A few years ago, debate raged hot among SEO experts over the importance and use of H1 tags. One camp advocated for strict header tag protocols, especially when using the H1 tag. Others said that it doesn’t matter how you used it, so long as you kept things practical to promote user experience.
Moz SEO went on to perform a statistical analysis of these claims but came up with inconclusive results. This confirmed what John Mueller, Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, said about the issue. Most SEOs remain unconvinced, and many SEO tools still have standard formats and rules of what you can or cannot do with H1 tags.
Ultimately, talking about H1 tags raises a few questions.
- Do H1 tags affect ranking?
- How exactly should you use H1 tags, and are there standard protocols for this?
- How do you write perfect H1 tags that are good for both Google and the users?
These are some of the questions that we shall cover in this article. Knowing what is important for SEO is the first step to successful in content marketing, and this article could be what you need to revamp your website and rank better. So, let’s jump to it.
What Exactly are H1 Tags
An H1 tag is the largest and most important header tag on a webpage. It is a snippet of code that tells your web browser to display it prominently to catch the user’s attention, and it all tells search engine crawlers a lot about the content on that page.
There are other header tags such as H2, H3, all the way to H6. All these tags serve to break up content into a semantic and logical structure that is easy to scan, read, and understand as opposed to having one large block of text.
H1 tags are the name or title of a web page or article, but there are also Title tags. What’s the difference?
H1 Tags Vs. Title Tags
It is easy to confuse H1 tags and title tags. Although they are usually the same and play the same role, they are different semantic elements when it comes to SEO and the display of a web page.
Title tags are the page titles you often see on the main search results page on Google or other search engines; they are the link you click to take you to that particular page.
H1 tags, on the other hand, are only displayed on the page itself and act as the page title. You can have different Title and H1 tags, but it is best to have them be the same statement.
H1 Tags Are Crucial for SEO: Here’s Why
H1 tags are a fundamental part of SEO and they do affect ranking. They may not help content rank directly, but they have a very real and significant effect on how well your pages perform on search engines.
In fact, Moz still thinks that title tags such as H1 are the second most important ranking factor despite the results of their little experiment. Why is this so?
1. They Help Search Engine Crawlers Understand Content
Search engine crawlers are program bots that “crawl” through web pages to learn about what they contain and help to index them. Google’s crawlers have gotten much smarter and don’t actually require H1 tags to index pages, which why the standardization rules regarding them have become more relaxed.
However, using H1 tags makes your site more crawlable and increases your chances of getting ranked faster and higher. They are seen as a summary of what the page is about, and having a bad H1 tag could hurt your page ranking far more than not having one at all.
2. They Provide Good User Experience
More importantly, H1 tags help users understand what your page is about. Studies by Nielsen show that over the past 15 years, users online prefer to scan through rather than read web pages.
This means that without a relevant, attention-grabbing H1 tag, most of your precious site visitors will not even bother to read your content. This tag is crucial for user experience because it informs whether users will read a page or click on the next one.
3. They Provide Visual Structure for Accessibility
H1 tags are page titles, which means that they are displayed in large colorful characters. In addition to being helpful for scanning and skimming, they are useful for those with visual impairments to help them understand what the page is about.
How to Use H1 Tags: Best Practices in 2021
Looking at the H1 tag on this article, the first thing you will notice is that it is a two-part title. This is one of the current trends SEOs are using to make them more relevant and natural-sounding. As we have already seen, usage of H1 tags today is more about user experience, and that’s what we will finish by looking at.
1. SEO in H1 Tags: Keywords and Ranking
Since an H1 tag is the page title, it needs to incorporate the primary keyword(s) you want to rank for. This tells search engines and users what the page is about even before they open it.
However, Google is strict with keyword stuffing on H1 tags and other headers. Make sure to keep your keyword usage to one primary term to avoid being penalized and focus instead on making the title as relevant to the page content as you can.
For best results, use only one long-tail keyword in your H1 tag. This helps to keep the title specific enough to rank for the keywords that you want while allowing it to sound more natural.
2. Structure of H1 Tags
There is no standard structure for H1 tags, but most experts agree that it should be short and to the point. Many SEO tools restrict the length of an H1 tag to between 20 and 70 characters, and it would be a good idea to keep to this limit. If you make it too short, you are likely not saying wasting precious space and leaving a lot unsaid; make it too long and users likely won’t read it at all.
Most content management systems (CMSs) have special visual effects applied on H1 tags and will add them automatically to the page’s source code. However, it is well worth making sure of this because it is very important.
- The H1 tags should be much larger than normal text and the other headers to make it easy to read
- The page’s source code should have the < H1 /> tags. If you are using a website maker such as Wix or Squarespace, make sure that these tags are embedded in the page’s source code before or after publishing
- Use whatever visual formatting features you need to make the H1 tag noticeable
3. Can You Use More than 1 H1 Tags on a Page?
Yes, now you can use as many H1 tags as you want. This was a cardinal mistake a few years ago, but search engine algorithms have since changed. If you feel that having multiple H1 tags will improve the user experience on a page, go ahead and use them.
However, we don’t recommend having more than one H1 tag from an SEO point of view. It dilutes the SEO value of having focused keywords in one main H1 tag, and search engine crawlers may find it hard to tell what exactly your page is talking about.
4. Meeting User Intent on H1 Tags
Another reason why we use a two-part H1 tag is to help meet user intent. Today, 8% of search queries are framed as questions and a full 70% of total queries are longtail keywords. Thus, even though short tail keywords are essential for SEO, using long-tail keywords works better for them and other headers.
The problem is that it becomes difficult to address user intent in these longtail keywords and provide a detailed summary of the content in one go. Having a two-part H1 tag is not necessary, but it is helpful. In other words, always try to ask yourself what the user might be looking for in order to come across your content.
5. How to Make Your H1 Tags Attractive
In most cases, your H1 tags will be the same as your title tag. They will be responsible for diverting traffic from Google search pages to your website, so they need to attract attention. Thus, they need to convey value to the user.
For example, most marketing websites do not provide information on prices, yet this is something that many users are looking for. Mention that your page has such information to draw in more traffic.
Second, offer a solution to a common user problem or offer a benefit. A tag like “Get One Month Free of Amazon Prime With This Package” is more likely to generate interest.
Here’s something many expert SEOs know but don’t say: using headers properly as a whole is more valuable than just optimizing H1 tags alone. Google has been gravitating towards a better user experience as a whole, and more valuable content that has been structured and presented properly will always outperform any shady SEO tricks.
It is such in-depth knowledge of the dynamics of content marketing that helps brands working with experts gain an edge in the market. At ArticleHub, we take pride in keeping an ear on the ground to hear the pulse of the industry and stay updated on the latest trends.
If you would like our team of SEO and digital marketing gurus to handle your brand awareness, talk to us today.