What are heading tags?
When writing in a text editor, you will be confronted with paragraph text and heading text. In html code, a paragraph is denoted <p>, while headings are denoted <hX>, where X is number, usually between 1 and 6. These are important for SEO.
Headings by default are usually larger and bolder than ordinary text, and are visual cues for users that help separate paragraphs and different ideas in what would otherwise be walls of text. Google also sees them as being more important than regular text, as they help define the overall theme of the page.
Headings are arranged in order of importance from Heading 1 to Heading 6, with Heading 1 being the most important. This is usually visually apparent as well, as the font size typically decreases as we move from Heading 1 to Heading 6.
What is the H1 tag?
The H1 or Heading 1 tag, written as <h1>, is the most important heading tag and probably the second most important On-page SEO indicator to Google after the meta title. It should sit somewhere close to the top of the page (above the fold) and should define clearly, what the page is about. The Heading 1 tag should usually be succinct and full of keywords.
For example, a physiotherapist in Melbourne, might decide that their homepage should have the Heading 1 tag, “Physiotherapy in Melbourne”.
Remember that there should be only one Heading 1 tag on the page. Although you will not receive any penalty for having multiple, you will dilute the main intention of the page.
How to properly use Heading 2 (H2) tags
H2 tags are the second most important heading tag. They should be reserved for only important, keyword rich headings. For example, in our physiotherapist example, the H2 tag could be other related service such as “Sports Physiotherapy”, “Remedial Massage” and “Dry Needling”. Make sure the selected H2 tags also have volume!
As with H2 through to H6, multiple headings of the same type can be used. Some dilution will occur the more you use, but this is not such a big issue as with the H1 tag.
Using H3 and H4 to great effect
Heading 3 and 4 are in an interesting place in that they are not that important as important as H1 and H2, but still have significance. Typically, H3 is used for subheadings of H2, and H4 as subheadings of H3. Ultimately, most pages on the internet would only need H1, H2 and H3 – and having more for the sake of having more can actually be detrimental as you may be sacrificing the importance placed on headings that relate strongly with the page content.
Heading 5 & 6 – How to use H5 and H6 properly
Generally, H5 and H6 are saved for headings that don’t have keywords. For instance, in the physiotherapy example, “Our Services” could be a H6. If you wanted to make this a H3, you want to change it to “Our Physiotherapy Services” – notice the keyword injection!
H5 and H6 are also great candidates for the footer headings, which often are generic and unrelated to the page as a whole. Note that not everything needs to be a heading, even if you want to make it stand out! In fact, in many circumstances it’s better to just keep it as the standard paragraph <p> and adjust the look using CSS.
How to find Heading tags on a page?
You can use the Google Chrome inspect tool, but a much easier and more intuitive way to do it, is to download a Google Chrome extension called Heading Tag Markup. This will allow you to see all the heading tags on a page visually and will save you a lot of time. It also guarantees you won’t miss any heading mistakes!
Common SEO heading mistakes
• Using multiple H1’s or no H1 at all
• Using important H1, H2, H3 headings without keyword injection
• Trying to use all the heading tags – only use what you need!
• Not checking the header and footer for inappropriate heading tags
• Overoptimizing heading tags
• Using heading tags for the sake of using heading tags – sometimes paragraph text is sufficient!