Jun 16

H1 Tag Demystified – How to write a great H1 Tag?

H1 tag is the most critical element of SEO and one that can substantially alter your rankings if done right. This guide is an attempt to demystify and improve your H1 tags in order to improve your SEO.

What is an H1 Tag?

An H1 tag is an element in HTML. The acronym HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. This is the prime programming language most websites use to create web pages. The term “tag” is defined as a small piece of code which directs your browser on how to show specific content.

In the HTML language itself, six heading tags are defined: H1, H2, H3, H4, H5 and H6. Tags are ranked from most important to least important, with h1 being the most important, and h6 being the least important. This helps the web page creator highlight the most important, and least important, sections of their web page.

HTML Headings

HTML Headings

An example of an h1 page in HTML is the title of this page.

To become more familiar with the h1 tag, a good exercise would be the following:

  1. Open up any web page of your choosing
  2. Take a look at the source code (Chrome (Windows): Ctrl + U, Chrome(Mac): CMD + Option + u)
  3. When you view the source code, you’ll see many different character statements. Don’t be intimidated!
  4. Press Ctrl + F to search the source code, and you’ll see a small search dialog box in your window’s upper-right hand corner.
  5. Type “h1” then press Enter.
  6. At this point, your web browser will highlight the h1 tag within this page’s source code.

Most likely, you will see a detailed snippet of code between the starting h1 tag and the ending h1 tag, but the tag is there nonetheless. Creating the h1 tag is a simple enough process, however having a good quality h1 tag will have a large impact on your website. In the age of content marketing with Google Rankbrain around, having a great H1 is not only important but expected.

Why is an H1 Tag Important?

An optimized h1 tag can more than double the organic traffic to your website. Here are some important facts regarding the importance of an h1 tag:

H1’s are Important ranking factor in SEO.

Many trends and strategies for good Search Engine Optimisation have come and gone in the industry, however h1 tags have remained a strong presence since the beginning of web development. In Moz’s 2015 Search Engine Ranking Factors results, tags are the third most significant positioning group.

H1’s are your titles

This fact is arguably the most significant SEO feature of the h1 tag. Initially it might be hard to believe that an h1 tag is an actual feature highlighted and used in the Search Engine Optimisation process. However, companies with great¬†SEO services have taken another direction in recent years, broadening the focus from concentrating on mainly optimal search engine results, to also incorporating elements of positive user experience when visiting a website. In these modern times, part of Search Engine Optimisation’s main goal is to gain the attraction of users. Thus, site visitors noticing h1 tagged items on your page is a large part of gaining the attention your site desires.

How do you Write a Great H1 Tag?

Optimising H1 tags is a very popular tactic. This includes and is not limited to: Mobile SEO, Ecommerce SEO, SEO Copy writing, etc. In fact, around eighty percent of the top search results within the first page of Google searches use an h1 tag. However, though the use of h1 tags may be rising in popularity, most site developers use them in an incorrect way, thus leading to inefficient and sub-optimal Search Engine Optimisation. Remember a great H1 should also accompany a great meta description to win half the battle of onpage SEO. The following rules will help in optimising the tactics of using h1 as an Search Engine Optimisation strategic item.

Only one h1 tag per page

Having more than one h1 tag may seem like an optimal idea initially, however you have to take into consideration the crawling of search engines. One of the main purposes of an h1 tag is to emphasise your focus on a particular keyword, sentence or phrase, and not many different ones. More than one h1 tag on a page will cause dilution of the power that just one can have for your Search Engine Optimisation purposes. This point is arguable, as not everyone uses just one h1 tag for Search Engine Optimisation purposes. However, if you can use just one, this will help optimise your page’s Search Engine Optimisation credibility immensely.

H1 descriptions to focus on page topic.

Your h1 tag should reflect a quick summary of what your page is all about. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Most times, you will have an h1 tag that will have similarities to the title tag you use for your site.
  2. Normally, the h1 tag is your article or blog post’s title.
  3. The h1 tag should be a strong summary of what a user should expect when reading your blog post or article.

Another important factor is that your h1 take should be only between 20 and 70 characters. While this point is not a must have, you have to take into consideration the length of your h1 tag. If it’s too short, you are wasting website real estate that may help in getting better Search Engine Optimisation results. However, if your h1 tag is too long, the power of the tag becomes less concentrated. The content of an h1 can also be just a normal sentence; it doesn’t have to be elaborate.

Your H1 tag should stand out

The h1 tag should be highlighted as the most important displayed element on your web page. H1 tags should be big, noticeable and strong. The main point is for your h1 tag to stand out, thus you should use any style based, visual or formatting elements that are in your design vessel. This is important because user experience is key when it comes to using it as an Search Engine Optimization strategy item.

