Did you know, according to a recent case study on Moz, the simple act of improving your site’s H1s has shown to increase traffic by an average of 9%? (1)
When it comes to building great SEO content, it starts with your H1. A carefully crafted H1 will immediately capture your users attention, and sets the tone for the entire article.
Any SEO guru worth their salt will tell you that a catchy H1 can make all the difference.
But often times, may SEOs fail to pay attention to these itsy-bitsy pieces of code, even if you basically build your major moneymaker (i.e. your content) around it. Which is a shame, because if you are strategic about your header tags, they can really work in your favor.
Today, we’re going to dissect SEO H1 tags like surgeons. You’ll find out exactly what an H1 is, why your SEO headers are so important, and how you can write effective H tags in HTML for yourself.
Lastly, if you’re looking to boost your traffic today, don’t forget to run my quick and easy H1 audit located at the bottom of this page. Enjoy!
- 1 What Is An H1 Tag?
- 2 Why Are H1s So Important?
- 3 How Do I Create SEO-Friendly H1 Tags?
- 4 How To Run An H1 Tag Audit To Boost Your Site’s SEO This Week
- 5 Summing It Up
- 6 References
What Is An H1 Tag?
First, it’s helpful to break down exactly what an H1 HTML tag is and what it looks like. An H1 tag in HTML is formatted with the opening <h1> tag, followed by your H1 title or text, then closed with the closing </h1> tag. Here’s an H1 tag example in HTML:
<h1>This is an H1 tag. </h1>
HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language, which is the code that most developers use to create websites. An HTML tag is a little bit of that code that dictates how that code will display your data, whether it’s an image, text, or something else.
Header tags, like H1 and H2 tags, are like titles in that they appear in large, bold letters (often bigger than the body text) and are often used to break up sections of your site. H tags are numbered from 1 to 6+, with H1 headings being the largest, most important, or highest in the hierarchy.
Sometimes, the H1 heading functions as the actual title for the web page. But that’s not always the case. You can have a different title (the title that shows up on the search engine results) from your H1 header (the main heading that shows up on the web page itself).
Why Are H1s So Important?
Now that you understand exactly what HTML H1 tags are, you’re probably asking how H1 tags and SEO are related. And more importantly, why your HTML H1 tag is crucial to your SEO success.
In a recent study, the Search Engine Journal found that one of the most important factors for search engine ranking was your H tags and website headers – including and most especially your H1s. (2)
This makes sense when you look at this situation from both a user and a search engine crawler’s perspectives.
From a user’s standpoint, your H1 headings tell them what your web pages are going to be about. It gives them a sneak-peek into whether or not they’ll find the info they need on that page. As the biggest and most eye-catching visual element on the page, you’d be wasting that space if you didn’t use it right.
And it’s no less important from a bot’s perspective, either. Crawlers look at your HTML or CSS H1s to determine what your page contains. It scans for important keywords and catalogs them accordingly. Without an H1 in your HTML code, the crawler will spend more time and resources figuring out the content of that page.
Angela Hilty, the SEM Specialist at OuterBox Inc, puts it like this: “Header tags should make sense to the reader. If your visitors understand the header on your page, the search engine will likely be able to do so as well.” (3)
The bottom line is that good H1 code benefits both you and your site’s visitors. It makes it easier for your users (and the search engine spiders) to understand your pages and how they fit into the larger context of your site. And considering that tweaking your H1 for SEO is a relatively easy and FREE way to boost your rankings when done correctly, it must be taken seriously.
How Do I Create SEO-Friendly H1 Tags?
We’ve already established the importance of H1 tags, so by now, you know that you can’t just put any text as your header 1 and call it a day.
Unfortunately, many webmasters still fail to give their H1s the attention they deserve. So, if you’re looking to craft more “SEO-Friendly” H1s, these are the protocols I follow and recommend you use.
Use Only One H1 In Your Code
An SEO H1 Tag should be used sparingly – it doesn’t get more effective the more you have of it. In fact, you should only have ONE header 1 in your HTML code. Why? Because there is simply no benefit to having more than one H1 tag.
In fact, having multiple H1 tags can be confusing to both site users and search engine bots. Your H1 should contain a keyword that you want to rank for (more on that later). So, if you use multiple H1s, the search engine that’s crawling your page may not know which keyword you’re aiming for. Each additional H1 could also lessen the ranking pull of those headers, which is the exact opposite of what you’re trying to go for.
