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Are H1 Tags Necessary For Ranking?

July 24, 2020

Are H1 Tags Necessary For Ranking? | AIA Book in a free 30 minute strategy session

A big priority for many business owners is to get their website a good rank in search engines. The higher you can place, preferably organically, the better your business can perform, as we all know the top rank is a vote of confidence from Google that’s bound to bring a lot of valuable traffic.

You can find a lot of information out there regarding what is important for SEO or not, but for many, the deeper they dive into the subject the more questions they have. The H1 element is a perfect example of this; some claim that it can make or break your SEO efforts, while others claim you don’t need to stress too much about it.

But which is it? Let’s discuss this.

What Is the H1 Element?

H1 (header 1) is an HTML tag that indicates a header on web pages. In pretty much any piece of writing out there, titles and subtitles are used as methods to organise the text, break it into sections, and make it easier for a reader to follow the text without scaring them with chunks of unorganised content.

On webpages, your titles and subtitles are called headers and subheaders, and you actually have a lot of different ones:

  • H1
  • H2
  • H3
  • H4

As the numbers grow, the text becomes smaller. So h1 and h2 are bigger than h3 and h4, and you can use them as a way to structure your content. The H1 element is usually designated for the title of the page, since it offers the most visibility out of all the heading tags, with the largest font size.

As an example, if you have an article about best practices for first-time Google advertisers, you’ll place the headline “Top SEO Tips for Beginners” under the H1 element.

Then, to break the text even more, you’ll use the H2 or H3 to add more subheaders. These tags help you organise your content as a pyramid and help users follow the hierarchy of the paragraphs.

H1 Tag and the Title Tag

People tend to confuse the h1 tag with the title tag, and it’s easy to understand why, since both technically refer to a title of a page. But they are slightly different, especially in terms of where they appear:

  • A title tag will show us in search engines, in the title bar of the web browser, on-page previews when you share them on social media, and in the hyperlink. Title tags do not appear in the actual webpage;
  • An H1 element will show on the actual webpage and appears as the page title or content title. These tags do not appear in search engines.

If you’re using a content management system to publish your content, the system will likely use the H1 tag and duplicate it to create the title tag, so in this example, both titles are identical. However, in some cases, you may want to step in and modify the title tag.

H1 elements are usually longer, almost sentence-like structures, which can simply be too much text to appear in the search engines or a hyperlink. Google can cut off your title and provide users only a fraction of it in the SERP, and you generally want users to understand what your page offers right from the start.

Do Header Tags Improve SEO?

There is no evidence that header tags directly improve your SEO efforts. But search engine rankings are complex, and it’s not to say the way you structure your text on the page you want to promote doesn’t matter.

Header tags have indirect benefits for SEO, specifically in regards to user experience.

If we were to present this article with no tags, how well do you think you’d be able to follow it? Would you know when the article jumps from one subject to the next? Would you even bother to reach the end?

Header tags improve page SEO by giving people a more pleasant reading experience, and search engines care about that quite a lot. Google may not be all that interested in your business’ views on a particular subject, but they will pay attention to how much time a user spends on a page. If they leave immediately, then something’s not right. If they stay, read the content, and even click on other articles, then Google is more likely to rank your page.

Another indirect benefit of header tags is that they allow you to leverage very important keywords, and keywords definitely help your page SEO. Web crawlers can’t actually read a web page, but they can match a user query with keywords from that page. And if the keyword is found right at the top, then it makes that whole thing a lot easier for them, and your page can be quickly included in the SERP.

Best Practices for H1 Elements

Header tags are still an important part of your technical SEO efforts, even if they are not standalone criteria for website ranking. If you’re running a content marketing strategy, remember to include these H1 best practices:

  • Have an H1 element on all your webpages;
  • Make each H1 tag unique. Don’t duplicate content as it might confuse users;
  • Do keyword research to discover to most valuable keywords to include in your H1 tag, and even throughout the content;
  • Don’t go overboard with the keywords. Structure your H1 tag content like an actual sentence that makes sense even if removed from the content;
  • Default H1 sizes might not fit perfectly with your web page layout, so it may need some modifications. If you’re working with a web developer, they can help you customise the font size to your liking, or you can look for a style.css file on your server and edit it yourself.

Can You Use Multiple H1 Tags?

Technically yes, but multiple H1s will likely have no effect on your page SEO. The H1 element is instantly recognizable by users as the title of the content, and having multiple titles can be slightly confusing. Are they reading another article on the same page? It may look like it, but the content says otherwise.

And it’s these small moments of confusion that could make them stop reading and leave the page. Instead, you can use H2 or H3 to add a bit more structure to your content. These tags are also essential to boosting page readability, but like H1 elements, they don’t hold much weight by themselves SEO-wise. Actually, they hold even less weight than the H1 tag.

Need Help with Your SEO Efforts?

Search engine optimisation takes a lot of time and effort, but it’s always easier if you work with the right team. Australian Internet Advertising is happy to help you improve your page SEO and get your website ranking in search engines.

Book a free 30-minute strategy session with our Search Engine Optimisation Expert now to get started on your SEO strategy.

Book in a free 30 minute strategy session
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