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Learn SEO Basics Part 6: How To Use The H1 Tag

by | Jan 12, 2014

The H1 tag is used to identify the main topic of your page. It’s the single most most important element on your webpage to help with search engine optimization. Here’s how you should be using H1 tags to get the best results.

H1 Tag - King of the SEO Title Tags

Use the H1 tag to identify the main topic of your page

For instance, in the below example, the H1 tag is used for the title of an article.

<H1>Classic BMW Cars For Sale</H1>

Webpage showing correct H1 tag usage as main subject heading for the page

H1 tag used as the main subject heading of the page

Before going further, let’s discuss Heading Tags so you can better understand why they were created and their importance to SEO.

Why Heading Tags Were Created

In the early days of the Internet, webpages only contained text. Therefore a simple markup system was created to help visually define sections of content. The markup was heading tags—specifically H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6.

There are six levels of headings in HTML with H1 as the most important and H6 as the least. Visual browsers usually render more important headings in larger fonts than less important ones. — http://www.w3.org/

See the below sample with default settings for <H1>, <H2>, and <H3> tags. This is what the text on your webpage would look like with all design styles turned off.

Defualt heading tags structure with disabled font styling" title="seo-basics-heading-tags-structure

Heading tags structure with CSS styles turned off

How to properly use H1 Heading Tags

Place H1 Tag close to the Body Tag

The higher the <H1> tag is in the markup, the more importance it’s given by the search engines. In which case, the <H1> tag should be positioned as close to the <body> tag as possible. When I say close, I mean below the <body> tag. This will make the <H1> tag the first actual text on your page.

Use Keywords in H1 Tags

Including keywords in your H1 tag is extremely important to SEO. In fact, Moz’s recent ranking factors indicate that the the presence of a keyword in the title has an “influence value” of 94.4 out of 100.

It should include the first one or two keyword phrases used in the title tag. Again, if you’ve worked through the process of writing your headline first, the page <title> can either be duplicated as-is, or truncated to remove extraneous words such as “the”, “a”, and “an”, etc.

Example: (Page title vs. Content (H1 Tag))

Page title

<title>Corporate Branding, Brand Development, Brand Marketing, Business Logos, Nashville</title>

H1 Tag
<h1>Corporate Branding Services</h1>

Tip: If you have a static HTML page, make the <H1> tag a link to the same page — essentially linking to itself. This helps with internal linking and anchor text which I’ll cover in another article in this series.

Side note: Google has been known to dismiss your carefully crafted H1 page title and replace page titles in search results.

Avoid Using Multiple <H1> Tags

There have been many speculations whether a web page should have more than on <H1> tag. Well, Matt Cutts (a leading software engineer for Google since 2000 and current head of Google’s Webspam team) has finally laid that question to rest.

In the below video “More than on H1 on a page: good or bad?” Matt says it’s okay to have multiple <H1> tags on a page — if it made sense. That is, if the page has a lot of content that needed to be separated by multiple subject headings. He also went on to say that you shouldn’t go crazy with <H1> tags either.

Review Theme Structure

As a final tip about using <H1> tags, if you’re using WordPress, be sure to closely look over the theme structure as many designers have been using the <H1> tag to style and display the logo. As a general rule of thumb, this is a mistake.

After the <title> Tag, the <H1> tag is the most important tag on the page. If you allocate your logo/business name to a <H1> tag, it essentially tags your entire site with your business name as the primary keyword. I’ll be discussing this in greater detail in a future WordPress SEO articles.

What We’ve Learned

  • Use H1 tag for the main topic of your page
  • Place your H1 tag as close to the tag as possible
  • Make sure your webpages and/or WordPress theme isn’t using an H1 tag for any other element on the page
  • Avoid using multiple H1 tags on a single page.

Don’t miss the next article in the Learn SEO series where you’ll learn about the importance of content length.

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