Header Tags: SEO Best Practices and Why it Matters
Accomplished writers are able to create whole universes in our minds that are easy to follow and are fun to digest. Writing an amazing piece of content is one thing, but communicating this vision in a format that search engines will understand is an art form in and of itself.
Some of the clients I’ve worked for in the past may have a site that’s fun to read and engage with, but if they’re missing key elements like relevant alt image text, appropriate accents, and headers, the search bots may not know which keywords to emphasize for any given query.
Today, we’re going to focus on headers, and how they help users find your site.
What Search Engines See and Use
Notice the tag above this sentence? It’s been assigned as an h2, which would be considered a relevant subsection to the h1, which is displayed above the first paragraph.
H1’s should not be confused with <title> tags, which is what is displayed in the SERPs. The h1 for this article, when combined with “ | Little Egg Solutions”, is well over the 60 character limit before truncation occurs.
If I were to roll with the h1 as the <title> tag, the SERPs would display something like “Header Tags: SEO Best Practices and Why They Matter | Little…”. This is not really a good look when trying to establish authority and branding.
Instead, we could go with a truncated version of the h1 tag that’s search engine friendly, something like “Header Tags: SEO Best Practices | Little Egg Solutions”, which is 54 characters and will not be truncated.
You have a little more freedom regarding character limits where the h1 tag is concerned, but seeing how it is usually the most visible aspect of any page, you should:
Limit your page to only one h1 tag, if possible (some themes automatically assign your site logo as an h1, but workarounds may exist).
Make sure your choice keywords make the cut and that they are relevant to the overall message of the content.
The effective use of these header tags communicate to search engines what your page is about, and which keywords to focus on in any given query.
Examples of Effective Header Usage
Okay. Now that we understand the importance of headers and how search engines search and aggregate the information contained within them, below are examples of them at work, from the h2 above this paragraph all the way to h5 further down.
All Header Tags Matter, but Some are More Important Than Others
The title above this paragraph has been assigned as an h3, or a subsection of the h2 that preceded this section.
Search engines will focus on all of the header tags, but assign the most importance to the h1. That’s why it’s so crucial to write a killer h1 tag; it sets the tone for the rest of the article and the other header tags it contains.
The keywords within the h2, h3, etc., all the way up to h6, are respectively assigned lesser importance than their predecessors, but are still opportunities to write user-friendly, highly-relatable (read searchable) titles for each that search engines will pick up on.
Are h4, h5, and h6 Header Tags Important for SEO?
As stated above, these are assigned less and less important than the h1 the further you go down the list, but are a great way to improve readability and communicate with search engines.
The title for this section has been assigned as h4, and is considered a subsection of the h3 above it. It’s basically a way to whittle down broader topics into something more niche that would still be of value to visitors.
For the most part, you’ll rarely need a reason to go beyond an h3 tag, but they’re there when you need them.
Will I be Penalized by Google for Purported Misuse of Header Tags?
Unless you’re purposefully stuffing keywords into header tags leading back to ultra-thin content, it’s not likely that you’ll be penalized for using header tags.
The title above this section is assigned as an h5, as an example of when it would be appropriate to use one. In the section above this one, we discussed the SEO benefit of header tags, while this one addresses a common concern when attempting to communicate with search engines.
Other Considerations for Header Tags
Throughout this article, you may have noticed my use of bold and italic text for various terms. These communicate to search engines that these words are important, and assign them the appropriate level of importance when ranking your page.
When they’re combined with clear and concise language throughout,i.e. phrases that typical users would employ, your page will be the one likely shown in the SERPs for a given search query.
Bottom line: write for your target audience by speaking their language, know your character limits and what search engines look for, and how to organically speak to both.
How Little Egg Solutions Can Help with Header Tags
Running a business is challenging enough without having to worry too much about how to communicate with search engines, or even ranking on the SERPs for that matter. Little Egg Solutions can help free up your calendar by taking on the crucial task of directing traffic towards your site through effective header usage, keyword research, social media management, and so much more.
Contact us today to see how we can help. Our SEO experts are standing by.