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Headings and SEO

Headings and SEO

The structure of headings (titles and subtitles) of your website pages is one of the most important aspects of on-page SEO. It defines which parts of your content are important and how they are connected to each other. Because they have different objectives, pages, posts and taxonomy files (categories and tags for example) need different headings structures. In this post we will see a little more about headings and how to apply them on different pages.

Headings and SEO

Many believe that their success in SEO is due solely to the use of keywords in their headings. This is not entirely true, but undoubtedly keywords must be present in your sub-headings. If you want to rank for a particular keyword, you must write about it. It makes no sense to use a keyword in a sub-heading and not address the subject in the content, you will be deceiving your reader (and trying to deceive the search engine).

Read too: “The definitive guide to SEO copywriting”

Read too: "10 Important Items for On-Page SEO"

There are other factors such as the correct marking of content in the standards of the schema.org which will probably help you rank better, possibly even more than the use of headings, however, the use of headings will greatly help your reader to read and understand your content. If there are any doubts left, yes, Google takes into account the headings in its algorithm:

We do use H tags to understand the structure of the text on a page better ”.

John Mueller, Google

“Google looks at a lot of different things we look at over 200 things PageRank is just one of them whenever we rank things other things we use things in the title things in the URL even you know things that are like really highlighted like h1 tags and stuff like that. ”

Matt Cutts, Google

Headings and text structure

Text without headings and sub-headings (titles and subtitles) is difficult to read. Headings are anchor points easily scanned by the reader. People tend to scan the headings of a text to understand the subject, as well as the searchers. In essence, headings should tell the reader what that section or paragraph of content is reading.

Reading on a screen is difficult, unlike reading printed material. People are easily distracted by reading on a screen. Headings are used to keep the reader connected to the reading flow of the message you are trying to pass.

It is very important to use informative headings for the reader. Many feel that they should use big calls or seductive texts in their headings. They may work, but the main focus of a heading should be the content, and its main objective is to improve the readability of the text.

Read too: “The definitive guide to content SEO”

Basic principles of using headings

Keep these principles in mind before you start tinkering with your site's headings structure:

  • The most important heading on a page must be an H1;
  • Normally there is only one H1 on each page;
  • Sub-headings must be H2, H3, etc;
  • Each heading should contain keywords that are valuable for your content;
  • In long stretches of content the headings will help the reader to scan the content for parts that are of interest.

Important: use as many headings (H1-H6) as you like, as long as your use makes sense. It is a hierarchical structuretherefore, before using an H3 you must use an H2. But you can go back to using an H2 after using an H3.

There are some tools capable of extracting headings from the page. If you make this post you will find:

  • [h1] Headings and SEO
    • [h2] Headings and SEO
    • [h2] Headings and text structure
    • [h2] Basic principles of using headings
    • [h2] Headings for your homepage
    • [h2] Headings for posts and pages
    • [h2] Headings for category pages, tags and other taxonomies
    • [h2] Headings and HTML5
      • [h3] How many H1 tags should I have on my pages?
    • [h2] What to avoid when using headings?
    • [h2] Conclusion: rethink your headings

You can also use H4, H5 and H6 if you like, as long as it makes sense and you make sure to use an H4 before an H5 and an H5 before an H6. I normally use only H2 and H3, in most cases it is enough to structure my content properly.

Headings for your homepage

Apart from some specific cases that we can discuss in the comments, such as one page sites (errggg!), Your home should probably have a structure like this:

H1: Name of the website / blog.
H2: Your taglines, if they have relevant keywords; otherwise, use it for your recent posts.
H3: Your recent posts, or, if they are already H2, can be used for other posts.
H4: Content related in your sidebar, like the title of a widget like "Recent Posts" or "About SEO".
H5: Content unrelated in your sidebar, footer, etc.

As you noticed, I highlighted “related” and not “related” content. There is no SEO gain from using an H3 to "Publicity" or "Sponsors". On the other hand, having an H4 saying “About this SEO blog” it can be useful, if “SEO blog” is the term you want to rank for.

Headings for posts and pages

A little easier than home:

H1: Title of the post or page.
H2's and H3's: subtitles and sub-subtitles.
H4: Title of your website / blog and related widgets.
H5: Unrelated content in the sidebar, footer, etc.

Check? It all makes sense right? The most important, the page title, is marked with H1, then the subtitles and sub-subtitles, H2 and H3 respectively and so on. The title of your website / blog remains important. If your post is good and relevant, people can look for “Dilmar Ames Headings” for example.

Headings for category pages, tags and other taxonomies

If you want to rank your pages of categories and tags, giving them meaningful content and seeking to attract the reader's attention, the structure will be similar to the home's headings structure:

H1: Category / tag name.
H2: Titles of posts.
H3: Name of the website / blog.
H4: Related content in your sidebar, such as the title of a “Recent Posts” or “About” widget.
H5: Unrelated content in your sidebar, footer, etc.

Headings and HTML5

The use of headings may not have changed much in recent years. However, with the advent of HTML5 (2014) some new tags were created to mark up content. Tags like

were introduced in order to provide greater possibilities for structuring content.

These tags, because they represent the opening of a new block in the content, also open the discussion about the use of multiple H1 headings on the same page for example. It is an extensive subject and so I suggest reading of this article.

How many H1 tags should I have on my pages?

It seems logical to have only one H1 per page, usually the title of the page. In the case of this post it's “Headings and SEO”, which is what I'm talking about here. I'm not talking about my consultancy, so I don't need another H1 right? see what Matt Cutts have to say about it:

Yoast staff also responds to a question about not using the H1 tag:

And John Mueller talks about having more than one H1 tag per page, more common today:

What to avoid when using headings?

Something that gives me chills during my consultations is when headings are used to style elements of the website such as “Contact us 0123456789”, where they use H1 or H2 for the phone number. Which is?! If you are a designer or developer you can do better than that. Add a CSS class to do this styling and save headings for relevant content.

Another thing that happens frequently is the use of a heading in an entire paragraph. Sales page and landing page creators love to do that. Avoid this. H's should be used to mark relevant content and that contain keywords for the visitor and searcher. Again, use CSS classes for styling and keep your headings relevant.

Conclusion: rethink your headings

Using headings correctly can help your visitor, increase the chances of your article being read, improve the accessibility of the content and can (without a doubt) contribute to your site's SEO. If you don't already have them in your content, run and take this opportunity! If you already have headings on your site, review them to see if you are using them properly. Tell me, how are you using headings on your website?

Keep reading: “How to create the right meta description”

Keep reading: “The definitive guide to WordPress SEO”

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