Along with all of the blog posts in our basic technical SEO blog series, we will be covering header tags (H tags) and how to properly use them on your web pages. We keep the language simple enough that most anyone can follow along, but we also want to go in depth so even more advanced web designers find value in our article.
What are ‘H tags’?
As stated above, ‘H tags’ is short for header tags. They are essentially headlines and serve 2 purposes. The first is that they are more important to search engines than regular text. The search engine is assuming you made your H tag an H tag because it was very important to what the web page is about. The second is that they make skimming your article easier for readers so they can quickly find the part of your article pertaining to what they are interested in.
You will often see H tags in a bold face font, they are typically a larger font size than the paragraph text on your pages, and often they are also highlighted by a unique color to make them stand out even further to the viewers. The available H tags include H1-H6. <H1>Headline</> is the HTML markup used to create an H1 tag and 2-6 follow that same structure. By browser defaults, H1’s will be the largest in size and H6’s will be the smallest although you can alter their appearance as you wish using basic CSS commands. The headlines below use the browser defaults and the H tags in this article have been altered with CSS.
Best Practices for Using H tags
Here are some general guidelines to properly implement the use of H tags on your web pages. You should only have one H1 tag per page and it should best describe what that web page is about. It often makes sense to include your keyword or keyword phrase in your H tags, and that goes for H1-H6 tags. An H tag could be a single word and possibly as long as 10-12 words. There is really no ‘set in stone’ guide for H tags. You should make them what you feel is appropriate for your page’s content.
If you would like, check out this article from our friends over at Search Engine Round Table for a funny article on what Google says about using more than one H tag! And, just so you know, @JohnMu on Twitter is the official ‘Voice of Google.’ His name is John Mueller, he is a Google employee, and does many of the videos for the Google Webmasters YouTube channel.
For the rest of the H tags, it is okay to have more than one. You still want to keep their use to a reasonable amount to not dilute their significance to the search engines. Think of your H2 tags as ways to section off the content based on what you picked to be the H1 tag for that page. Keep in mind the content beneath each H tag should support and reinforce/expand on the H tag! You can do this with images, text, video, etc.
H3 tags should be used to compliment H2 tags much like H2 tags compliment your H1 tag. The search engines consider the H1 more important than H2, and H2 more important than H3, and in our opinion, H4-H6 are looked at much like paragraph text to the search engines, but they do still have their time and place. And keep in mind you are not just using H tags for the search engines as they can make it easier for the reader of your web page to navigate through your article.
Avoid These Common Misuses of H tags
Especially with blog posts, just like this one, the blog post title populates on the page as the H1. So, we made the first H tag we manually set on this page as the H2. But, there are a couple more common mistakes we wanted you to be aware of!
We specifically build WordPress websites even though we have developers on staff. The WordPress CMS just makes it super easy to manage all of the files and plugins make adding functionality a breeze. When we are auditing on our sites, we found these trends and had to come up with solutions for them.
What was happening is WordPress was actually creating H tags for us as we built out certain elements on the page. Since you cannot just look at the text on the screen and know what it is marked up, we overlooked this at first. Where you need to watch for this happening on your site is on contact forms, blurbs, FAQs, and testimonials to name a few.
It was turning all of our FAQ’s questions 😵 into H4 tags. Which may or may not actually be an issue after all! But, often it was… Even worse than that was how it would make the person’s name who left the testimonial an H5 or H6 tag. Having that person’s name as a H tag on our site provided no value to anyone and only confused the search engines. So, don’t let these things happen to you now that you know!
H Tags in a Nutshell
H tags are nothing to be afraid of. They are super easy to use. I guess the best advice is to go with your gut on what you feel would be best based on what would make the most sense. There really is no right or wrong and in the scheme of all things SEO, your H tags are not going to make or break your site if you use them in moderation and put a little thought into them from a site visitor and search engine perceptive.
Now that you have your H tags squared away, read on blog on how to optimize your Google My Business page.