On this page, we’ll discuss how you can use H1 and header tags on your site to improve your search engine rankings, as well as better satisfy visitors to your website. We’ll also talk about how you can check your site for existing H1 tags, how other header tags may help with SEO, and offer a few other tips for SEO that may help those of you new to the practice of search engine optimization.
We’ll start by introducing header tags, and explain how H1 tags work from a search engine standpoint.
What Are Header or Heading Tags?
Before webpages existed, printed materials like books, newspapers, and magazines utilized header text to either break up or introduce longer blocks of writing. This text was typically larger, in a different font, or otherwise emphasized to differentiate itself from the rest of the copy. For example, a headline in a newspaper would be considered a piece of header text.
After webpages were introduced in the 1990s, header tags—also called heading tags—were introduced to serve a similar purpose. These tags, represented by a capital H followed by a number, can be changed to appear differently on each website. However, header tags typically make text bigger, bolder, and easier to read, and are used on text that comes before longer blocks of copy.
There are several header tags used on this page. For example, “Can a H1 Tag Improve My SEO?” at the top of this page is a H1. The text you’re about to read is an H2. We also use H3 and H4 tags on other pages of our site.
What is the H1 Tag?
The H1 tag is typically the largest and most important tag on an individual page of a website. It may be used to introduce the content of that page as a whole—that is, to name the topic at hand—or to simply reflect the name of the page itself.
Different websites choose to use their H1 tags differently. Some may make them very long, writing them out like full sentences. Others may limit them to one or two very simple words that match the actual title of the page. However, there are SEO benefits to using the H1 tag as a way to include keywords most relevant to the content of the page—and as descriptive as possible.
For example, if you are writing a page about bicycle supplies, it would make the most sense for that page’s H1 tag to be something like “Bicycle Supplies,” “Where to Buy Bicycle Supplies,” or “All About Bicycle Supplies and Where to Buy Them.” With the ability to use keywords in the right spots, SEO H1 tags are a valuable resource for any website trying to outrank the competition.
However, you should only use the keywords that actually pertain to what is contained in the page, because visitors will be quick to leave if they find out you’re lying to them!
How Can I Use H1 Tags on My Website?
You may already be using H1 tags on your website without even realizing it. If you are using a content management system (CMS), your website probably automatically creates these tags and inserts them based on the content you have entered in your admin screens.
To check your site for H1 tags, follow these steps:
- Open one of your pages in your Internet browser of choice.
- Press the CTRL and U keys on your keyboard. This will open a new tab with HTML code in it.
- Now press the CTRL and F keys. Type in <h1 and see if anything highlights. If so, this means you have a H1 tag on your page!
- If you find a H1 tag, take note of what it is. If you do not find one, search for <h2 or <h3 to see if you have any headers on your page, and take note of those.
If you are missing a H1, you will need to add it. Your CMS provider should have instructions on their website showing you how to do this through your admin screens, or you can simply search the Internet for a tutorial. For example, if you are using Wordpress, “add H1 tag in Wordpress” should help.
If you are not using a CMS, or your only option is to manually add your H1 tags with HTML, this is luckily very simple to do. Just open the page you want to edit in a code editor—Notepad on Windows and TextEdit on Mac can both edit and save HTML files—and find the location where you want to add a H1 tag. It should be beneath the <body> tag, but above the <p> tags and other text and images on your page.
Simply add a line that looks like this:
<h1>This is My Header Tag</h1>
That’s it! Save your HTML file, re-upload it, and refresh your page. It may be a little tricky at first, but once you’ve edited your pages a few times, you will get the hang of it.
How Can I Use a H1 Tag for SEO?
While H1 tags may not directly impact SEO, it’s still valuable to spend time optimizing your H1 tags because of the indirect benefits they provide. For example, including H1 tags on your website can improve user experience, which can help to improve your rankings in search results.
The combination of relevant keywords at the top of the page and the presence of desired information in this location makes the H1 tag so important.
A Partner Businesses Trust
Their focus on ROI and their innate ability to communicate this information in a way that I understand has been the missing link with other digital marketing firms that I have used in the past.
Leah Pickard. ABWE
Think about it this way. Let’s go back to our bicycle example for a moment, and say we created a page with a “Where to Buy Bicycle Parts” H1 tag. This content, at the very top of the page, tells Google that the page is about where to buy bicycle parts—so it’s adding to the likelihood that it will rank for that query.
