Proper Header Tags for SEO Success

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Header tags, or H-tags, are an important piece of a strong search engine optimization strategy. By bracketing key groups of words with such tags, you contribute to a well-organized and professional-looking web page or article. Calling special attention to a group of words in this way also attracts the attention of Google spiders.

The following is an overview of proper header tags for SEO, along with insights on tips for creating strong H-tags!

Header Tag Basics

Header tags range from H1 to H6. H1 has the highest priority and H6 the lowest. These tags are typically applied to the primary title of a website, page or post, and then used within the page to create subheadings and subsequent main points. H-tags create a large font and attention-getting style when applied to a title, heading or group of words. Thus, the tagged words stand out from the regular copy on a page. Notice that every subheading within this article stands out from the body copy.

The One H1-Tag Rule

Some webmasters and SEOs debate how to properly use H1 tags on a given page. As H1 holds the highest priority, it is typically applied to the title of a web page or post. Some people suggest using H1 tags on all subheadings as well, to give equal search weight to them. However, consider the point of a “subheading.” By definition, it is a sub-point of the main topic or title. Similarly, when you structure any document or paper, your main title is the highest priority topic, with subheadings used to denote sub-points.

Google and Bing both advocate for only one H1 tag on a given page as well. Thus, it is pretty clear the search engines prefer clarity in the main theme or topic for a given page. This clarity allows the search engines to connect your subheadings and content to the main thesis.

Using H2-H6 Tags

Your next likely question is, “How do I properly structure my remaining header tags for SEO?” As you don’t want H1 tags on primary subheadings, give them H2 tags. This approach tells Google that the four, five, six or more subheadings within your article are secondary points that contribute to telling the full story identified by the title (tagged with H1). A top-10 list, for instance, should have 10 H2 tags.

In a short-form blog post, it is common to get no farther than H2 tags in your structure. A reader is able to scan your page or post and identify a handful of related topics that contribute to the main point.

Longer posts, or topics that naturally cause the writer to delve into deeper sub-points, may push you to use H3 tags and beyond. If you use H3 tags, the logic is that these word groups are sub-points of your sub-points. The same theory applies as you move into H4, H5 and H6 tags.

The following is a breakdown of header tag appearances and value from Business2Community.com:

H1-H6 Header Tag Breakdown

Creating High-Quality Header Tags

Header Tag Coding and Design

Proper header tag structure includes two basic web development and design components. When you attach an H-tag to a group of words, the goal is to create an attractive organization and to draw special attention to the tagged words. Therefore, you need to consider the font style and print size for each tag. The H1 tag should be the largest size, with each subsequent tag getting smaller. This back-end code is placed into your website to designate the visual result when the tags are used. In WordPress and other CMS platforms, themes are designed with this coding in place. Therefore, the webmaster or operator only needs to add the actual tags within the page or post.

To add the header, you place the opening tag in front of the set of words and the closing tag immediately after. The image below is pulled from the coding on another blog post, and illustrates proper use of H2 tags. I have created similar H2 tags on every subheading in this post. I have also used two h3 tags in this particular section to identify the two elements to creating high-quality header tags.

Proper Header Tags for SEO H2 Example

Header Tag Content

The words you choose to highlight with tags matter as well. Again, there is much debate among marketers and SEOs about best practices for properly tagged content that meets search engine demands.

Some SEOs advocate that you avoid using your targeted keywords in the title (H1 tags) of a page or post to avoid keyword stuffing, which Google frowns upon. However, one usage of your keywords in the title doesn’t lead to an interpretation of stuffing. Neil Patel recently did a great job arguing for the benefits of including your primary keywords in your H1 title tags.

In contrast, you could cause users and search engines to detect keyword stuffing if you unnaturally integrate primary keywords in every subheading. In fact, Google is generally looking for terms and concepts in H2-H6 tags that reinforce your primary topic.

Prioritize User Experience

Even though this article is intended as a guide to properly structuring header tags for SEO, your priority should really be on optimizing H-tags for a great user experience. This point holds true with any SEO subject today. Google’s algorithm is constantly updated to place increased emphasis on quality results that deliver the best possible experience to users.

Therefore, as you use H-tags in your site, focus on how they create an organized layout for your reader and contribute to UX factors such as scannability.

Conclusions

This comprehensive overview of proper header tags for SEO should help you understand the basics for creating Google-friendly header tags. As you get comfortable with a well-defined approach, you will also benefit from the consistent organization as you prepare content as well.

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About the Author: Neil Kokemuller

Neil Kokemuller is a veteran college marketing professor with an MBA. He has also been a freelance business and marketing content writer and website creator since 2008.

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