When optimizing your content for SEO, one of the first steps you need to take is make sure that your HTML header tags are applied correctly. How many of each should you use, and where should you use them?
HTML header tags are available in HTML5 from H1 to H6 with all major browsers supporting all six. Use H1 to define the most important heading in your content, and only use it once. This tag will typically be the title of your post/page. As the numbers rise, it indicates less important sub-headings. HTML header tags are similar to using bullet and number points in an essay, with each higher number referring to a more specific category.
The H1 Tag: The H1 tag is the most important of all header tags when it comes to SEO, and should only be used once. The H1 tag is where you want to include the major keywords that you are trying to rank for. While there is no technical limit on the length of the H1 tag, you do want to avoid keyword stuffing and making it too long. For one, Google’s RankBrain AI will uncover that you’re stuffing keywords and may penalize you. Secondly, long headers/titles can turn off potential readers, costing you leads and increasing your bounce rate.
As with all of your content, write for the readers, and not for the search engine crawlers. Content is king. Avoid SEO tricks that may garner some initial success, and instead on building content that is authoritative, engaging, and is built to withstand any algorithm changes Google may throw at you.
The H2-H6 Tags: The rest of the Header tags follow a top-down hierarchy, to underscore sub-headings. You can use as many or as few Header tags on your page as you feel necessary, but be sure not to skip headings by going from an H2 to an H4 directly. Most pages will typically only go to H2 or H3, and there is no requirement to use all six headings available. A concise post on a single topic should feature one H1 tag as the title, a few H2 tags as the titles of the various paragraphs/sections of the article, and maybe some H3 tags sprinkled in as group/list headings if necessary.
What effect do HTML Header tags have on SEO? At one time, the H1 tag was critical to SEO success and was considered second only to keywords. As Google moves more towards semantic search, the H1 tag is losing its importance. Backlinko’s research of over 1,000,000 search results shows that while the importance of the tag is falling, it is still a signal that is used by Google and should be keyword-optimized.
Properly formatted and optimized header tags can also help search engines better read and display your content. If there is a problem with the H1 tag, Google may use one of your other tags as the headline on the Search Engine Results Page, directly affecting your Click-Through Rate. Search engines will also compare your tags to the rest of your content, ensuring relevant and continuity. As with all things SEO, it’s hard to determine whether HTML Header tags are more or less important than other signals. What we can be sure about, however, is that they do have an effect on your SEO performance. Considering they also help format your content into easier to read sections, you should be ensuring that the content you write properly uses these header tags.