SEOptimer’s Guide to Header Tags

header tags

Table Of Contents

 

Definition

 

HTML Header Tags are used to differentiate different levels of headings and sub-headings within a page. Think of a table of contents inside a book, which helps define what each particular section is about. Header tags are similar in that they are used to provide organization such as navigation, context, and structure within the search result pages for both users and search engines. They also identify content preceding the previous content, creating hierarchical structures.

 

Here’s how most header tags looks like based on each level of tags:

 

<h1>This is heading 1</h1>

 

<h2>This is heading 2</h2>

<h3>This is heading 3</h3>

<h4>This is heading 4</h4>

<h5>This is heading 5</h5>

 

Based on your site’s template or web designer, your header tags can vary in location, font and size.

 

Difference between <H1> and <title>

 

Title tags are what search engines see and display in their SERPs.

showing serp example of what the difference is between title and heading tags

 

The H1 tag, however, is the HTML element for the first-level heading within the body text of the webpage.

seoptimer website heading example

 

H1 tags are, in most cases, considered the second “title tag”, since most people get confused when using a CMS such as WordPress, in which they use the title of the post as both <title> and <h1>. However, search engines give more weight to title tags; therefore, you’ll want to use one title tag and one H1 header per webpage.

 

The uses of Header Tags

 

H1 tags: These are mostly associated with the title of your post. Using more than one H1 tag per page is recommended by Bing Webmaster Guidelines.

H2 tags: You can use H2 tags for subheadings of the title, and can also have more than one H2 tag.

H3 tags: Are used when  you have subtopics within the H2 topic.

H4, H5 and H6 tags: These are rarely used but are provided if needed.

The more semantic and structured the data is for your readers, the better these header tags can be for search engines.

 

Why are header tags important?

 

If you go through several books and find their table of contents, some of them are more descriptive than others. For a non-fiction book, its best practice is to describe the flow of the book, leading them into a conclusion. Like any content written online, we have a beginning, middle and the end.

 

For instance, if you wrote about the “Top 10 SEO tools you need for your eCommerce business”:

 

  • You’ll want an introduction
  • Why you might need tools at all
  • The top 10 tools
  • Reviews or descriptions for each of these 10
  • A summary, conclusion and a CTA (call-to-action)

 

Header tags can help distinguish each section so that you can readily understand the scope of the content as opposed to  reading each paragraph and trying to figure out when everything starts or ends.

 

Here’s a perfect example for video content:

 

Watching a 10–40 minute YouTube video can either be fun or a complete waste of time. Instead of watching the whole video, you’ll want take a look at its description, read a few paragraphs, content breakpoints and timestamps, so you can know more about the video before wasting your valuable time.

 

Do header tags impact SEO?

 

Header tags are what we call soft ranking factors; in fact, you can have multiple H1 tags and Google will still be okay with it. However, if you want to follow Bing’s guidelines, they require you to have only one H1 tag.

 

Why is it important if header tags are not a ranking factor?

 

Google and other search engines want to see your page the same way a user does, so that they can provide a  better user experience, marking and breaking up your content so it’s easily digestible for your reader. Here’s some information we’ve gathered regarding header tags from Google’s Webmasters Hangouts:

 

“I think it makes sense to use semantic markup so different heading levels to better break up your content and make it a little bit easier to understand. Sometimes this helps search engines to better understand which pieces of text belong together, sometimes it also helps users to understand this a little bit better.”John Mueller 2018

 

“If you have been using them properly I definitely keep them there and it’s something kind of I don’t know like a really small and soft factor when it comes to signing pages.”John Mueller 2018

 

These small soft factors do weigh in your rankings. Search engines will know if you are abusing your header tags with keyword stuffing, which will then affect your content ranking. Header tags do show positive impact on SEO when  featured snippets, such as voice search keywords and headings, outline different list items, such as recipes, and how-to guides.

 

How to write the perfect heading tags

 

If you went through our “How to create SEO Friendly Title tag” guide, you’ll most likely adapt the best practices mentioned there. The most important rule for writing perfect heading tags is to create semantic structure for your site. John Mueller from Google wrote:

 

…so these heading tags in HTML help us to understand the structure of the page but it’s not that you have any kind of a fantastic ranking bonus by having text in an h2 tags …. sometimes we will see sites trying to abuse that and they put their whole content into an h1 tag and say well this is like really really important text and you should treat it with high value and we do use it to understand that the context of a page better to understand the structure of  the text on the page but it’s not the case that you would like automatically rank one or two steps higher just by using a heading so I’d recommend using it to give a semantic structure to the page but I wouldn’t say that this is a requirement for ranking properly in search.”John Mueller, Google

 

Therefore, creating the perfect heading tags for each page/post can be simplified into two motives:

 

  • Structure of the page for readability
  • Relevance to keywords

 

To avoid any issues with search engines and user experience, here are some things to do and not do.

 

Best Practices for heading tag

 

Do: Imagine writing an outline for your content. Where are the break points? If might help to define each sub-point using <em> and <strong>.

