What Are Header Tags and Why Do They Matter in SEO?
February 15, 2023
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If you publish blog posts, you’re probably already familiar with header tags, the phrases or sentences which appear as titles or subheaders within articles. Webpages use different kinds of header tags—content management systems like WordPress and Webflow have headers running from H1 to H6. Each one helps crawlers learn information and hierarchies better—read on to learn more about how using headers benefits your content.
What is an H1 Tag?
Webpages or blog posts use different headings throughout a post. These headings break a text into sections and are different from HTML title tags, which specify a webpage title. Headers show up in the body of a post, but the title tag is displayed on SERPs. In our example, you’ll see that the title tag says “Ranked – High-Quality Blog Content for SEO.” However, the H1 tag says “Content Made For Google.” This is common practice, especially for web content pages.
H1 tags are among the most important because they function as the blog or page title. It is a critical ranking factor and search engine bots use it as a starting point for determining the contents of a page. It is also the first and most visible item on a page.
H2 and H3 Tags
If you equate H1 tags with book titles, you can think of H2 and H3 tags as chapters and section headers. For example, if your H1 title is “How to Conduct an SEO Audit,” you might use H2 tags that revolve around the steps you take in audits like these. The first tag might read, “Understand the Context,” while the second might say, “Check for Indexed Duplicates.” These tags describe related yet distinct tasks.
Going down one level, H3 tags further clarify your content. For example, under the H2 on understanding your context, you might have H3 tags that say “Benchmark Rankings,” and “Analyze Competitors.” These are tasks you do to understand the website’s current situation.
The difference between H2 and H3 tags is the level of detail they go into—an H2 signals the start of a new chapter, and an H3 introduces a new paragraph.
H4 and Onwards
If you have a very long text, you can use H4, H5, and H6 tags to organize your details further. Pillar pages and ultimate guides often use these smaller title tags to guide readers.
For example, a pillar page talking about editing a blog post might have an H2 tag on “Style and Punctuation.” Under this header, a possible H3 tag is “Writing Numbers and Figures,” which could have H4 tags talking about how to write percentages, currencies, and more.
Why Should I Use H1 Tags in Blogs?
An H1 tag tells search engine crawlers and readers about the contents of a page. As such, when writing one, make sure it summarizes the page contents. Choosing a vague title won’t help your rankings since bots won’t connect it with the rest of the post, and readers wouldn’t know from scanning the title what the article is about, making it less likely that they’ll click.
Besides, using H1 tags and breaking your text into paragraphs makes it easier to read on portable devices. Tags help readers quickly identify which parts of the text are most relevant and skip to those instead of reading everything on the page.
You’d think this will make them less likely to return to your page, but that’s not the case. They’ll even be more likely to come back to your website because, to them, you’re a reliable source of information.
Another reason to use headers is that they improve accessibility. Visually impaired people can use screen readers to determine if the content on a page can answer their questions, and readers use HTML code to “interpret” a page. Finally, headings are a point toward user-friendliness, which is a Google ranking factor.
How Has the Use of H1 Tags Changed?
Anyone marketing a business online knows that search engines like Google are constantly updating their algorithms. They test and refine these programs to fit how people search keywords and how they should rank pages as a result. Like other aspects of SEO, the use of H1 headings has significantly evolved.
In the past, website administrators only used one H1 tag per page. It also had the largest font size, and it needed to contain the page’s most important long-tail keyword. Today, though, these aren’t requirements anymore. Google favors user-friendliness instead of keyword density today—instead of forcing your primary keyword into the header, use it naturally whenever possible.
Organize your page content logically—you’re writing primarily for readers, not crawlers and computer programs. Here are more tips that could help you organize headings in your posts.
How to Use More Effective Headings
Keep in mind that header tags are a tool for demonstrating hierarchy. Start the post with an H1 and work your way down to H2 and onward. Shorter content can have a couple of H2 tags—you do not need to use all types in all articles.
Longer or more complex content requires you to use even more headers—you can even go all the way to H6 for content that is thousands of words long. Always remember that it’s all about organizing content and making it easy for people to understand.
Prioritize logic in structuring your pieces. Don’t just use tags for the sake of optimization—the benefits of headers come from their usefulness to readers—your content won’t make it to the top search engine results pages automatically if you use the “right” kinds of headers.
The H1 introduces the page’s topic, while the H2 headers divide the main idea into sections. You can add H3 and beyond as needed. If you’re the type to write articles in outline form before drafting, you can use the sections of your outline as the headers.
Headers are critical to SEO—they make a page better organized and ensure that people can easily find the information they need. They make it easier for search bots to read pages and categorize them properly, and pages that bots cannot read don’t rank.
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