If you need other headers to break your web page into sections, don’t use H1—use H2 tags instead. Unlike H1s, you can have as many H2s on your page as you want.
Describe Your Content In The H1
What would happen if you clicked on an article that had the header/H1 as “Things to do this summer”, but when you scrolled through the text, it was actually about the best swimsuits you can wear at the beach. While those things might be tangentially-related, you’ll still end up confused, maybe even a little bit betrayed. After all, you expected one thing and got another.
Pick The Right Keywords For Your H1 Header Tag
Keywords are the lifeblood of SEO. They signal to Google and other search engines what your content is about, whether it’s “best donuts in Memphis” or “how to unclog your drains.” Without a strong targeted keyword, how are you going to rank for the search terms that matter to your website?
Of course, be careful not to go overboard. As with anything SEO, your H1 tag should not be overstuffed full of keywords in an attempt to rank higher. Use just one of your most relevant keywords in a way that feels natural.
Format Your H1 To Make It Stand Out
This tip is less on the technical side of things and more on the aesthetic side. The <h1> HTML tag tells Google to pay particular attention to that set of text since it describes your page’s content. And as one of the more important pieces of code (for SEO, at least), its formatting should reflect that.
“We perceive bigger things as more powerful and dominating as compared to smaller ones. So whenever we see this difference in size, we automatically put them at different levels in hierarchy and define a relationship,” Nayan Suthar, a product designer and Medium contributor shares. “Creating a visual hierarchy in UI is really important. It helps users scan through the content at high level before diving deeper into the content.” (4)
Get The Right H1 Tag Length
Getting the perfect length for your header tag is both an art and a science. Too short (e.g. just your long-tail keyword), and it will seem generic. Too long, and you’ll probably lose your user’s interest before they even finish reading it. Plus, a long H1 tag probably means a long title tag, and Google naturally shortens those to fit in the search engine results page.
So how long should H1 tags be?
Generally speaking, you should keep your H1 tag limited to about 20-70 characters.
That’s characters (including spaces and punctuation), not words! This gives you enough space to create interesting, descriptive H1s without creating a negative user experience.
Address Your User’s Intent
To convince users to click on your site and read your content, you need to understand them. What are they looking for? What are their major concerns and needs? If they search for this particular keyword, what kind of content are they expecting to find?
So, an H1 tag that addresses the user intent could read like this:
“10 Easy SEO Tricks That Will Boost Your Rankings NOW (Evergreen Edition)”
When Writing Your Header/H1, Your User Should Always Come First
What it all boils down to, is this; Writing effective H1 HTML code is all about the user experience. Sure, you’re also trying to cater to Google’s guidelines. But search engines have evolved to the point where they can tell if you’re trying to cater only to their algorithm, or if you’re actually putting in the effort to provide value to your users as well.
Google and other search engines look at a variety of factors to determine whether or not your pages are useful—how many users click on your site, how long users stay on the page, whether or not they click out quickly, and lots more.
So if you design with your user in mind, you are more likely to keep them on your site. And trust us, Google rewards sites that prioritize the user experience.
How To Run An H1 Tag Audit To Boost Your Site’s SEO This Week
Now that you know how to make your H1s actually work for you, it’s time to go through your site and make sure your header tags follow these guidelines.
Running an H1 tag audit isn’t difficult. However, it can get a bit time-consuming depending on the size of your site. You’ll need to go through each of your pages (yes, pages, not only your blogs or articles) and tick off every item on this checklist:
- There is only ONE H1.
- The H1 is located at the top of the page.
- The H1 is within 20-70 characters.
- The H1 accurately describes the content on the page.
- The H1 contains ONE long-tail keyword related to the page’s content.
- The H1 is formatted as the biggest and most striking visual element on the page.
- The H1 answers the question “what does the user want and expect from this content?”
Now, if you have a lot of pages, checking each of them manually might not be a good use of your time. To speed up the process, you can use an H tag checker to scan through your pages and check your H1 tags to make sure they’re optimized. After this, you’ll also get a list of problem pages and recommendations on how to make them better.
Summing It Up
Many SEOs fail when they treat their H1s as small or inconsequential piece of code, but you know better. Having a strong header is one of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to see a real boost in your search engine ranking.
H1s tell users and search engine crawlers what to expect when they click on your page, and it can spell the difference between low traffic and SEO success.
Now it’s time to put your newfound knowledge on H1 tags to good use! Audit your site, rewrite your H1s, and see those clicks roll in.