On-Page SEO Factors – Heading Tags

Heading tags (e.g., <h1>, <h2>, etc.) specify the topic of sections or paragraphs on a page. It is helpful to think about them like headlines in a newspaper and they should be written in much the same way. It's unclear how much additional SEO value they have now, but Heading tags have traditionally been weighted more than standard text by search engines. For that reason, you should build your pages to include Headings with high priority keywords.

What are Heading tags and how should I use them for SEO?

<h1> to <h6> tags are used to define HTML headings. The <h1> is the largest heading and they get progressively smaller as you get down to the <h6>. In most instances, we recommend that a Web site use one <h1> tag on every page and that no more than a handful of subheadings be used unless the page is extremely long. The <h1> tag should be the first Heading used on the page and it should be specific to the page that you are on. A page's <h1> tag should support the theme that has been established in the Title and Meta Description tag if you would like to create an ideal landing page for search engine optimization.

Any other Headings beyond the <h1> tag should also support the page's theme. Heading tags should not be used on text containing no keywords. A common mistake made by many sites is to put text in a Heading tag just for styling purposes without SEO in mind. That could dilute the focus of your page and should be avoided.

Styling Headings with CSS

By default, Heading tags are formatted in a way that is not visually appealing. <h1> tags, if they are not styled with CSS, will render as extremely large text in your browser. If you are concerned about page design, then styling Headings to match the look and feel of the rest of your site is a good idea.

It is a relatively simple process to style Heading tags with CSS. For example, here is the CSS that we utilized to define the <h1> tags on SEOCipher.com:

h1 {
  font-family: Calibri, Georgia, "Times New Roman", Times, serif;
  font-size: 18px;
  color: #011257;
  margin: 5px 0px 5px 0px;
  padding: 5px 0px 5px 0px;

If you were to create a similar CSS declaration (with the styles changed for your site) in a .css file referenced throughout your site, then you could easily define the look of every <h1> tag that is used on any of your pages.

Key Takeaways – Heading Tag Best Practices

To sum up, here are some key things to remember about how to use Heading tags effectively for search engine optimization:

  • Utilize one <h1> tag per page. It should support the theme established in the Title and Meta Description by using one of the page's top keywords.
  • Text that is completely devoid of keywords should not be put into Heading tags.
  • Keep your Heading tag length relatively reasonable. Do not put entire paragraphs into a Heading. Many sites think this is good for SEO but it actually de-emphasizes the keywords you are focusing on.

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