Advice on using h tags for SEO

What are h tags? How and why should you use them? And how many h1 tags are recommended on a single page? 

The manner in which h tags are used has always been a topic of experiment and debate. You will find varied opinions on how to use h tags and how often to use them. There is also mixed opinion on how important h tags are to your SERPs (search engine ranking positions). We will explore some common questions Webmasters find themselves asking each other.

What is an h tag/element?

H tags are HTML elements used to “highlight” or emphasise pieces of text, usually by displaying them in larger font sizes. Inlay terms, h tags are headers used to highlight, format and organise content & topics into a presentable form. 

H tags start from h1 and run through to h6; these tags are added to your HTML document (your web page). They are sized in order, with h1 being the largest font size unless you change the website code. It should be noted h1 to h3 tags are used more often compared to h4, h5, h6 tags.

h1

h2

h3

h4

h5
h6

Why are h tags useful?

H tags help you organise your content and act as introductions to text or topics. Similar to how you would use titles in essays, h tags help you break content into an introduction, summaries or bodies of topics, findings and a conclusion.

Why should you use h tags?

Because we love structure, and so does Google, better structure equals more clarity, more clarity equals better engagement rates. In turn, better engagement rates will help your search engine rankings and conversion rates. 

In essence, h tags help format pages so users can easily find what they are looking for.

Are h tags important for search engines?

H tags are still important and are considered one of 200 ranking factors published by Google. Although Google has recently downplayed the significance of h tags, we can confidently state from our own experience and studies that the consensus is that content pieces with good use of h tags, specifically h1 tags, rank better.

Why are h tags important to visitors who come onto your website?

When creating any piece of content, you want your visitors to quickly and easily identify, understand and find the information they are looking for. This is ever more important in a day and age where attention spans are decreasing. According to a number of studies, Webmasters have anywhere between 8 to 15 seconds to capture a visitor’s attention. 

For pieces of content, the use of h tag elements can make the difference between website visitors quickly finding the information they are looking for via skimming and scrolling your website vs having to frustratingly dig through your content to reach the relevant information.

Do not misuse h tags.

The most common form of h tag misuse has got to be what Webmasters call keyword stuffing. This is the practice of stuffing your target keywords into your content and h tags. It looks unnatural, forced, and probably goes well beyond the average keyword density percentages you find in legitimate content pieces.

Search engines have adapted to these practices by penalising such misuse and reducing the importance of h tags as a ranking factor. 

Finding the right balance

Finding the right balance between user experience and SEO optimisation is vital when optimising your page or content. While trying to optimise for search engines, many Webmasters forget user experience, design, and navigation. 

H tags should be used to cater to both users and search engines by prioritising, making content more navigable, understandable, and easy to read. Your h tags need to remain natural, informative and compelling.

When writing content, having a natural flow of h tags will help users find what they are looking for. It also demonstrates the natural flow of ideas. Here are some examples below:

How many h1 elements are recommended on a single page?

We recommend using one h1 tag on a page. Your page or article titles will, in most cases, be set to contain the h1 tag.

Should I add my keywords into h tags?

Absolutely, this is recommended. You can also use variations, short and long-tail forms of the keyword; however, this should be done in a way that makes sense grammatically without falling into the trap of keyword stuffing.

Should I change my h2 title tag to an h1 tag?

There are studies from reputable sources which argue favourably for this. Our approach is to change all titles to h1 elements. We have seen increases in ranking performance for websites we have implemented this on.

h tag tip

Look into your Google Search Console and search queries that have a good combination of relevance and search volume but fall short in rankings. You can incorporate these search queries into your pages and content by using them in your h elements and experimenting to see whether you see positive changes in your rankings.

Our final verdict on h tags

Although the importance of h tags, specifically h1 elements have decreased as per Google, we can say with confidence that h tags and specifically the h1 tags are still crucial to have and will help you rank better, so use them with confidence. 

Search Engine Optimisation is not limited to h tags. There are 200 factors that can be divided into on-page, off-page and technical SEO, which will help your website rank better. We offer consulting and SEO training courses for all levels of students. To find out more, get in touch with us today.