This article serves as an outline for everything you need to know about header tags when it comes to SEO. This guide will show you exactly how you can optimize the header tags of a page to increase search engine rankings. You will also find everything that you need to know in regards to heading tags from how they work (in simple terms) to advanced heading strategies to boost reach to your website.

Table of Contents:

What are Heading Tags?

The heading tag is an HTML element that defines headings on website pages. They are used to organize your content into bite size pieces, and make your content easier to understand and consume.

There are six types of heading tags: H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6.

Each heading tag serves its own purpose. The lower the number, the more important the heading tag. Ex. H1 tags are the most important, while H6 tags are the least important when it comes to SEO.

Like many search engine marketing terms, the use of different synonyms can be confusing; Other names for heading tags are: header tags or H tags.

Related: What is Image Alt Text?

Header tag example hierarchy

To show you exactly how header tags are used in the real world, we’ve included a quick example from a post we published recently.

  • 87 SEO tools to boost your rankings (H1) – Main Topic
    • Local SEO Tools (H2) – Sub Topic
      • SEM Rush (H3) – Sub Sub Topic
      • Google Search Console (H3)
      • Bright Local (H3)
    • Keyword Research Tools (H2)
      • Ubersuggest (H3)
      • Ahrefs Keywords Explorer (H3)
      • (H3)

This should clear up any confusion about how to organize your header tags.

Heading tags improve accessibility – Which gives your content wider reach

Using heading tags is extremely valuable for people who are visually impaired. Screen reading technology can be used to highlight headings in a document to help the user quickly navigate a page. By using heading tags properly, you’re making your content accessible, which is good for both visually impaired individuals and search engines.

Why are header tags important?

Header tags are important for a variety of reasons, but ultimately it makes it easier for users to find information on a webpage. Take a look at the screenshot below from our blog post titled “How to Do Keyword Research” You can see how the proper use of heading tags can organize your content in an easily digestible way.

website heading tag hierarchy example

Header tags are also an important part of SEO. When you’re using header tags, you are telling search engines what your page is about and that plays into your search engine ranking.

What is an H1 tag?

Also referred to as the heading 1 tag, the H1 tag is the most important heading tag on any page. It tells users and search engines what your page/post is about.

How many H1 tags should you use per page?

Every web page should include only one H1 tag which serves as the overall topic of your post/page. If you have more than one H1 tag, search engines and users may not understand what your page is actually about.

How long should an H1 tag be?

There are no specific guidelines for how long an H1 tag should be, however you should keep in mind the relevancy of your H1 tag. If your H1 tag is 20 words, search engines may have trouble deciphering what your post is about. With that in mind, try to keep your H1 tags to 70 – 80 characters max.

h1 and h2 tag example

What is an H2 Tag?

Where a H1 tag represents the main topic of your document, your principal points are grouped in a subheading called H2. This tag defines your page’s second tier. This section of the post you’re reading starts with the H2 tag “What is an H2 Tag?” If you look at this post, you’ll be able to see that the H2 tags all support the main topic “Heading Tags & SEO.” Each H2 tag should give you more information about the main topic (the H1 tag).

How many H2 tags should you use per page?

Again, there really isn’t a hard rule here. It’s best practice us use an H2 tag whenever you’re exploring a sub-topic of your main topic. If your post is 1,000 words, you may have five to ten H2 tags to break up your post into relevant sub-topics.

How long should an H2 tag be?

They can be as long or as short as necessary, but should include keywords to reinforce your main heading topic (h1 tag). Be careful though, if your H2 tags are too long, search engines may have trouble appropriately indexing them.

h2 and h3 tag examples

Related: Long Tail vs Short Tail keywords

What is an H3 Tag?

Heading 3 tags expand on your H2 tags. H3 tags are sub-topics of your sub-topic. This is often the third biggest font on your page.

How many H3 tags should you use per page?

Depending on how long and in depth your content is, the amount of H3 tags you use will vary. It’s good practice to use H3 tags if the content written under any H2 tag is longer than 300 words. Use H3 tags to break up and organize the content written under each H2 tag.

How long should an H3 tag be?

Try not to be excessive with how long any of your tags are, including H3 tags. As long as your H3 tags reflect and elaborate on your H2 tag, you’ll be fine.

H4, H5, and H6 tags

These tags are less important than H1, H2, and H3 tags and you will likely not need to worry about these. If you’re breaking up your content into subtopics of subtopics of subtopics, you should probably break up that content into separate posts.

These tags are often used by website builders like WordPress or Shopify to identify related posts and footer links.

Best Practices for Writing Heading Tags

Imagine you write the outline of your article, the topics you have listed in that outline could be incorporated into the header tag. (See our header tag example hierarchy at the top of this post!)

Give it structure and be consistent

If the headings are repeated with overlapping keywords that seem to serve only the search results it will be very confusing and repetitive. Look at the post you’re reading right now, we’ve clearly structured it to make sense for the reader by using H2 and H3 tags.

Our main topic is Heading Tags & SEO, which is broken down into a subcategory (H2) called “Best Practices for Writing Heading Tags”, which we’ve then broken down into several additional subtopics (H3) “Give it structure and be consistent” and “How many headings are considered excessive?” Make sense?

Essentially we’re formatting our post so that it’s easy for users to skim and find the specific information that they’re looking for.

How many heading tags are considered excessive?

As long as it makes sense, there isn’t really a number that would be considered excessive amount of heading tags. Having said that, you need to have a healthy mix of H2, H3, and paragraph text. Paragraph text is what you’re reading right now; it’s any text on the page that isn’t a heading tag.

Using keywords in your heading tags

Both users and search engines are expecting to see keywords in your title tags, so you should build your content around the keywords they’re expecting to see. What do I mean by keywords they’re expecting to see? Well, if you have a post about “How to take care of a cat”, they’ll be expecting to see heading tags like “How often do cats eat?”, “Do cats need a bed?”, and “What happens if my cat throws up?”

Warning: be careful not to keyword stuff your title tags, or any part of your SEO. Keyword stuffing won’t help you rank higher, it may even hurt your search results.

The difference between H1 tags and title tags

There is a subtle difference between H tags and title tags that confuses a lot of people because the title tag is often the same, or really similar to the H1 tag on a page.

Take a look at the screenshot below of our google search for Web Design Hamilton. The blue title “Web Design in Hamilton – HeyTony” is our title tag and the text underneath that is the meta description.

title tag example

Alternatively if you take a look a the screenshot below, you’ll see our H1 tag on our page, which is basically the same as our title tag.

h1 and h2 tag example

It’s very typical to use similar, if not the same, option for both your title tag and your H1 tag.

Looking for another SEO Guide? Check out our Local SEO Checklist! 

Originally published . Last updated .


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