Content must be useful and unique to attract your target audience. But if it’s not visible, people will never even know about your unique, useful content.
Thus, before you can have your audience’s eyes, search engines must see your content. And to attract search engines to your content, you need to think about your heading tags.
Visible as <H> in your HTML code, heading tags are scanned by search engine bots and are the portion of your content most visible on search engine results pages.
How can you maximize the efficiency of these headings? Read on to learn the latest news on creating Google- and user-friendly headings.
Your H1 tags are the most important
An H1 tag is critical. The heading acts as an information guide for the search engine bots. It should include a highly searched keyword.
While some may think the H1 tag should be at the top of the content, it can be placed anywhere within <body>…</body> container.
H1 SEO tips
- Always include an H1 tag.
- Use only one per page.
- Include the primary keyword for your content.
- Avoid populating the tag with too many keywords.
- Ensure that your target audience can easily read the H1 tag.
- Use up to 70 characters in the tag length.
- Make the tag unique.
You also must recognize that page title (<title>) is not the same as the tag (<h1>) – though they should not be polarly different. As you can see in this example, the H1 tag is “Quick and Dirty Guide for Creating Actionable Content Marketing Personas.” The page title is “How to Create Personas That Help Everybody.”
To craft an SEO effective title and H1 tags:
- Use the highest volume and critical keywords in the title tag.
- Use the next most important keywords in the H1 tag.
To improve the process of selecting keywords to optimize headings, services such as Ahrefs, Serpstat (my employer), or SEMrush can be helpful. Consider creating a table of keywords to support your heading writers.
Make the most of H2, H3, etc., tags
As with the H1 tag, you can place H2, H3, and other heading tags anywhere in the body of the content. However, hierarchy is critical. Be sure to use Hx tags in logical order within each section of content, such as this hypothetical example of an article about making pancakes and sausage.
- One H1 tag: How to Make Pancakes and Sausage
- H2: Batter Up
- H3: Mix Your Dry Ingredients
- H3: Add Your Wet Ingredients
- H3: Head to the Griddle
- H2: Heat Up the Links
- H2: Enjoy Your Fresh-Made Breakfast
- H2: Batter Up
H4, H5, and H6 tags are used less frequently. They are useful for breaking up content in long reads.
Be careful about using too many H tags, as that could be interpreted as spammy and decrease the value of all the headings in the eyes of search engines. Google treats such content as less informative.
Hx SEO tips
- Write brief, well-articulated H2 through H6 tags.
- Do not use other tags within your H tags. For example, don’t bold or italicize the text when it requires a <b> or <i>. (Import your content into your CMS by removing all styles, which are automatically included in text-editing programs like Microsoft Word and Pages. Consider transferring content as a .txt file.)
- Don’t use links in heading tags unless you want to take readers away from your content.
- Don’t worry about H tag orders except when they’re necessary for reader understanding. Search engine crawlers don’t care. As John Mueller, senior webmaster trends analyst, shared in this Google Webmasters Hangout:
That (the order) doesn’t really matter. We use the headings to understand the context of the content on the page a little bit better and for that, we don’t need a strict order of the heading tags.
To make your content effective and actionable, heading tags optimization is vital. In short, make sure to:
- Use one <h1> tag.
- Don’t forget about hierarchy <h1> through <h6> (though Google currently claims it’s not of top importance, it’s important to illustrate proper flow for readers).
- Apply keywords within headings based on their search volume.
- Keep headings brief and to the point.
- Don’t overuse H tags.
- Clear styles and format headings within the CMS to avoid unexpected/extra symbols within the tags.
Do you have additional tips for creating SEO-friendly headings that convert and meet the target audience? Please share them in the comments below.
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Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute