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Header Tags

Header Tags

Contents:

H1 (Main Heading) Header Tag & Other H tags

Heading tags are used to reinforce a page’s most important theme, which is why keywords should be placed within heading tags. Search engine robots generally place the most weight on an H1 tag followed by H2, H3 and so on.

Heading tags, especially H1 and H2 should be provided for on each page in order to increase the target keywords relevancy on that page. Header tags are a useful tool in the SEO’s toolbox but are often implemented incorrectly by web designers.

Impact or Value

There has been, as there is with most SEO factors, great discussion over the value of keyword usage within the H1 title in terms of effecting ranking for target keywords. Rand Fishkin in a whiteboard Friday video asserts that there is no difference between using the Keyword in a H1 or in larger font in the same place on the page. This was based on ‘machine learning correlation’ tests performed by Moz. They also concluded that the overall value was very low for either a larger font or a H1 title using a keyword.

A survey of 120 leading search marketers showed that they believe that the usage of keywords within the H1 were a factor but not a major one.

Even a small advantage is worth your time when it comes to SEO, so we don’t advise that you ignore H1 titles. But given this information, we are forced to look at other potential impacts of H1 titles such as the user experience and engagement.

For example, bounce rates are a major signal to Google and since the Hummingbird update semantic context or user intent is also a major factor. Therefore, creating compelling titles that address what you deem to be the intent behind the keyword that will deliver traffic to the page may have an indirect impact on rankings. If you can improve engagement and reduce bounce rates with a title that directly address the reason the user has come to your site, you can indirectly improve rankings.

There is little data to support the relationship between H1’s and bounce rate but it stands to reason that a compelling title will encourage users to read, watch or engage with the rest of the page’s content.

One H1 Title per Page

Ensure every page has a H1 title but ensure that only one H1 title is on a page. Do not use multiple H1 titles on a page as this reduces the focus of the page in the eyes of Google and other search engines.

The exception to this is if you are using HTML 5, which does provide functionality for multiple H1 titles, Matt Cutts commented on this in 2009. In this short video he states that, yes, you can have multiple H1’s but they should be heading relevant sections of content if you have more than one section on a page. Matt also warns that overuse will be seen as spammy and ultimately including multiple H1’s is not going to allow you to game Google’s algorithm.

A common usage we have seen with multiple H1 titles is on single page websites that scroll through each section of the site from a single URL. Although this makes us sad, as it does not lend itself well to optimisation, it is nonetheless a valid form of multiple H1 implementations. However, we would generally advise against single page websites.

H2, H3, H4, H5, & H6

Unlike H1’s, you can use as many of the other ‘H’ titles as the content on a page requires. Again this is not a form of gaming and they should be used pragmatically. This doesn’t mean they should be used sparingly or liberally, rather just as needed. From a user perspective, they can be useful to break up content and signify what the content beneath them is about.

Common Mistakes

Styling

Do not use H titles to style text, use them ONLY to head relevant sections of content on a page. For example do not have H2 or H3 titles heading sidebar content, use CSS and HTML to style text as required.

Keyword usage

Additionally, use the keyword targeted by the page within the H1 title to drive relevance to the keyword. Using keywords within H2, H3, H4, etc are less relevant certainly than the H1 title, but use of keywords where naturally reasonable to do so, will provide some benefit to rankings.

Avoid (as always) keyword stuffing into H titles, they do not need to be exhaustive lists of every permutation of your target keywords, they are not a Meta Keywords tag! H titles are part of a page’s content and as such you should consider this when adding keywords to avoid unnatural keyword densities in content.

As discussed earlier in the article, the true value of H titles for SEO is a point of contention, but in order to err on the side of caution, optimising them with keywords won’t hurt your chances of ranking. However, given the potentially minimal impact on your SEO, it is more advantageous to first consider the user experience.

Linking

Do not make H titles into links to other pages; instead link from the content that is headed by the H title.

Structure of H Titles

H titles should follow logically on a page, as mentioned, heading relevant pieces of content. The example below takes a webpage about Widgets as an example. The code shown below with open and closing brackets is the actual code used to define a H title within the source code on a page:

<h1> Buy Cheap Widgets</h1>
<p> Example content</p>

<h2> Cheap Widgets</h2>
<p> Example content</p>

<h3> Widget option 1</h3>
<p> Example content</p>

<h3> Widget option 2</h3>
<p> Example content</p>

<h3> Widget option 3</h3>
<p> Example content</p>

You can see from this that H titles work in nested hierarchies like a family tree. Follow this principle and use common sense to structure your H titles on a page and you will not have any issues. It is worth noting that we have separated the H titles with paragraph <p> text… H titles should not be used as lists!

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