Headings are one of the most important on-page SEO elements that can help improve your website’s rankings and visibility in search engines like Google. In this comprehensive guide, we will look at why headings, specifically H1 and H2 tags, are crucial for SEO success and how to use them effectively.
What are headings?
In HTML, headings are defined by H tags – H1, H2, H3, etc. The H1 tag is used for your main heading or title, H2 for subheadings, H3 for sub-subheadings, and so on.
Headings serve two main purposes:
- They organize the structure and outline the content of your pages for users.
- They signal to search engines what your page is about.
Headings help create a hierarchical structure and improve readability by breaking up blocks of text for users. For SEO, headings help search engines understand the topic and structure of your content.
Why are Headings Important for SEO?
There are several reasons why using proper headings is important for SEO:
Headings allow you to spotlight important keywords and phrases you want your page to rank for. Strategic use of keywords in headings tells both users and search engines what the page is about.
Headings create a clear structure and outline of your content, making it easy to digest for users. A well-structured page signals to search engines the topic focus and organization of your content.
Headings make content more accessible for users, especially those using assistive technologies like screen readers. Search engines want pages to be easy to understand and navigate for all users.
Headings give visual cues to search engine crawlers about the content on the page, making it easier for them to understand and index. This can lead to pages being crawled more efficiently.
Boost click-through rates
Compelling headings can capture attention and entice searchers to click through from SERPs (search engine results pages). Higher CTRs signal relevance and quality to search engines.
In summary, headings help search engines understand the topic, structure, and hierarchy of content on a page, leading to better rankings and visibility. They also directly impact user experience and engagement.
Best Practices for Using Headings
Now that we’ve covered why headings matter for SEO, let’s look at some best practices for using them effectively:
Use a single H1 heading
Each page should have one (and just one!) H1 tag. This tags contains your target keyword and summarizes the main focus or purpose of the page.
Stick to a heading hierarchy
Use a proper heading structure from H1 down to lower subheadings. Don’t skip heading levels. This creates a clear outline for users and search bots.
Include keywords in headings
Work your primary and secondary keywords into H1 and H2 headings where it fits naturally. Avoid keyword stuffing.
Keep headings short and scannable
Headings should be concise, direct and use keywords where it makes sense. Lengthy headings affect scannability.
Avoid repetitive headings
Don’t use the same heading across multiple pages. Each page should have a unique, relevant H1 and supporting headings.
Place headings above paragraphs
Headings should always introduce sections or paragraphs of content, not sit inside them. This reinforces the content structure.
Use descriptive headings
Headings should provide a brief preview of what the content is about, not vague phrases like “Page Title”. Include keywords where possible – like this are headings important.
By following these best practices with your headings, you can maximize their SEO benefits while also enhancing user experience.
H1 Headings – Your Page’s Focus Keyword
The H1 tag is the most important heading for SEO. It tells search engines and users what the page is mainly about. Here are some tips for optimizing your H1:
- Place the H1 heading right after the page title and meta description in your content. Search engines give more weight to keywords appearing early.
- Only use one H1 per page. Multiple H1 tags dilute the importance of your focus keyword.
- Keep it between 10-70 characters long. Extremely lengthy or short H1s are less readable and scannable.
- Include your target keyword naturally – it should fit the overall topic of your content.
- Avoid awkward or spammy use of keywords just for SEO – write for users first.
- Use sentence case capitalization in your H1, not all caps or title case. THIS LOOKS LIKE YELLING TO USERS.
- Make your H1 compelling and benefit-driven to capture attention, while including the keyword.
Optimizing your H1 tag provides the biggest opportunity to signal your main topic and keywords to search engines right up front. It sets the stage for the rest of your content.
H2 Headings – Supporting Subtopics
While your H1 establishes the main topic, H2 headings introduce and highlight supporting subtopics covered on the page. Here are some tips for H2 headings:
- Use them to break up long sections of content into digestible chunks for better readability.
- Include secondary keywords and related phrases in your H2s where it fits naturally.
- Avoid repetitive phrasing and general H2s like “How This Works” across multiple pages.
- Keep H2s shorter than H1s – aim for 5-15 words maximum.
- Follow each H2 immediately with a few paragraphs or a section elaborating on the subtopic it introduced.
- Use sentence case style for H2s as well, not all caps.
H2s create the substructure within your content, allowing you to optimize for secondary topics and keywords. Use them strategically and sparingly – too many headings overwhelm users.
Common Headings SEO Mistakes to Avoid
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s go over some common SEO mistakes people make with headings:
Skipping heading levels
Don’t go from H1 to H3, as it confuses bots on the proper page structure. Use a logical heading hierarchy.
Stuffing headings with keywords
Don’t over-optimize headings to the point they become spammy and meaningless to users. Read naturally.
Using headings improperly
Don’t place text before headings instead of after. Headings should always introduce content sections.
Generic, repetitive headings
Avoid vague headings like “Introduction” or identical ones across pages. Make them descriptive and unique.
Too many headings disrupts readability and user experience. Use only when needed to organize content.
All caps and title case
Avoid SHOUTY HEADINGS or Title Case On All Words. Use sentence case for readability.
Following basic SEO best practices for headings will take you a long way. Remember – write for users first, bots second.
Tools to Analyze and Improve Headings
Here are some useful tools you can use to analyze and optimize your website’s headings for better SEO:
- Yoast SEO – The focus keyword and heading analysis tool gives you instant feedback on optimization opportunities.
- Moz Bar – The Chrome extension has an “H1,H2” button to check headings on any page you visit.
- Google Search Console – Under Enhancements, the HTML Improvements report detects errors/warnings for text legibility.
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider – The crawler provides detailed headings analysis like word count, keyword use, errors.
- Varvy SEO Tool – Enter any URL and get a headings breakdown including word count, keywords, errors.
- Google Lighthouse – The SEO auditing tool will flag any issues with illegible text due to improperly used headings.
Leveraging just a few of these tools can help you identify areas for improvement with your H1s, H2s, and heading structure. Optimized headings = improved SEO.
FAQs About Headings and SEO
Still have some questions around using headings for SEO? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
How many headings should I use on a page?
There are no set rules, but as a general guide aim for 2-4 H2s and 3-6 H3s supporting your main H1 heading. Too many becomes distracting.
Should all paragraphs be preceded by a heading?
Not necessarily. Only use headings to introduce main sections and group related paragraphs discussing a subtopic.
Can I improve old pages by just adding headings?
Yes, introducing headings to break up dense paragraphs of text can help. But also consider full content overhauls for outdated pages.
How do I check if my current headings are optimized?
Use online SEO tools like MozBar and Screaming Frog to analyze headings for word count, structure, keywords, errors.
What’s the difference between H1 and title tag?
The HTML page title appears in search engine results only. H1 summarizes the topic focus on the actual page itself.
Proper use of headings takes time and effort, but pays off tremendously for both users and search engines. Follow our best practices and leverage tools to find areas of improvement. Let us know if you have any other questions!