12th March 2021

A Guide to Header Tags & SEO Best Practice

Hannah Spelman

Header tags are pieces of HTML that indicate headings and subheadings on a webpage, making them the first thing people will see when they land on a site. They can improve UX, and provide context and meaning to a page, impacting the behaviour of site users. Just from this synopsis, it’s clear to see their importance and the relationship between them and potential users.

Read on as we guide you through header tags and what to consider when creating your own.

What are Header Tags?

Header tags are similar to newspaper headlines: they highlight sections of a page and let users and search engines know what they are about to read. They are also used to structure pages for both the search engines and users by displaying a hierarchy, from H1s to H6s, in levels of importance. The H2 tags will be headlines describing the main topic you’ll be covering in sections of the article, and subsequent headers, H3s to H6s, serve as additional subheadings.

They are technical pieces of code but are easy to include. If you’re using a visual editor, you can usually just click on the correct heading. In an HTML editor, just include the tags <h1> for the front and </h1> for the end of your H1 text. You can do the same thing with all other header tags.

From the perspective of a search engine, header tags help crawler bots understand a page’s relevance and priority. It is therefore important to have clear, concise H1s that are optimised with your target keywords, as this can indirectly influence where a page is ranked on a search results page. H1s can impact how a site performs in search and can have a positive impact on organic performance.

Meanwhile, from the perspective of a user, headings allow for easier readability and navigation. This is particularly true for people who find it hard to read from a screen; screen readers are able to read HTML and can understand the article structure before reading them out loud.

Scannability is really important to the success of a page - it takes 0.05 seconds for users to form an opinion about your website that determines whether they’ll stay or leave. If there’s no clear format, users may become frustrated and click off the site, opting for a competitor that has more digestible content.

Why Are Header Tags Important for SEO?

Headings don’t just make the content on a page easier to read; they are also important for SEO. Despite them not being a direct ranking factor, they still have an impact for organic performance. They are a chance to further optimise your page with keywords, explaining the context of your page to search engines, which helps them understand the page better. This then makes it easier for search engines to read and categorise (index) those pages. Furthermore, search engines count user-friendliness as a ranking factor. Without headings, bots might deem your page not to be user-friendly, and your search engine results may suffer as a result.

What is Best Practice for Header Tags?

  • DO: Use Headers to Provide Structure

Heading tags display the hierarchy of information on a page, and are useful for communicating what the content will be about. While H2-H6 tags are not considered to be as important to search engines, it’s important to know they are there, and that they denote additional subheadings within each section, just as a book chapter may be split up by multiple subtopics. Your H1 tag should be on top of the HTML code, followed by the others in a logical order (eg, H2 then a H3). If they’re not organised well, it can cause problems for accessibility, which can confuse both search engines and users.

  • DO: Use Headers to Break Up Text

Users spend an average of 5.59 seconds looking at a website’s written content, so it’s important for articles to be easily digestible. Once you have your page's content, you can then use headers to break this up. This will lead to improved engagement, and is more likely to rank higher on search engines.

  • DON’T: Use Inconsistent Tags

Whether it’s by using large font H1 tags throughout your website, keeping your H1 to 20-70 characters, or making sure the H1 tag is similar to the title tag, consistency is key for good UX. It takes 2.6 seconds for a user’s eyes to land on the area of a website that most influences their first impression. The more you can set and meet expectations for your site visitors, the more engaged they’ll be with your site.

  • DO: Make sure that your H1s and H2s are descriptive

It’s good practice to make sure that your headings are informative to the reader and match the user intent. If the header is not clear and does not fulfill user's search queries, then they may bounce off your page without reading any further.

  • DON’T: Keyword Stuff Your Header Tags

While you should target your focus keywords in your header tags, keyword stuffing is never a good approach. Search engines don’t like it and it is seen as a spammy technique to increase page rankings.

What I-COM Can Do For You

Staying on top of the ever-changing world of SEO best practices can be tough. Our SEO experts are here to help you and your business attract organic traffic. Using techniques such as link building, keyword research, meta writing and content optimisation, we can assist you in getting the exposure you need.

If you have any questions about search engines, or if you want to know how our SEO services can benefit you, give us a call today on  0161 402 3170 or use our contact form.