What is the role of heading tags in SEO

Updated: September 6, 2021
What is the role of heading tags in SEO

Visitors coming to your website need to be able to recognise your headings, which also need to be clearly identified by Google. The process of using code to label these clearly is called heading tags – a practice employed by a marketing agency or SEO company to improve your search engine optimisation.

SEO experts use header tags to provide a clear description to Google and other search engines so that their AI knows what your website is about. This enables Google to connect your pages to relevant search phrases and user queries. Within this category, there multiple tags that can be used, including your primary headline (H1) and any subheadings (H1, H2, H3 etc.).

These HTML tags are essential for your search engine marketing and appearing on the right results pages.

How do you use SEO heading tags?

The process of labelling text with heading tags SEO-wise is relatively simple. Most website publishing platforms have the option to label them as SEO headers, although you can do this manually as well by entering the HTML and putting in the correct code.

What is the H1 Tag and Why it is Important for SEO

There are three different types of tags ranging from H1 to H6, and you should use them to rank the different headers in terms of importance. H1 is your primary headline, and it should have your main keyword or phrase in it so that Google knows exactly what your content is about and places you accordingly in search engine rankings. Mostly, H1 and H2 tags are your most crucial, and you’ll use these most frequently in order to rank keywords.

The other heading tags are then formatted with the following HTML code:

<H1>The main headline of your article will go here</H1>

<H2>These are important subheadings with keywords</H2>

<H3>Further information, including keywords</H3>

<H4>Start to use this for long-form articles </H4>

<H5>Not often used unless you are putting together an e-book or other long text</H5>

<H6>The same as the H5 header. Rarely used unless you have a lot of words</H6>

How to structure headings for web accessibility | Nomensa

What do heading tags/HTML do?

The primary function of website headings is to communicate with Google crawlers (and the AI of other search engines). They also provide structure to your page by making the primary headline large and the subheadings still prominent but smaller in size, so they can be distinguished from the standard text and the main header.

These are essential when you are displaying text of any kind to make it clear for readers and search engines alike. A well-structured HTML header structure will provide several benefits, including:


Mobile devices use screen readers and magnifiers for accessibility purposes, and scaling pages correctly. They will refer to headers to achieve this.

It breaks up the text

When a visitor is met with a wall of text, they are unlikely to sit down and read through the lot. These subheadings break up the text, and allow readers to find the paragraph best suited to their needs.

You can highlight keywords

Your keywords are essential in your SEO and ranking in relevant searches. Including your keywords is vital for any business to ensure they are ranked highly in these searches.

You can make changes easily: It is straightforward to optimise your header tags and make changes to include new or different keywords without changing all of your content.

What is the most important tag on a page?

Every digital marketing agency will emphasise the H1 label, and your business should adopt the same approach. What is H1 tag, you ask? While your other headlines are essential, H1 tags carry major ranking factors. While there have been many SEO trends that have changed over the years, header tags remain one of the best strategies to improve your ranking and results.

WordPress Heading Tags: H1, H2 - How and Why to Use Them

Title tags are another important tag to appear on each of your business’s website, but these are very different to H1. While your title tag is also coded in HTML and appears in SERPS (search engine result pages), it does appear visually on your page for your visitors. This is even the case for your blog heading.

This is the page title that appears as the tab name in the browser, in social media previews when you share your page and the search engine results as the page title. The H1 is the visual header shown to visitors when they browse your page. Both are powerful SEO signals for Google crawlers, and both describe what your website is about – but your H1 tag needs to be clear to your audience as the first thing people notice.

When it comes to structure, the H1 tag is the highest priority, and others fall in hierarchical order down the chain – H2, H3, H4 etc.

TIP: Not sure how many h2 tags per page?

We recommend using at least 1 to 2 H2 tags per page

Why are headings important for SEO?

The importance of headers for search engine optimisation is twofold. Firstly, as we have mentioned, Google and other search engines may use them as a ranking factor. These are used as descriptors for your content, and Google will match it with relevant searches, so you appear in the right results.

Readability is essential to capture user interest. This is also a ranking factor with Google. A well-written copy will improve the user experience, and Google wants to deliver quality results to its audience, so the search engine will favour quality over thin copy. This includes the headers.

Suppose your copy is well-structured on your business website, with headings and subheadings properly dividing up the copy and acting as signposts for people to discover what they are looking for. In that case, SEO will favour your site in the search results. So you essentially get two bites of the cherry, with Google looking at the content and the readability when ranking your site.

Things to know about header tags

The importance of header tags and your search engine optimisation and ranking has been made clear. But it is also essential to recognise their importance when it comes to your site’s structure, readability and how user-friendly it is for your visitors.

SEO experts and digital marketing agencies will all tell you that the importance of SEO needs to be balanced with the quality of your content. Yes, Google does favour business websites that frequently publish unique copy, and yes, Google does favour websites and articles that have been optimised. But this content also needs to have meaning and value for your audience.

