gnome standing next to heading tags on blackboard

How heading tags improve SEO and your visitor’s experience

Heading tags are used to differentiate your webpage headings from paragraph text. Visitors to your website will probably see headings in a different font (and possibly a different colour) compared to paragraph text. This predefined styling will have been specified by your web designer. Heading tags are very important from an SEO perspective as they send signals to search engines about the content contained on the page, as well as relevant key words.

The most important heading tag is the h1 tag and least important is the h6 tag. When editing pages or posts in WordPress you will see these are accessible via the drop down box in the toolbar. Heading tags from h1 to h6 form a hierarchy, and it is best to consider the hierachy of the headings and the page layout when using them. Ideally for SEO you shouldn’t skip any of the tag numbers or else the heading structure will be broken.

Diagrammatic Representation of Heading Tag Hierarchy

For example, if your webpage is introduced with a heading in h1, and the first sub-heading that appears is in h3, the hierarchy will be broken and the heading structure is not SEO-friendly. The coding should be something like what is shown below:

<h1>Main Heading</h1>
<h2>Secondary Heading 1</h2>
<h3>Sub-section of the secondary heading 1</h3>
<h2>Secondary Heading 2</h2>
<h3>Sub-section of the secondary heading 2</h3>

Don’t have more than one H1 heading tag

Do not use more than one h1 tag on a page unless absolutely necessary. Having more than one h1 tag may make search engines think you are attempting to include more keywords for SEO and over-optimise the page. It is better to divide the content into two separate topics on individual pages with their own h1 tags. As seen in this video multiple h1 tags are allowed, but should be used sparingly.

The heading tag is used to represent different sections of web page content. It has an impact on both the SEO and usability of your site.

Header tags from an SEO point of view:

  • Relevancy and consistency: Search engine spiders check the relevancy of the header tag with the content associated with it. They will also look for consistent use of the keyword in header tags and other parts of the page.
  • The importance of an h1 tag: The h1 is the most important tag and it should never be missed. Search engine spiders take notice of the words used in the h1 tag so it should be a basic description of what the page is about.
  • A better user experience: Heading tags provide the user with a clear idea of what the page is about. As user-experience is something that search engine measure, having heading tags that improve the experience has become an important part of SEO.

Heading tags from a usability point of view:

  • For users of your website who must use a screen reader, effective use of heading tags make it easier to navigate sections of content.
  • Users can scan the heading tags on a webpage and read only the sections that are relevant to them.
  • Heading tags are mainly used for SEO, but a web page does look cleaner and more attractive when heading tags are applied correctly.

Tips for using heading tags:

  • Do not stuff keywords into your heading tags.
  • Do not repeat heading tags on different pages of your site. Each page should have a unique heading tag.
  • Use different text in your page’s h1 tag to what is in your meta title tag.
  • Use heading tags for presenting organised and structured content on pages. If you don’t like the appearance of the heading tags, ask your web designer to change the styling of these.


By Aaron Enright

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