However, this content also tells visitors who end up on that page that if they’re looking for information about where to find bicycle parts, they can find it here. This clear statement can help reduce bounce rates, which in turn helps with SEO and ranking. In this regard, the H1 tag in SEO is incredibly valuable, as it speaks to both the search engines and your readers.
Essentially, just by having a H1 tag on your pages, you’re helping your website rank better. It may not be the strongest thing you can do for search engine optimization, but H1 tags are still very important for SEO because they tell both search engines and website visitors what the content of pages will be about.
Here’s how to best optimize your H1 tags for search engines and users alike:
- Make sure you have a H1 on each and every page. If you go right into the body copy without an introduction, visitors might get confused or unsure about whether or not they’re on the right page. It’s kind of like reading a newspaper article without a headline.
- Try to make all of your H1 tags unique. Duplicate content, no matter how small, is never a good practice.
- Use accurate, descriptive keywords. “About” or “About Us” isn’t very engaging – why not something like “About Our Bicycle Repair Shop”?
- Don’t keyword-stuff—that is, cram keywords into your H1 tag in such a way that keeps it from making sense. “Bicycle Repair Parts Supplies Shop Bikes” might help you rank a little better, but visitors will probably get confused or frustrated and leave the page right away. If your bounce rate goes up from this, your rankings will eventually go down.
- If your H1 tags are too big (and taking up too much of the page), look for a style.css file on your server. You can edit this file just like a HTML file. Search for h1 and try reducing the font-size value until you’re happy with it.
- Get creative! Your H1 tags don’t have to be statements or short fragments. You can phrase them in the form of a question, or write them out in full sentences.
These tips should help you not only find SEO success with your H1 tags, but also delight users who are reading them on your website.
Can I Put More Than One H1 Tag on a Page?
You can, but it won’t have any effect on your SEO. The H1 tag is designed to be the biggest, boldest tag on your page—again, much like a newspaper headline. Having multiple H1s could lead to confusion, and it won’t help your ranking, so try to stick to only one!
If you want to add additional headers or subheads, you will want to use the H2, H3, H4, etc. tags instead. These are typically smaller, and are used to introduce different pieces of content in the body of the page. For example, we’re using H2 tags to break up each section that starts with a question (as you’ll see right below this).
Are H2, H3, and H4 Tags Important for SEO?
Yes—however, these tags do not have as much “weight” as a H1. Using heading tags for SEO is a generally accepted practice, but these tags are better used to answer questions, introduce new sections of content, and help users navigate through your pages rather than improve your ranking.
Many of the same tips offered above for H1 tag best practices apply to the other heading tags you may use on your site. As long as you do not stuff them with keywords, keep them unique, and write descriptive, informative headers, users will appreciate them—which, in turn, can help your site’s performance in search. In SEO, H1 tags are the most beneficial when they also help to make your webpage user-friendly.
You may be surprised to learn just how much of SEO depends on the activity of website visitors. That makes the H1 tag in SEO critical to success. Even something as simple as your heading tags can have an impact on your website’s performance in search, when it comes right down to it!
What Else Can I Do to Improve My Website’s SEO?
If you are looking for simple ways to improve your website’s SEO, you certainly aren’t limited to writing new H1 tags for your pages! Here are a few ideas you can try:
- Write new, unique title tags for your pages as well. These can be different from your H1 tags, and can contain slightly different keywords to give you a better chance at ranking for different terms.
- Make sure all your images have alternate text assigned. Often overlooked, alt text is another opportunity to add important keywords to your pages.
- Reduce your page speed. Visitors expect your site to load quickly, and if it doesn’t, you may be driving them away. Check out this list of 26 tools to improve page speed to find one that’s right for you.
Need some more ideas? Try SEO Checker! This free software will crawl your website, analyze your SEO, and generate a report showing how you can improve your header tags, title tags, page content, page speed, and other crucial search engine optimization factors. Give it a try!
You can also check out our on-page SEO checklist, which is a free guide designed to help you review each page of your website for the factors that will help it rank as highly as possible. This PDF can be used over and over to ensure that your SEO is solid and you haven’t missed any of the steps along the way to ranking in the top spot.
Need More Help With Search Engine Optimization?
If you need help improving your website’s ranking, or don’t have time to write new H1 tags or work on your site’s SEO, WebFX can help. As a leading SEO agency voted the best in the US, we’ve helped more than 500 clients find success online. Contact one of our web strategists today for a free evaluation—we’d love to know how we can help you meet your business goals!
Photo credit: Blue Square Thing