use CSS in ways it shouldn't. When this happens, AdSense publishers often find that the ads being displayed on their sites are mistargeted. What's happening?

As I explain in Make Easy Money with Google, HTML is a markup language. Its primary purpose is to describe the structure of a Web page. Tags let you specify which parts are headings, which are paragraphs, what the title is, and so on. HTML tags also let you format text using tags like <i> and <b> to indicate italic and bold text, for example. However, much of the formatting was done poorly and it polluted the content — there were <font> tags all over the place and all kinds of tricks were done with <table> tags to get things to position where the Web page designers wanted them.

The emergence of CSS removed the need for many HTML formatting tricks, which is great. HTML returned to describing the structure of a document. However, there are a few tags that you should not remove. For example, don't remove the header tags (<h1> and so on). Don't remove <b> or <i> tags. The tags are used by AdSense and search engines to figure out which keywords are prominent and important in your content. If you take them out, you're making it harder for them to figure out what your content is all about. Leave them in, but take out the other formatting tricks.