What is the H1 Tag? How is This Header Tag Used in SEO?

Ben Tippet
Heading tags for SEO optimisation

Of all the areas of marketing, SEO is believed to be one of the most challenging. Not only is there a vast knowledge base that search engine optimisation experts have to learn and implement, but the constantly changing search engine algorithms make it challenging to stay on top of best practices and effective techniques.

SEO practitioners must also be masters at both on-page and off-page SEO. In the realm of on-page SEO, 12 factors influence how a page ranks on Google and the rest of the search engines. One of those 12 factors is the use of title tags, and the H1 tag is a type of title tag.

H1 tags are an undoubtedly important part of SEO, but they’re often misunderstood and misused, even by experienced SEOs. In this article, we’ll outline how best to use the H1 tag for SEO.

Help Google Understand Your Website

What Is an H1 Tag?

H1 tags are a type of title tag, also referred to as a header tag or HTML heading. On any web page, the H1 tag is typically the title of the blog article or page.

In addition to signaling to the search engines that the H1 tag was an integral part of the content, having a clearly defined header tag also helps users visiting your page understand at a glance what type of content they can expect. As the largest and most prominent HTML tag, H1 tags stand out, with a font size ranging from 30 to 34pt.

If you look at the source code of any website, you can see whether the page has an H1 tag. You’ll be able to see it in the HTML code (short for hypertext markup language) written as

Why H1 Tags Are Important

According to Google’s John Mueller (Google’s Search Advocate), H1 tags provide a strong signal to users and search engines about a page’s content, but they are not as necessary as they once were to ensure your site makes to page one of the search engine results pages.

What’s more important than a H1

More important than an H1 tag is having a strong heading and quality page content that enhance the user experience.

However, this does not mean that H1 tags are any less important than they once were. Even though Mueller has admitted that not having an H1 tag will not prevent Google from ranking your website, it is still considered best practice to have an H1 tag at the top of your page. In Mueller’s words, “H1 headings are useful but not critical.”

Benefits of H1 Tags

It used to be that a page could not have multiple H1 tags and that if one were missing, Google would have trouble distinguishing the page’s content. Though this is no longer the case, and you can have one, zero, or multiple H1 heading tags, there are still several benefits to including this element in your on-page SEO strategy.

Readability

Header tags provide structure to a web page, allowing a user to see at a glance what a page is about and whether they’ve landed in the right place. A catchy headline or page title that includes your target keywords can improve the clickthrough rate and create a more user-friendly experience.

It’s also believed that HTML header tags make a site more user-friendly, especially for people who access content on mobile screen readers that have a smaller surface area. Prominent header tags allow for easy skimming, which is especially helpful for longer-form content like a blog post.

Without the appropriate use of HTML header tags, including H1 header tags, page content becomes more challenging for the user to skim and navigate. By including this element, your text structure can be understood at a glance, and it encourages your site visitors to read further.

SEO

Understanding the importance of header tags in today’s realm of SEO requires some context of how they formerly ranked in the hierarchy of search engine optimisation tactics.

H1 header tags used to be the holy grail of SEO. Search engine professionals would stuff their primary keyword into these HTML tags in order to force the page to rank. The search engine bots relied heavily on this content to help a page rank. Now, however, Google can understand what the page is about, whether you have zero headings or multiple headings.

Instead of writing and placing HTML tags for the benefit of the search engine, today’s best SEO practices are to consider the user experience first.,/p>

Accessibility

Did you know that there are 43 million people who are completely blind, and another 295 million have at least moderate visual impairment?

For the visually impaired, reading text on a computer screen or mobile device is not possible. Instead, this group relies on screen reader technology to convert text to audio. For this to work, the software programs have to be able to interpret your website’s code. The majority of these screen reader software programs prefer that there is only one H1 HTML header tag.

How to Add H1 Tags to Your Website

Most website builders and content management systems make adding header tags a very easy process. In most situations, you won’t have to touch the backend of your website.

Typically, you can write your content as you usually would, highlight the title, and then select a style or site text option that allows you to specify the type of text that denotes the highlighted section. You’ll be able to choose from headings numbered 1 through 6.

These header tags help organise content in a way that makes sense to both search engines and users. Having appropriately placed header tags isn’t merely about best SEO practices. It’s also an important part of creating a user-friendly website.

For example, while your primarily title will be noted by H1, you might use H2 headlines to divide content into sections. You can think of it like chapters in a book. As the header tags increase in number, they decrease in relative importance. So, H3 tags will nestle beneath H2 tags to further categorise content and get more granular.

If you do find that you need to adjust your header tags from the source code, all you have to do is ensure that the content is bookended by:

<h1 class="wp-block-heading">and</h1>

code like this:

This is My Amazing Title

You do not need to worry whether the header tags are capitalised. HTML page elements are not case-sensitive.

Search Engines & H1 Tags Best Practices

Given the earlier advice from Google’s John Mueller, the good news is that you don’t have to spend as much time worrying about the presence and placement of your header tags to ensure that search engine crawlers read and rank your website.

From a user standpoint, however, having strategically placed header tags is beneficial. And, despite the fact that your site won’t break without the “right” number of header tags, the H1 element is still an important ranking factor that can improve SEO.

Use H1 Heading for Page Titles

Forget SEO for a moment and put yourself in the shoes of your website visitors. What’s the first thing you consider when you land on a page and decide whether to spend your valuable time consuming the content?

Most humans will say that the title is the first thing they look at. The title is an entry point to your website. Just like a sign on a door that says “enter” or “exit,” a page title informs the user they are in the right place and gives them a clue about what’s inside.

Further, the H1 is often what appears on a search engine’s results page and in Google featured snippets. If you want to attract organic traffic, have a compelling title that’s nestled in H1 header tags.

Featured snippets can also pull in your H2 tag if Google has decided to send visitors to a specific section of your page, so a good content marketer will also consider other header tags when creating content.

Include Your Target Keyword

Include the search term that you are trying to rank for in your title. Like humans, the search engine bots still consider the page’s title as a ranking factor.

However, you don’t necessarily have to use your exact keyword here. For example, if you want to rank for “best plumber Perth WA,” you don’t necessarily need to put this awkward phrase in your title. In fact, doing so could actually hurt you because it can turn off the readers and affect your clickthrough rate, which is also an important signaling factor to Google about your page quality.

As the search engine algorithms have evolved, they are now able to interpret keyword phrases even if they have conjunctions and other connectors. Remember, the title is only one element of on-page SEO practices.

Don’t Make H1 Header Tags Too Long

It used to be that content marketing pros created a page for each long tail keyword they wanted to rank for and then stickered it with H1 header tags. As Google became more focused on ranking and rewarding user-friendly sites, this technique has fallen out of favour.

Keep your H1 header tags short and to the point. Instead of worrying about whether the page will rank based on the title alone, focus on whether the title is compelling and encourages an Internet searcher to click through to your website.

Another critical factor to consider with H1 header tags is the overall character count. The Google search engine results page will truncate your title after 70 characters (including spaces). To avoid this, keep your titles under this limit.

What Is h1? Steps to an SEO-Friendly Site

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “what is an h1” you now know the answer! As you’ve also learned in this article, header tags are merely one element of creating an SEO-friendly website. In addition to these on-page elements, there are also several technical SEO variables. Some of the most relevant technical SEO ranking factors include site speed, functionality, content, and navigation.

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Here at Perth Digital Edge, we are a full-service digital marketing agency with expertise in all things digital marketing, including SEO services. To enlist the help of our team, contact us to get started and let us help you find your digital edge today.

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