The H1 tag has been a component of SEO for some time, and we are still finding it useful as a factor in on-page optimization. Search engines use this piece of code to better classify the topic of the entire page, and recent testing (or retesting, since it has been tested in the past) shows that the H1 is still worth including, even if it means paying for extra coding or programming.
For those of us who are unfamiliar with the H1 tag, it is a piece of HTML code that is used on the “header” of a web page, and it defines a phrase which ideally should describe page content. If you are looking at a page written in basic HTML with an H1 tag, the first thing you will notice is the remarkably large font size. Font size and style can be controlled with CSS on the page code or in a CSS file, so your H1 can conceivably be the same size and font as your other text.
Here are some more tips about dealing in H1 tags:
- Don’t match up the H1 tag and the title tag. Both tags are very important, but if they are identical you risk an over optimization filter. Similarly, your inbound link anchor texts should also not match the H1 tag precisely.
- Only use one H1 tag per page. There are H2, H3, H4, and other tags that can be used, but each page should only have one main topic. Too many H1s on a page will just water down the page’s search engine value.
- As the code implies, H1 goes first. Don’t put an H2 before an H1, and whenever possible your H1 should go above the other text on the page.
- The H1 tag should include the page’s keywords in a way that helps the user. Search engines are getting more and more intelligent, and user experience helps define a page’s value.
- Every page should have a unique H1 tag. Some software platforms will automatically put a company name in the H1 spot, but this does nothing to describe each page’s unique content. If you have a shopping cart system with thousands of pages, you can put the short product description in the H1, but then you should try to make sure it doesn’t precisely match the title. This may require some creative programming. Identical or substantially similar H1 tags on different pages can cause “keyword blurring” which is also not good for search engine rankings.
People with older sites may have avoided H1 tags in the past because browsers like Netscape 3 or 4 would display H1s in their classic large font style. Hopefully your site has been maintained more frequently over the past several years, but in many cases the look and feel may have gotten fixed while header tags were still omitted. As a housecleaning measure, it is usually a good idea to do a mini SEO audit to see if your site is using the proper tag structure.
Making recommendations on H1 tags may seem like old advice to seasoned SEO professionals, but we have seen several cases where the addition of an H1 tag improved search engine rankings. In some cases (like in shopping carts or sites built with content management systems) the H1 was removed or deliberately omitted because it would have matched the title tag. If you have built your site with a CMS, you may want to check with your vendor to see if a plug-in or update has fixed this problem.
Given that SEO involves making a lot of small changes to improve your website’s value in the search engines, the H1 tag can definitely have a positive impact for sites that may be lingering in the search engine rankings. By ensuring that your site has proper H1 formatting on as many pages as possible, you may notice a positive impact in a very short amount of time, especially if your other SEO initiatives are already in process.