On this page, we’ll talk about how H1 and header tags help search engines make sense of your content and examine how H1 tags SEO can improve your rankings. We’ll also look at some H1 tags best practices and basic how-tos to help you hit the ground running on your journey to supreme search optimization.
First things first…
What Are Header Tags?
To better understand header tags, let’s take an imaginary field trip to stroll past our neighborhood newsstand. As you walk by, you’ll see magazines and daily papers using big, bold headlines to announce what stories you can expect to find inside. If you stop to thumb through one, you might land on an article with an intriguing headline. A quick skim over the subheadings will help you decide if the story contains anything you might be interested in. The headlines and subheadings create the structure of the article, setting the scene for what you might learn and helping you find the information you’re looking for on the page.
That’s exactly how it works when users search for interesting online content. An h1 is the headline that grabs a reader’s (or Google’s) attention. The other header types structure the content, so readers can tell at a glance if they want to spend more time on the page and search engines know if your page matches a particular search query.
What Exactly Is an H1 Tag?
The h1 tag is one of six HTML tags that create the structure of a web page. The “h” stands for “header,” and the number (1 through 6) indicates where the content falls in the structure of the page. The purpose of a header tag is to 1) tell a browser how to display specific pieces of content and 2) outline the page’s content for a search engine, so it knows how much relevance to assign the text inside when returning the results on a search query.
The h1 tag is, like its name suggests, numero uno. It’s the primary header tag on a web page, and you use it only one time per page. It might be the title of your page (more about title tags vs. h1s below), but at the very least, it clearly states the topic of the content that follows.
If the text inside the h1 tag is the most important information on the page, then the text inside an h6 tag is the least important. The weight headers carry is usually reflected in how they’re formatted – with h1 the biggest and h6 the smallest, and everything else sized somewhere in between those.
When a search engine crawls your page, it will know how to weigh the relevance of the content within your header tags as it attempts to return results that fit a searcher’s query.
What’s the Difference Between an H1 Tag and a Title Tag?
Good question! Because both the title tag and the h1 tag have a similar purpose, it’s understandable when people confuse them. The main difference between a page title and an h1 tag is where they show up. The page title appears in the browser window and search results snippet while the h1 tag is shown within the content of the page itself. Since the title tag is what shows on a SERP (Search Engine Result Page) as the link people will click on, it’s generally considered good h1-tags-SEO to have your page title contain your h1 plus the name of your website. This helps people anticipate where they are going and helps your brand awareness, as well. For example, if your h1 tag is, “What’s The Truth About H1 Tag SEO Importance?” You might want your page title to be, “What’s The Truth About H1 Tag SEO Importance? | Victorious.”
How Do You Use H1 Tags on Your Pages?
Good news! If you’re using a content management system (sometimes referred to as a CMS), like WordPress, you might already be using h1 tags on your website.
Here’s a quick way to tell.
- Go to any page on your website.
- If you’re using a Mac, press command + option + U. If you’re using a PC, press Ctrl + U.
- This will open the code for that page in a new tab:
- That’s a lot of code! But keep calm and use your browser’s search function (mac = command + F; PC = ctrl + F) and type “h1” into the search bar:
Did you find an h1 tag? Woot-woot! Congratulations! You’re one step closer to improving your search rankings!
If you don’t find an h1 tag, don’t despair! It’s not hard to add one. If you’re using a CMS, your provider should provide instructions for adding them to your site. (If not, try a Google search to find a tutorial).
If your only option is to add h1 tags to your site manually, no sweat. Just open the page in a code editor and add it inside your body tag before the rest of the content on the page.
<body> <h1>Your Header Tag Goes</h1> <p>before the rest of your content.</p>
But wait! Before you put just any old text in your header tags, let’s talk about how to leverage the SEO potential of h1 tags.
How Do You Use an H1 Tag for SEO?
While there’s still some controversy over how much h1s figure directly into search ranking, here at Victorious, we have found that h1s — when used correctly — can be used with great confidence to improve your rankings.
There are a few reasons why:
Search engines might use H1s in place of title tags.
If for any reason, a search engine can’t find your title tag, it might swap in your h1 tag.
The data supports it.
