Chris Sears

Heading Elements <h1> – How and why you should still use them

Posted by to SEO

Heading elements don’t have the same ranking value they once did as new factors like social metrics and domain authority begin to take over but this doesn’t mean they aren’t an important part of quality SEO.
While debate continues around whether or not an optimised set of headings will help your rankings there is one point everyone can agree on: good headings will not hurt your rankings. With this in mind we turn our attention to the user experience.

headings

The purpose of a heading

The whole point of heading tags are to help the user determine what your content is about. The H1 should tell the user what the page is about while headings H2 to H6 provide subheadings in order of priority.

We are accustomed to getting targeted information fast so if the user can skim your content headings for exactly what they need there is a good chance they will stay.

In the HTML

In most scenarios your heading tags should be placed in the body. Exactly where depends entirely on your website’s layout and which heading you are applying.

HTML

<body>
<h1>Page Heading</h1>
<p>Website content goes here</p>

<h2>Page Subheading</h2>
<p>Subheading content goes here</p>

<h2>Page Subheading</h2>
<p>More subheading content goes here</p>
</body>

How it displays

Page Heading

Website content goes here

Page Subheading

Subheading content goes here

Page Subheading

More subheading content goes here

Best Practice

Even though our primary goal with headings is user experience, until proven to be useless, there is no harm in at least optimising our H1 for the search engines as well.

  • Limit your headings to a short phrase
  • For H1 tags, try to include the exact-match keyword without making it unreadable
  • Capitalise each word in your H1s
  • Only use heading tags for actual headings; do not apply them to a block of text and edit appearance via CSS
  • Use at least one H1 on every page, even generic pages like Contact Us
  • Limit your use of H1; most pages require no more than one
  • Use your headings in order; H1 through to H6

As always you should follow the usual SEO recommendations like avoiding keyword stuffing and all caps. E.g. “Printing Supplies” is a perfectly valid H1 while something like “PRINTING, PRINTING SUPPLIERS, PRINTERS, PRINTING BRISBANE” gives no value to the user and can only possible hurt your rankings.

Check out Matt Cuts’ videos on page headings: More than one H1 on a page and the ordering of heading tags

How to use them

Headings should appear in your content in order of priority with H1 being above all page content and making your way down to H6 if you really need to. As a general rule you will have a single H1 at the top of the page to describe the purpose of that page and H2 for each subsequent subheading.

By default, the size of your headings will decrease with priority. While you can change the appearance of these headings, this font size hierarchy should never be altered.

Note: Generally speaking you will never need to use anything beyond H2

Chris Sears

About Chris Sears

Chris Sears is a passionate web marketing specialist who has helped many businesses grow from Search Engine Optimisation and Adwords Management throughout Australia.

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