A poor quality Search Engine Optimization (SEO) heading can do the opposite effect of streamlining your content to the top of people’s internet searches. In fact, heading tags are some of the most important tags to get right the first time! Let’s break it down:
Search Engine Optimization and Headings
Heading tags, or H-tags, have 6 levels of headings that are used to prioritize your content. Think of it like tags for a YouTube video that you are uploading, or even tags for code in a website.
Normally, these tags don’t need any special consideration, but for SEO headings for articles, more attention is needed. When your heading doesn’t follow a clear structure for search engines to understand code words, it can impact search rankings considerably.
Why Should You Use H-tags?
A basic Google search is a good start to understanding why SEO headings are important to your business.
Here’s what Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller has to say about how the search engine company works to rank searches:
“We do give it a slight boost if we see a clear heading on a page because we understand this page is clearly about this topic.”
“We do use H-tags to understand the structure of the text on a page better.”
John Mueller confirmed that H1 headings are good for outlining the page structure.
What he means is that the heading elements can work together to create a top-level outline of what your page is about. That’s a macro overview of what the web page is about.
The W3c, the official body that administers HTML guidelines, offers an HTML validator that shows you the “outline” of a web page.
When validating a web page, select the “Show Outline” button. It’s a great way to see a page just by the outline that your heading elements create.
Using what Mueller says to learn, we know that Google simply wants to understand what your content is about. And the best way to do it is with H-tags! In fact, it’s Google’s mission to organize information for all over the world and make it accessible and useful to everybody.
Right now, there are over 1.7 billion websites in the world, and it’s only going to continue growing.
This is a grand challenge to organize for companies like Google because they need H-tags to prioritize the quality and relevance of every single site.
Along with H-tags, alignment of heading structure in conjunction with page titles and meta descriptions are only some of the useful tools Google deploys to achieve its overall mission.
Does Google Use Heading Tags in SEO?
QUOTE: “Google looks at a lot of different things we look at over 200 things PageRank is just one of them whenever we rank things other things we use things in the title things in the URL even you know things that are like really highlighted like h1 tags and stuff like that.” Matt Cutts, Google
As an SEO expert, I’ve always laid out the content on my website with heading tags, not just from an SEO standpoint but also from a user experience. Always take the stance of the reader. Don’t cram your content onto the page, lay it out neatly where it’s easy to read and follow.
Header tags and the User Experience
The content of your page should be structured and presented along with headings. Like this!
Think of the appearance for any basic website you know. If you peruse around it, you’ll find that the website developers specifically created a rule-set to define exactly how their content is displayed on their website. From photos, text, HTML plug-ins, etc.
This is called a Cascading Style Sheet, or CSS. These style sheets ensure fonts, colors, and structures are accurately displayed on the website.
This rule-set helps users know how to intuitively navigate sections of your site. The style sheet can define headings like ‘H-1s’ to be bolder and larger than ‘H-2s’, and so on.
This helps people scan the page better and understand introductory content and the subsequent content that follows down the path they take. If the CSS is poorly defined, then it’s tougher to correct in the future. That’s why it’s best to get it done right the first time!
Headings, Keywords, and SEO
So we know that search engines give headings more attention than any other content. But what about keywords? It turns out that choosing the right keywords is proven to improve your search-ability and guide people to your content.
The various text and phrases used inside heading tags can improve rankings for various terms and topics. This is where the skill and experience of creating the right SEO come into play.
H-tags can be any length and order of characters. This means there can be any number of headings on a page, which is usually up to the developer or author creating them.
This means that creating a proper SEO isn’t a binary process, but a competitive one that can make optimizing your search results so exciting!
How Many Headings Do I Need?
Answer: “As many as you want.” John Mueller, Google
This argument seems to confuse and aggravate HTML experts, too.
Google evidently does not care that much, and it will probably attempt to ignore any attempt to manipulate it anyway.
While header tags are a primary factor for the Google search engine, their message about this is typically vague. Revolucion One’s approach is based on professional experience, user best practices, and third-party testing. Taking all this into account, we think the most effective use of headings is whatever serves your content requirements best.
Your content is best enhanced when it has one H-1 tag that outlines the primary topic of the page. However many H2 to H6 tags are reliant on the length and nature of your content. It’s important to keep a consistent sequence of orders.
