headings and SEO

Headings in On-Page SEO

From a readability and overall usability perspective, headings help organize large sections of content so that they are easier to read. There are a number of headings to choose from when structuring your page from the h1 tag all the way to the h6 page. Many SEO’s recommend that you use at least 1 H1 tag per page, and that a keyword should be present in that heading.

Our rule of thumb for headings and SEO is this: try to use a heading with a keyword, preferably an H1 tag but don’t force it, make sure that it naturally occurs.

on page seo guide headings

Headings should be relevant, consistent with the pages topic, and should always enrich the user experience from within the page. For some disabled users such as those with difficulty with vision, H tags give them a much better point of reference when navigating the page. By creating relevant and easy to read headings, users can easily scan through the page and identify which sections they want to read.

One of the biggest reasons most SEO’s think that H tags are such a big deal is the fact that they are so prominent within a web page. Keyword prominence still plays a very big role in SEO and that is why we included such a large section within this guide.

Always stay away from shady tactics such as stuffing keywords, hiding them, or repeating the same one over and over again.

Bulk H Tag Analysis

If you are working with an existing website it is probably a good idea to do a full analyis of your H tags. There are a number of tools out there on the web to get the job done, but our preferred version is Screaming Frog SEO Spider. Of course there is a lot more you can do with this tool, but one of the best features is being able to see all of your H tags all in one place. One of the beautiful things about this tool is you can also scan your competitors as well and do a full SEO audit.

In the illustration below, we highlight the first 21 H1 tags that we scraped from the NY Post website. As you can see we can not only see the H1 tags, but the length as well. From here if there are any glaring errors we can note them for later or open it in a browser and fix them immediately.

 SEO header tag analysis

Always remember, as with most SEO principles there are usually two sides to the equation:

The real art is when you can find a way to balance out both of those principles and meet in the middle.

The <h1> tag

I thought I’d give this tag its own subsection simply because so many SEO’s tend to talk about the H1 Tag. The H1 tag, also most of the time the largest of the H tags is said to be the most powerful tag as a ranking factor. I do not know this as a fact, nor does any other non-Google civilian but like the saying goes if enough people say it, it must be true.

The fact is SEO has been around for a long time, and the fable of the H1 tag exists mainly because it has worked for so many people.

Most professional SEO’s only recommend having 1 H1 tag per page. For instance in this page we have 1 H1 tag as the main section title and H2 tags dividing subsections.

The bottom line on H1 tag usage for SEO is this: we know it won’t hurt you, and it most likely helps you, so use them in good health.

How to use H1-H6 Tags

If you’ve got some HTML knowledge under your belt, this should really be a refresher course. Basic usage:

<h1>Puppies and Flowers</h1>

<h2>Whatever you'd like to say...</h2>

<h3>A common expression.</h3>

<h4>Don't forget keywords</h4>

<h5>I hope you like SEO</h5>

<h6>SEO Tutorial by Patrick Coombe</h6>

Don’t forget, the smaller the number generally the smaller the font size. You can also style them with CSS or inline style elements if you’d like.

As with any principle in SEO, don’t go overboard. The difference between an amateur SEO and a professional is the one who knows how to implement these tricks effectively without going overboard or raising any kind of red flag from Googlebot.

Let all of this knowledge soak in for a bit. If you take a poll of a dozen different SEO’s you are more than likely going to get a dozen different answers. These are my personal recommendations as an SEO, take that for what its worth.

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