The H1, H2, H3 header tag method encourages you to write in the old journalistic convention of the inverted pyramid. You have your most crucial heading at the top, so this is where the meat of the content needs to be housed as well. Then you can break up your content so that it’s much easier to scan with the human eye.

Each header tag gets assigned to a slice of content that is directly relevant to it. Readers can run their eyes over it quickly and find what they are looking for. Not only are these heading tags important for Google’s crawlers, but they are also a great way to package your content in a way that will provide value and be beneficial to your audience.

Header tags

To get the best possible results from your headings, they need to be structured correctly. If you nail your heading structures, you will present easy-to-digest content for your audience.

This will earn plenty of kudos from Google, so your website will appear higher in search results. Here are the essential tips for structuring your headers correctly:

Headings must include Specific Keywords

Better SEO results will be achieved by including the relevant keywords. Search engines will be analysing each word carefully, so they can understand what the content is going to be about. This means you also need to follow SEO best practices – so you should only have one H1 heading tag per page, and you should not stuff your headings full of keywords. They must be straightforward and easy to understand, for example, “SEO Agencies in Gold Coast“. An example of keyword stuffing would be “SEO Consultant available for SEO services in Gold Coast”.

Content must be Reader-Friendly

This goes without saying, but when you want to impress and engage with your audience, the content must be presented in a way that is easy to digest and understand. Google understands the importance of this and will always favour content that is well-structured and readable to put at the top of its search results. To maximise your results, ensure that your keywords are strategically placed in your header tags, but do not go overboard as you can be penalised for keyword stuffing. Overloading your content with keywords also makes your content harder to read, which will deter your audience.

Inverted Pyramid – the Best Writing Structure

The inverted pyramid is the roadmap that has used in journalism for many decades, and it is the perfect template for content structure on modern websites. It operates on the assumption that readers will lose interest, so the most crucial information should be at the top of the article. In this case, that means your content’s meat should follow the H1 headline – including the who, what, when, where, why, and how information that describes briefly what the content is about. This should be followed by a H2 which can talk about individual items of importance in the content. If there is any other information that may not be as essential but could still be relevant, this can then follow on under H3, H4, etc., tags.

Use Keyword for H1 Tag with or without Extra Words:

There is nothing to stop you from using more than one H1 tag, but it is not advisable. It will not only confuse your audience by having more than a single major headline, but it is also going to confuse Google as well. Your H1 heading tag should house the most relevant keyword to the content that follows it. If you write a page about your plumbing service, the word plumber or plumbing needs to be the keyword in that H1 tag. When you start to add more than a single H1 tag with different keywords, it will dilute the SEO power you get with just one H1 title. One headline and one keyword are what you need on each page for optimal results.

Make Your Title Different from Your H1

When you open the HTML coding for your business page, you will notice another tag that looks like this: <title></title>. This title page description is just as important as your H1 tag for SEO and describes your page’s content. You should also include your primary keyword on your title page, but these headings also need to be different, so you are not risking duplication.

Take Featured Snippets into Consideration

Featured snippets are short passages of text that appear right at the top of Google searches to give searchers a brief snapshot of the webpage and its content.

This snippet is automatically pulled from web pages in Google’s index, and the information you provide in your header tags will go a long way towards forming compelling featured snippets. While H1 tags do not appear in search engine result pages directly, they are used by Google to create these featured snippets.

An excellent way to convince Google that your page is the right candidate for a featured snippet is to treat your H1 tags the same way you would voice to text. Think about questions people might ask out loud and type a direct response using a long-tail keyword that answers their query. This will give you a highly effective H1 tag, and the best shot at your webpage being a featured snippet.

You Need to Use Them Consistently

Building the heading tags on your business website will become a habit. If you develop bad habits, then over time, you are not going to achieve the SEO results that you desire. With proper governance and a consistent approach towards correctly assembling your content structure – including your header tags – you are going to reap SEO rewards.

Over time, you will build a positive, consistent experience for your visitors, an easy to navigate website and benefits that will increase your pages’ rankings in Google searches. If your tags are currently inconsistent, it might be time for an audit to improve these header tags and your overall practices across your web pages.

The Wild West days of SEO might have been about stuffing as many keywords in as possible, but modern SEO is more nuanced than that. Google (and other search engines) want to ensure what they are delivering at the top of SERPs is not only relevant but of a high standard.

Google didn’t achieve its market dominance by providing poor quality content to searchers, so optimising your web pages is essential for success. That includes all of your heading tags to ensure you put the work in to get those results and build your brand.

Would you like assistance with your website and heading tags optimisation? Reach out to the professional digital marketing team at Edge.

We can carry out a complete SEO audit of your business website and deliver strategies that will help you scale your business, free up your time and ultimately grow your client base and revenue. Speak with our SEO team – we also offer SEO Brisbane services.
Sean -
SEO Director
1300 558 659 - www.edgeonline.com.au

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