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Header Tags Matter in SEO

Difficulty: Beginner

Editor's note: As with everything in our field of SEO, this is subject to change. We recommend researching this topic in more depth before executing it on your website or you could, you know, contact us to find out.

In our field, there is debate as to whether HTML headings matter anymore, considering that search algorithms are rapidly changing and evolving to become smarter, providing users with more precise and relevant search results without the help of h1s. Well for now, when this tip was written, they do - just not as much as they used to.

What is a header tag?

The header tag (<h#> tag) in HTML is used on the titles of the post or page, written like so:

  • <h1>
  • <h2>
  • <h3>
  • <h4>
  • <h5>
  • <h6>

It is possible to have more but this is definitely not considered best practice and if done incorrectly, can spell out problems in the future for your website and SEO.

What role do h1 tags play in SEO?

There is no real correlation between header tags and organic rankings - at least none that we can really prove. That being said, we still believe that header tags has a primary role in SEO.

Using header tags correctly gives an indication to search engines on what the page is about. It is important to note, search engines read pages from top to bottom assigning the most valuable on-page content closer to the beginning of the page with the most relevance - hence why a h1 should be the first heading tag you use on a page. It is not, however, the determining factor to good organic rankings (but it helps).

Because header tags give this information to search engine crawlers, they provide a good opportunity for you to use keywords. After all, they are the words you are trying to rank for in search engines. However, make sure you avoid keyword stuffing. If you do this, you could end up with a penalty, which can cause the opposite effect of what you were aiming for.

Furthermore, the header tags are important to use for headings and subheadings, as it breaks up the text on the page and makes it more skimmable and readable. With each page on your website, you should be aiming to create a good user experience.

Who should have them

As mentioned previously, header tags should be implemented in order i.e. <h1> at the beginning of the page (title) through to <h6> if applicable, right to the page footer. There is a dispute in our field of if the heading tags from <h3> onwards are important or not. It’s without a doubt that <h1> and <h2> should be your site’s bread and butter and the rest should be applied with discretion. Remember, there should only be one <h1> on a page - no more.

How to tell where they are in existing websites

Want to know whether or not a page already has h1 tags on it? Simply search on a page’s source code using CTRL+F and the header tag. This should identify where the header tags are on the page and how many you have.

Still not getting it? Well, there’s always Google.