It is important to note that an h1 tag is a semantic element, and not an element based on visual aspects. It’s very important to state this difference. If you are a web designer, there is no need to add elements of style using h1, h2, etc. type of semantic tags.

However, in reality, elements that are semantic and style based do mix. To follow the best practices in development and design, you must recognise that the most important visual elements are the semantic tags.

In web design, size matters. And in web development, semantic tags matter as well. Therefore combining their strengths in Search Engine Optimization makes perfect sense.

Your h1 tags should create good UX

Search Engine Optimisation has massively changed over the past recent years, and the largest change by far has been the dramatic focus of user experience in the Search Engine Optimisation realm. One of the reasons is because the evolution of search engines has increased to such a high degree that they can intuitively measure what most users want to see, even while web users are simultaneously browsing and searching online.

One thing to remember that because of machine learning, search engines are constantly being changed. Algorithm shifts no longer create humongous search engine results page disappointments. Instead continued adjustment of search ranking objectives are being performed, based on the habits of a million plus users searching and browsing the engines.

To summarize this, the way in which users interact with our web page is a huge factor regarding how our web page will rank in search engines. And one of the most important elements that will influence their interaction is the h1 tag. Reasons being that the h1 tag is easily noticeable, sends the main message of your web page, and communicates directly and instantly with site visitors.

Use H1 for long tail keywords too

Some professionals in SEO services wouldn’t dare advocate the idea of using keywords when creating your h1 tag. The reason why is because “keyboard stuffing” is now frowned upon this day and age, since Google penalised the practice. However, in an h1 tag, there’s no hard rule that says you cannot use keywords. In fact, Google actually recommends the use of keywords in h1 tags, in order to help their search crawlers comprehend what the subject is of each web page that they encounter. You can still obtain high rankings without using strong keywords in your h1 tag, but putting in h1 keywords gives you an opportunity to put keywords right in your source code! It is suggested that using “long-tail keywords” is the format one should be using to achieve this in your h1 tag. However, it’s important not to force the keywords, but to keep it natural in order to flow with the main content of your page, and to also not overdo it with more than 3 words.

Use H1 tags to answer for user intent

If you think about what “user intent” really means, it begs the question: What is the user expecting, and what is their intent, when they visit my article online? The answer to this should be encapsulated within your h1 tag.’

The average user develops their “intent” through a series of steps:

  1. A user thinks of an idea.
  2. They go online to Google the idea.
  3. A search engine results page delivers them their results.
  4. They click a result, and thus sees an article or blog post on their idea.

Your main goal should be that, when it comes to your h1 tag, that the user is guaranteed what they are searching for when visiting your site. In fact, your h1 tag’s purpose should be to initially begin to satisfy the intent of a user.

H1 Tag Best Practices

To conclude on the golden rules of how to make optimal h1 tags, here is an “SEO checklist” that summarizes it all:

  1. Get into the practice of using only one h1 tag.
  2. The topic of your page should be described through your h1 tag.
  3. Your h1 tag should stand out.
  4. An h1 tag should give site visitors a good user experience.
  5. Using long-tail keywords when creating h1 tags is the most optimal method.
  6. Your user intent should be answered within your h1 tag.
  7. The following example below will help any site creator get into the practice of optimizing their h1 tags. By following these techniques, your web traffic can double in size! Read below:

How to audit h1 tags for more traffic:

NOTE: This method is best used with web sites or blogs that range from small to medium sized.

  1. Download the Search Engine Optimisation Spider Tool from the Screaming Frog website.
  2. After downloading Screaming Frog, open the software.
  3. Start typing in the URL to your web page.
  4. Press the Start button, and wait until the spider tool finishes crawling through your website (this may take from a few minutes to a few hours).
  5. In the menu bar, click “h1.” You then should see the list of all the h1 tags you have within your website.
  6. From here on you can do some “h1 housekeeping.” Save a list of each of the following:
  • Missing h1 tags (i.e., if one of your site’s pages is missing an h1 tag).
  • Duplicate h1 tags
  • Multiple h1 tags
  • The resulting h1 tag list (after filtering the cases above).

At this point you should take these lists and cleanup the h1 tags that need work. The result is a web site that is clean of ineffective h1 pages, and full of the potential for more traffic!

Conclusion

Now you have the ultimate knowledge of the wonderful uses of a good h1 tag. From here the sky’s the limit on your optimal Search Engine Optimization endeavors. An h1 tag can make or break your web page’s rankings, traffic and content. However, if you follow this guide and tips, you will be on the right track to web success and satisfied site visitors.

About The Author

Ajay Chavda is the co-founder of Weboptimizers, an SEO agency in Melbourne and has been involved with SEO for over 15 years. Between the digital properties and security forums he has managed, his articles have been read by approximately 50 million unique visitors.

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