What are Header Tags?
Header Tags (h1, h2, h3, etc) – Header tags are used in HTML for categorizing text headings on a web page. They are, in essence, the titles and major topics of a web page and help indicate to readers and search engines what the page is about. Header tags use a cascading format where a page should generally have only one H1 (main title) but beneath can be multiple H2s (subtitles) and every H2 can have H3s beneath (sub-sub titles) and so on.
- H1is typically used only once on a webpage and is used to display the most important title.
- H2is used to display the major subtopics of a certain webpage
- H3is used to display the major subtopics underneath an H2 tag.
Headers to Provide Structure
Your header tags provide structure and context for your article. Each header should give the reader an idea of the information they can glean from the paragraph text that follows below.
A helpful way to think of header tags is by comparing them to a table of contents for a non-fiction book:
- Your H1 introduces the topic your page is all about, just as a title tells a reader what a book is all about.
- The H2s are akin to book chapters, describing the main topics you’ll cover in sections of the article.
- Subsequent headers, H3s to H6s, serve as additional sub-headings within each section, just as a book chapter may be split up by multiple sub-topics.
Using this post as an example, H1 is the title of the article. The H2s are the seven “chapters” of this article, all related to the main theme.
Headers to Break Up Text
A scannable article is a readable article, and a readable article is one that’s more likely to perform well in the search engines.
The data backs up these claims. Only 16 percent of internet users read an article word-for-word. The rest are scanning.
People simply like scannable content. According to the same research, an article that’s scannable is 58 percent more likely to perform better with readers.
When an article is scannable, users might actually stick around to read it, instead of bouncing back to Google. Plus, they’ll also be more likely to share it with their friends.
While social signals aren’t a direct ranking factor, the more an article is shared, the more likely it is to naturally earn backlinks, which are a ranking factor.
Include Keywords in Your Header Tags
As with anything Google pays attention to, that means it’s worth including keywords in your header tags.
This does not mean you should shoehorn keywords in at all costs. Be judicious, not spammy.
You’ll note that many of the header tags in this article contain keywords, but not all of them do.
Your page should be readable first and foremost, and naturally include keywords.
Design for users, then make tweaks to optimize for Google – without sacrificing the user experience.
Increasingly, SEO professionals are finding that good UX translates to good SEO.
Optimize for Featured Snippets
One place where header tags do seem to make a positive impact on SEO is with featured snippets – in two particular ways:
- The first is optimizing your header tag for a long-tail voice search keyword, and then answering the query directly below using text within <p> paragraph tags.
- The second is using subsequent, smaller headings to outline a different list of items. Google uses these headers to create its own bulleted and numbered lists featured snippet results.
For example, Pear Analytics scored this featured snippet for “what is an h1 tag?” when Google pulled the paragraph of text beneath their keyword-optimized H1.
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