HTML heading tags are an excellent way to rank your site higher on search engine result pages. To increase your page’s ranking, it’s important that you understand these tags and use them correctly. They are known as H1-H6 tags.
They are important because they give search engines an understanding of the relevance of the text to the page as a whole. Many people mistakenly use heading tags too often and as a result, it looks like spam and ends up having a negative impact on your site’s SEO.
In this article, I will cover the basic and intermediate rules for using HTML heading tags.
What are heading tags?
Heading tags are HTML elements that tell the search engines what level of importance the text has. They are H1 (the most important), H2, H3, etc. There is a new HTML 5 element called header that replaces H1-H6 in HTML5.
How to structure heading tags?
The best way to structure heading tags is using a hierarchical structure. Start with H1 for the most important heading (i.e., the title of the page). Then, create H2 elements for the next most important headings and so on until you reach H6.
Not a lot of people use tags H3 to H6 because they believe that they are not that important. Yes, that might be the case but I still recommend that you should do the best you can. After all, you want to give as much detail in your information towards the crawlers. Why not put the extra effort into structuring your hierarchy of title tags?
H1 heading tags
The H1 tag is the most important in the list. It carries the most weight in terms of importance and ranking. It should always be used only once per page because it is the most important heading. If you end up using two or more H1 tags, it may be considered to be spam and will also affect your page’s rankings. Not only that you can confuse the crawling bot and not communicate the exact topic of your page.
H2 heading tags
The H2 tag is the second most important title tag on the page. The purpose of this tag is to give it a bit more weight so that the search engines will recognize that this is not only the title of the page but that this is a cohesive subtopic.
The logic behind HTML headings
It is not very easy to understand why and how to structure your hierarchy the right way from the start but I would like to share my personal thoughts on how I understand the matter.
Let me use a metaphor: Let’s think of a page like it is a book by itself. The structure of a book is something like this: Title of the book, chapters, topics, and subtopics. Now if we take that metaphor and put it into a web browser’s page it would look something like this:
If the H1 tag is the title of the book, the H2 is the chapter, H3 is the topic, H4 to H6 are the subtopics and titles.
SEO and HTML heading tags
It is not enough just to have heading tags in your pages, they have to follow some SEO guidelines in order to be effective in your search engine optimization.
- If your heading tags are not structured properly, they will be considered to be spam by the search engines.
- If your heading tags do not contain keywords, it won’t help your site’s SEO.
- Lastly, using too many heading tags will give your page a poor user experience and it will not help the search engine rank.
We just covered the structure of the headings. Now let’s talk about the other 2 important aspects of the heading tags in more detail.
Heading tags and keywords
It is important to have keywords in your heading that match the topic that you are talking about and to match the keywords that you have prepared earlier in your keyword research and keyword mapping process.
Here are some rules when it comes to adding keywords to your H1-H6 heading tags:
- Do not repeat your keywords in your titles.
- You need to have a minimum of 2 to 5 words for each heading.
- When choosing your keywords, try and avoid using too many common words, especially in the title tags.
- You should be choosing keywords that are closely related to one another because you want the search engine to understand that the topics on your page are tightly related.
- Don’t overoptimize your headings by using too many keywords. This will also have a negative impact on your SEO.
Number of heading tags per page
There is no exact number of headings that you should add to your page in order to rank on the first page of Google.
(If you like the SEO methodology of correlations then you might have a different opinion)
But you should have some basic principles in mind when building your page!
The number of heading tags on a given page should also correlate to the content of that page. Each H2 tag should separate the page into sections that are logically related. For example and if we are taking the book metaphor again, you should have a chapter for each H2 tag.
Each H3 should be added after the H2 tag and should construct the structure of that logically related section and should provide value to the user.
My rule of thumb is that you should use H4 to H6 if your text is quite big and you already have enough H3 elements on your page. That is rarely the case and I do believe that this kind of structure is possible only for scientific studies or in-depth analysis that are dozen of pages long.
Heading tags are not just meant to be for the search engine. They are also for the user. The structure of your page is important in order to give the users the best experience when they are reading your content.
Yes, the ranking aspect of the heading tags has significantly decreased over the years but it is still important. Especially the H2 and H3 tags. They are a very important part of the SEO process because they provide valuable information to the crawler (to the crawling bot) about what your pages are all about.
So now that you have seen what heading tags are and how they work, it is up to you to decide if they are still important for your SEO.
Will you use better structure in your own articles or not? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!