 

Avoid: While using multiple h1 tags is allowed,  try to stick with only one <h1> tag per page (Bing Webmaster Guidelines). You might use multiple H1 tags to define key features on pages, but only use one H1 tag on  posts and articles. Consider moving all key features to H2 versus associating them with H1. If H1 and H2 have no real ranking factor, structure and semantics is more important.

 

Avoid: Putting the same <h1> name with <title>. If your <title> is “What is a Header Tag”, avoid using the same words in the <h1> tag.

 

Avoid: Very long headings. There are no limits, but we recommend sticking to  10–70.

 

Avoid: Using heading tags for styling and not presenting structure.

 

Do: Follow H1–H6 guidelines: “The six heading elements, H1 through H6, denote section headings. Although the order and occurrence of headings is not constrained by the HTML DTD, documents should not skip levels (for example, from H1 to H3), as converting such documents to other representations is often problematic.” —W3C

 

Do: Keep your heading structure consistent across your entire site to provide better usability for search engines and help users identify your content readability.

 

How many heading tags is considered excessive?

 

Whether your content is short and concise or in long form, creating a balance of heading tags is key.

 

For short content:

One H1 per page/post,

Two or Three H2,

Use H3 for linking groups within the H2 or related with sources and references.

 

With long form content, you can add more H2 tags, H3–H6 based on the structure you want to provide your user.

 

Including keywords in your headings

 

Do not become repetitive, but use heading tags to describe your scene for each section.

 

If you’re writing about “Best Practices of Writing Heading Tags”, you do not want to start with “What is SEO”,

 

Or

 

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3.

 

Below is an example of good heading tags:

 

Title: “Best Practices of Writing Heading Tags

 

H1: “Your heading tag SEO guide” (This explains what the purpose of this article is going to be. It’s for SEO and not a guide for click baits or conversion.)

H2:  “What is heading tag” (Depending on the persona of your readers, you can either add or remove this and move on.)

H2: “Why is heading tag important” or “why is it important” (It’s important to add value and provide why in order to help convince your readers, unless your focus intent is for an advanced audience, in which case you can reference case studies of how Google’s algorithm has changed and what they need to do now.)

H3: “What experts have to say about heading tags” or “experts take on heading tags” or “what experts have to say

H2: “Heading tags best practices guidelines” (Reference why and how having a checklist or guide can help you avoid any SEO errors.)

H3: “Thing to do”, “great heading examples”, “good example”, “Things to avoid” or “bad heading tags example” (Whether you add keywords or not, the structure must provide clear intent.)

H2: “How to add heading tags to WordPress

H2: “Summary” or “In conclusion“.

 

Give it structure and be consistent

 

If you went through your heading tags and there are too many of the same keyword mentioned, it feels repetitive and like they were written for search engines. It’s okay to express and explain your article without using keywords that help search engines and readers understand what the heading is about.

 

The first H3 example, “what experts have to say”, can be clearly understood if they are in the H2, “Why is Heading tag important”, If instead you added “Why is it important”, you are referencing the actual title, therefore, you can reiterate and help users and search engines collectively understand and reference what is going to happen next, and write “what experts have to say about heading tags”.

 

Keep a consistent structure throughout your pages. Headings are there to create a certain type of flow for your readers. Headings are also indicators that help readers decide if they want to continue reading or look for another solution from another site.

How to add heading tag with WordPress

 

There are two ways to change heading tags on WordPress. You can highlight the words you want to change and use keyboard shortcuts:

 

On a Mac

 

CTRL + ALT + 2/3/4/5/6 – Applies the appropriate heading tag (<h2>, <h3>, etc.)

 

On PC

SHIFT + ALT + 2/3/4/5/6 – Applies the appropriate heading tag (<h2>, <h3>, etc.)

 

Or select the drop down menu and select the heading that suits your needs:

where on wordpress to change the heading h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6 tags

How to add heading tag with Wix

 

To make changes to your Wix page, you can simply highlight the words or phrases and select the drop down menu under Themes.

 

On the other hand, Wix post editor is a bit complicated. When you want to change the heading tag, you click on the T button.

 

It might be difficult to see but you can see a small 1 just below the letter T. If you click it one more time, you can see the size of the word change and the small number changed to T2.

wix post and page tool bar, where to change heading tag

 

To help clarify, T1 is H2, T2 is H3, Tt is normal text. They do not have H4-H6 available on their editor. H1 is only attributed to your title and not available to additional H1 in your post.

 

How to add heading tag with Shopify

 

Changing heading tag on Shopify is simple as highlighting your word or phrase and click on the A button to select which heading tag you want to attribute.

shopify wysiwyg editor and where the heading tag is located

 

To change the heading tags within your homepage is a bit difficult. Making changes can either be easy as editing code in the theme.liquid file or based on what file you are pulling the data from.

 

If one section of your homepage has a collection list added like the screenshot below:

shopify sometimes add h1 tags on the homepage example

 

You are pulling data from the collection.liquid file that will classify the collection name as H1.

shopify edit code language theme editor to change heading tags on page

 

If you added multiple collection list to the homepage, you will have multiple H1. We recommend asking your theme developer to make the changes for you.

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Jay Kang

Putting all things SEO under a microscope. I'm an experimentalist, researcher, recording every step of how to rank number 1. Here to help, verify, explain, cross-examine the wonders of search engine.





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