Do not skip levels! Do not take this tip lightly; In a study measuring the importance of the H-1 tag in an article made of multiple H-2 tags, the results demonstrated that search engines paid attention to the first tag the most. The H-1 tag.
H1-H6: How Many Keywords Can I Use?
If using multiple H1 or headings – I certainly would not be stuffing them with keywords outwith any norm.
I can’t find any definitive proof online that says you need to use Heading Tags (H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6) or that they improve rankings in Google, and I have seen pages do well in Google without them – but I do use them, especially the H1 tag on the page.
It is another piece of a perfect page, in the traditional sense, and I try to build a site for search engines and humans.
<h1>Revolucion One SEO Company, Perth</h1>
Generally, I only use one <h1> heading tag in my keyword targeted pages. In my opinion, I believe this is the way W3C intended it to be used and I ensure it appears at the top of a page above properly marked up < p > tags and written with my main keywords or keyword phrases incorporated
If you’re using WordPress then you don’t have to worry about manually adding the tags. Just highlight the text you want as headings and click on the drop-down menu highlighted below and choose your heading type.
When you’re ready to write your paragraph just select paragraph.
I have never experienced any problems using CSS to control the appearance of the H tags making them larger or smaller.
I use as many H2 – H6 as is necessary depending on the size of the page, but I most often use H1, H2 to H3.
Site-links and Branching Your Content
Having your site well-structured with a good hierarchy of content can benefit you in other ways too. Google sometimes rewards these sits with site-links and miniature site-links in their search engine results pages (SERPs).
Site-links, shown below, is designed to help users navigate to your website. If the structure of your site doesn’t allow our algorithms to find good site-links, or if we don’t think your site-links are relevant for the user’s question, we won’t show them. Well-structured header tags and creating internal links can help you gain these types of site-links.
Once you have these, benefits include:
- Increased real estate in Google SERPs. This can increase click-through rates by 10-20%. Some reports indicate increases by up to 64%!
- A higher level of trust and credibility when searched for online.
- Draws in users to your content and browse the deeper pages of your site.
Incorrect Use Of Headings
We do not recommend doing any one of these actions when using headings:
- Using only one H-1 tag per page and placing it at the top.
- Creating blank H-tags.
- Skipping levels of H-tag.
- Placing text between heading tags.
– Note: There may be times you use an H-2 tag immediately after an H-1 tag, but do not place H-3 tags under H-2 tags.
- Placing non-descriptive keywords, or no keywords in the content of your page.
- Targeting the same keywords on different pages, and not creating unique H-tags for your content.
Hierarchy of Headings and Best Practices
Headings should be logically structured on a page. A page will start with the H1 heading, followed by an H2 heading, should you require a sub-section it’s then followed by an H3 heading.
For the start of a new section, you should use another H2 heading. Don’t skip a level in the hierarchy
Don’t go from an H1 heading to an H3 heading. There should be an H2 heading in between them.
- Use only one H1 per page and place it at the top
- Do not create blank H tags and don’t skip levels
- Place text between heading tags i.e. while there may be times you use an H2 immediately after an H1, try not to place an h3 directly under an h2
- H tags should be descriptive of the keywords and intent of the page and not keyword-stuffed
- H tags should be unique across the site i.e. don’t target the same keywords on different pages
Below is a wireframe of how the hierarchy of header tags should look:
Heading Frequently Asked Questions
- Do headings really improve my search rankings?
- Is having the same text in my title and H1 heading an Issue?
1. Do headings really improve my search rankings?
Yes, they do! Even today, headings still play a role in communicating relevance for keywords to search engines.
While the role of headings in search engine algorithms has decreased over the years, it does send a clear signal to search engines regarding what a page is about.
2. Is having the same text in my title and H1 heading an Issue?
From a visitor standpoint, it can be, if another title or H1 heading is a better fit. From an SEO standpoint, this is not a problem. It’s definitely not something you’d get penalized for by Google.
Effective headers are the foundation to making quality content easier to find for your clientele. The conventions and tricks-of-the-trade listed above should help developers achieve the best SEO as possible for their websites.
One H1 tag on the page keeps things simple. You can use as many as you like, though, if your audience demands it. Make sure you follow the white hat protocol and avoid keyword stuffing your way to the top of the SERPs. The glory will be short-lived, trust me.