<h1>Demystifying the H1 Tag</h1>
You’ve heard us talk about them during webinars, you’ve read other articles about them, and you may have even seen them living in your website’s HTML code. What is an H1 tag and why is it important? I’ll try to explain using hot sauce, snoring mouth guards and fashionable dog hats. You’re in for a treat.
<h2>What is an H1 Tag?</h2>
Before we get in too deep and I lose anyone, let’s go over the basics. An H1 tag (also known as a header tag) is…
- Used in blog posts, category descriptions, product descriptions and any other large body of text to act as a title for that URL’s on-page content
- Usually in bold text and a larger font size
- Coded into your page’s HTML using simple code like this: <h1>Header Tag of Awesomeness</h1> and always appearing at the top of your page if possible
- If you have a snazzy banner graphic on your page that makes more sense as the first thing your readers should see, go ahead and drop that piece of H1 code below the graphic.
- Not a silver bullet for optimization, but rather part of your on-page strategy in addition to a strong meta tag set and keyword-rich page content
<h2>Why Use H1 Tags?</h2>
The reason why marketers use H1 tags is twofold: to give readers/customers more information about the theme of the content they’re about to read and to provide search engines with a more diverse selection of keywords to index.
First up is the reader. Online marketers try to provide customers with as much information as possible about the theme of the content they are about to read. We use it to distinguish the content on that page from other pages that are similar but not identical. Below is a screenshot of a page with content about hot sauce. This particular page focuses on the most extreme hot sauce that this company sells. We’re using the H1 on this page to reaffirm to search engines that we want this page to show up in search results for folks who are serious about their hot sauce addiction, not just your average Joe looking for an average sauce.
Secondly, we want to diversify keyword targeting with our H1 tags when it makes sense to do so. I had a recent client who sells products that help people stop snoring. While we obviously tried to target some ecommerce phrases like “anti-snoring mouthpieces” or “snoring chin straps,” it’s important to keep in mind that some shoppers will search more conversationally, using phrases like “mouth guards to help stop snoring” or “proven ways to stop snoring.” They are looking for products, but they want that peace of mind knowing they are getting a product that works. To target both sets of web users, we used both sets of phrases strategically on the page. We targeted the shorter, more ecommerce-focused terms in their title tags and meta descriptions, and in the on-page content we included longer H1 tags. The H1s touched on some of those longer, conversational phrases that are still relevant to the website but perhaps too long to target in the page’s meta tags. The screenshot below shows you what I’m referring to:
<h2>How to Write H1 Tags</h2>
There are varying opinions on how best to write header tags, but the general consensus is that they should be consistent with the title tag you’re using for the page in question. That doesn’t mean you should make them exactly the same, however. Let’s say you sell snazzy attire for dogs (such stores exist, and I’ve worked on a few). You’ve crafted a title tag and meta description for a category page that displays your wide array of sophisticated tiny dog hats. But once you write your on-page content, perhaps you get too generic with it and write an H1 that talks about dog fashion in general. In this case, your header tag isn’t reinforcing to search engines what this page is all about. You can get a little bit descriptive with it, but make sure the H1 ties back to the title tag. Here’s an example of how I might do it:
My title tag: Luxury Handmade Dog Hats & Fashion Caps
My content’s H1 tag: The Finest Designer Dog Hats Online
I bet you were wondering when we’d get to the dog hats! In my example above, the H1 stays in the same vein as the title tag, but targets some secondary language that’s relevant to search queries. Why did I do it that way, you ask?
1. It reinforces to search engines that your title tag was spot on.
A title tag is the first piece of real estate a search engine looks at to determine what your page is all about. If you have an H1 tag in your on-page content that backs up that title tag, the search engine is likely to index your page more thoroughly and accurately.
2. It differentiates the on-page content from generic information about dog hats.
We’ve made the distinction that these hats are some of the finest available for purchase. If the company has a target demographic of people who pamper their pooches, we want to try and reach that target market with phrases that naturally relate to high class and luxury.
You can apply this logic to any industry. If you sell industrial work clothes manufactured in-house, I bet you try to differentiate yourself from the competition by making a more durable product. Your H1 tags might talk about how you have the strongest or most dependable work pants on the market. Maybe you sell custom-built smartphone cases that are lightweight and discreet. You’d want to use your H1 tags to convey they are the lightest on the market or the smallest, least bulky smartphone cases online.
<h2>H1 Tag Dos and Don’ts</h2>
It’s important to have some rhyme and reason to your H1 usage. Search engines read header tags to help decide what your page is about and how it should be indexed. Too many or improperly used H1 tags will confuse search engines and dilute the meaning of the tags you’re using.
- Create a unique H1 tag for each page in question
- Convey product benefits in your header tag (if possible)
- Use extra adjectives that relate to your products
- Use secondary header tags (like H2 and H3 tags) to break up your content if you’re shifting focus to a related but separate topic
- Use the same H1 tag in multiple places on your site
- Use more than one H1 tag per page. Search engines won’t know which tag is most important for the page
- Settle for software defaults that declare the product name as the H1 tag. This is a waste of a chance to target secondary keyword phrases on your page
- Ignore H1 tags completely!
With SEO real estate being limited across the board, it’s important to utilize everything you have in your toolbox to give you a leg up on the competition and show search engines your page serves a purpose, especially if that purpose is something as specific as the hottest hot sauce, proven anti-snoring mouth guards or the fanciest of dog hats. Take the tips above and apply them to your site to help make your pages clearer for customers and search engines. If you have techniques that have worked for you in the past, let us know in the comments below!