There’s evidence to suggest that using header tags correlates to improved rankings.
H1 tags improve accessibility.
Users employing screen reading technology can navigate your content by using h1s.
H1s improve user experience.
Since Google is putting a stronger emphasis on user experience (UX), having a clear page structure, which includes an h1, is an essential part of making sure the right searchers find your page, find what they need on it, and stay to learn more. This kind of transparency can help reduce bounce rates as users stick around to see what else you have to offer. Bounce rates figure heavily into whether or not your page is meeting search intent, and if it isn’t, you’ll be penalized in search rankings.
That’s what makes the h1 so valuable to SEO. It speaks to both your readers and to search engines.
How to Optimize Your H1s for SEO
Have we talked about keywords yet? (Check out Long-Tail Keywords and Why They Matter.) Based on your keyword research, identify the primary keyword you want your page to rank for and include it in your h1 tag. Since the h1 tag is an essential indicator to both crawl bots and readers, it would be a tragic oversight not to put your primary keyword(s) there.
Equally tragic would be to go overboard with keywords in your h1 tag. Neither human beings nor Google appreciates keyword stuffing. Less experienced content creators might be tempted to cram multiple keywords into a single h1 tag, which not only hurts readability, but Google might penalize your page by removing it from search results altogether.
H1 header SEO tips:
- Keep your h1s unique. Since your h1 tells users and Google what your page is about, readers and crawl bots alike might think pages with the same h1 are duplicate content, causing confusion all around. While duplicate content isn’t technically considered a penalty, multiple pieces of content that are “appreciably similar” might still impact rankings because search engines might have difficulty deciding which version is more relevant to a particular search query.
- Use descriptive keywords in your h1 tags. How many pages have you visited in your online travels called “About”? Exactly. While it’s probably accurate, it sure isn’t descriptive. Something like “About Our Custom Widgets” is going to bring more people to your page who are desperately seeking custom widgets and will be delighted to find yours.
- Write for humans. If your h1s engage people, they’re also going to engage Google, but not necessarily the other way around. “What’s The Truth About H1 Tag SEO Importance?” is more likely to snag a reader’s attention than an equally SEO-friendly but less human-sounding, “H1 Tag SEO Importance.” Remember, you don’t have to choose between delighting your readers and ranking high for your target keywords.
- Do. Not. Keyword. Stuff. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Don’t cram keywords into your h1 in an effort to improve your rankings. Something like the following h1 tag SEO example is likely to turn off readers and raise your bounce rates: “What is an H1 tag in SEO? H1 Tag SEO Importance and H tags and SEO.”
Should You Put More Than One H1 Tag on a Page?
In a word, no! If h1s tell readers and search engines what your page is about, having more than one h1 tag will confuse everybody. Confused readers go somewhere else to find their information, and even if Google doesn’t consider it a significant ranking factor, using multiple h1s breaks with HTML structuring best practices.
Do Search Engines Use Other Heading Tags in SEO?
Even though there’s a difference between h1 and h2 SEO importance, all of the header tags (h1 through h6) are essential HTML elements that provide structure for your content and make it easier for search engines to read. If h1s describe your page’s main subject, h2s will contain the section topics that support your main topic. And h3s through h6s can be used to further breakdown your content into sub-sections.
In addition to lending clarity to your page structure for search engines, using header tags will break up your content and provide reference points for users who will likely be skimming your page to find the information they’re looking for. You always want to make it easy for people to find the answers to their questions. It means they’ll be more likely to stick around to learn more about (or from) you.
By putting some intention behind how you use h1 tags, you can improve your content’s readability and searchability, boosting your SERP rankings, and bringing more traffic to your site. You can then delight more potential customers with well-organized, skimmable information — and keep them coming back for more.
- Use one h1 tag per page.
- Make it descriptive.
- Include a keyword.
- Use h2s, h3s, etc. to break up text and structure your content.
Could You Use More Help with H1 Tags and SEO?
If you need help bringing more traffic to your website, Victorious has a whole team of SEO strategists and content experts ready to help! You’re just a couple of clicks away from a free SEO consultation that can make a dramatic impact on your business and give you the visibility you need to meet your goals.