Header Tags & SEO: How to Use Them to Better Structure Your Content

In the latest episode of Hack My Growth, we’re looking at header tags and their importance to SEO. We’re going to talk about how we can leverage them to properly structure our content for both our users, as well as the search engines.

Video Transcript: 

In this video, we’re going to be looking at header tags and how we can leverage them to better structure our content, to earn those header search rankings, as well as help improve the experience for our end users.

What is a Header Tag?

So what is a header tag? Essentially, it’s a piece of code that tells the web browser how a piece of content specifically should be displayed. And it could look something like this: <h1>Here is an H1 tag</h1>

Now there are two different ways that they are used today on websites typically.

The first way is to style content. So maybe your biggest text is your H1. And then your smallest would be your H6. Now, this wasn’t the original intention, but it’s something that had been adopted by a lot of web developers and is used typically within your style. CSS, if you’re using CSS to style your content.

Now, another way it’s used and the original intention for these uses is to structure content. So if you can see this image here, we’ve got a structured piece of content using H tags, right? So we’ve got header one, header two, header three falls under all those. And as you can see, they’re indented along the way because they have a hierarchal order and how they should and how they’re supposed to be used.

Why H Tags Matter to SEO

So why do they matter in the first place? Why do they matter for SEO? Well, there are two different audiences for our content at all times. The first is our users and the second is the search engines.

Importance of H Tags for Users

From a user standpoint, people thrive under structure. And structured content, it’s easier to read. It’s easier to scan and it’s easier to understand. So headers break up our content into topics, as well as sub-topics, which allow our readers to better comprehend the content we’re giving them.

Importance of H Tags for Search Engines

Now, search engines also thrive under structure, right? We talk a lot on this channel about structured data. Well, even how we structure our code and our content plays a role as well. And headers can help reinforce the main points on a page like the top one, the highest level header is probably the most important thing on that page.

And the subtopics and subsections are going to be covered underneath that. So when we leverage headers to break our content down, it can actually help the crawlers better understand the topics and subtopics we’re covering as well.

Are H1s a Must for SEO?

So a question I get quite a bit is are H1s a must. A lot of SEO tools will say, Hey, you don’t have an H1 on your page. You need to fix that. And a lot of times they put this as a very high error, or maybe you have more than one H1 tag on your website. Now I do recommend only having one high-level H tag on your site, whatever that is.

But the reality is H1 isn’t always a must. What the search engines will typically see is the highest tag on that site. And that will represent the most important concept. And it’ll go down from there. Now you can run a test and maybe in some cases, H1 will matter more than having an H2, but in most cases, they’re not really looking at the number as much as they are looking at how it’s structured.

So for instance, we’ve got two different pages here. So one here we’ve got SEO services, the H1. The H2 would be, you can’t afford the traffic you don’t have. And then two different sections on how we approach SEO and so on so forth. And as you can see, it goes from H1, two, three, and even skip a four. And there’s a five in there as well.

Now, on the other side, we have a dental website where their top header is actually an H2. And it goes from an H2, to H3, to H4. Now this piece of content is structured well. The only thing different is, these aren’t in H1. Now, could you go back and change these into that H1 and make this one in H2 and this one in H3. Absolutely.

The reality is it’s not going to make that big of a difference because the search engines are already saying, okay, the highest header tag is an H2, which means this page must be about cosmetic dentistry. That’s what they’re going to be looking at because that’s what matters the most on this page.

So you don’t have to have an H1, but it does make it a lot easier if you do. If you start with one and you go all the way down to six, because six is all that you can have, one through six, it’s going to help really structure that content in a way that everybody on our team understands and they don’t have to go well, where’s our H1 at? That way, you just kind of keep it in order.

So we do recommend you use an H1, but if you’re already structured this way and you did it because maybe you like the style of your H2 better, that’s why you had that as your main header. It’s not the end all be all.

How to Properly Use Headers

So how do we properly use headers? One thing you can do is think about reading a book, right? And imagine that book has no chapters. It has no sections. It really has no space between paragraphs. It’s just content, content and content, and content. That book would be really hard to read. First off, you literally wouldn’t know where certain sections begin and end. You’d really have a hard time comprehending the story as a whole. And honestly, it would probably give you a headache after a while and you’d stop reading.

So we’ve been using headers and sections for centuries to help us understand the context and meaning of what we’re writing about. So think about books that you like, right? Typically, those books have intro sections. It maybe has a preamble to that piece of content. It also will have maybe sections of the book sections one, two, three, each of those sections have chapters.

Each of those chapters has subsections within them describing other pieces of content along the way. So the content that we’re typically used to reading is really broken down and segmented so that we can chunk it and better understand it. And as we talked about before, that helps both people as well as search engines. So if you’re looking over here, there’s just a really, really simple concept here. Your main concept on a webpage should be your H1 tag. This is what you’re talking about. And then you break that down.

What are the different subsections or sections you want to cover under your main topic? And those would be your H2. And then your H3s would fall under each of those sections as a subsection. And an H4 would be a subsection of an H3, and H5, and H6. As you can see, there’s a hierarchical order to all of this, which helps break up your content, helps structure your content in a way that helps your users as well as the search engines, better understand what it is you’re talking about.

Examples of the Use of Header Tags

So let’s take a look at some real-world examples using some blog articles from our agency site.

SEO Service Page

So the first page we’re looking at here is an SEO services page on our website. Now this is an H1 tag, and we are talking about this page, which is about our SEO services. And then we use an H2 here to break down some content here. Then we’ve also got another H2 here, how do we approach SEO? And then we’ve got H3s, on-page SEO and off-page SEO.

So we’ve taken this content and we’ve talked about a couple of different sections. So first it’s kind of an intro paragraph and helping our potential clients see the needs that they have. And then we talk about how do we approach SEO? And then we talk about some of the subsections under that. As you can see, we tried to structure it in a way that makes it easier for you to scan and see the big points that matter the most to the reader.

Blog Article

Now, if we go over to a blog here, we do the same thing. We’ve got the title. So this is the H1 up here. It’s the title of the blog article that we’re going to be talking about. And down here it’s broken up again. So we’ve got these five optimizations, which is the H2. And then we’ve got our H3 here, all of five of those optimizations.

So this content, you can scan it really quickly and see, okay, here are the things that we need to look at and pay attention to. And then if it really strikes our interest, we can go a little bit deeper.

Video Blog

We even do this with our video blog. So right here, we’ve got our H1 tag at the top. We’ve got an intro paragraph, and then we’ve got the H2 intro to the transcript, and then we actually structure it into the sections here so that people can better understand what we’re talking about in the video and any of the other concepts that they might want to know about.

Now, I’m not saying that these are perfect examples, but you can definitely see that by leveraging head tags to break up your content, it’s more visually appealing, which is nice from a design side, but what’s really nice is that a crawler can come in here and go, okay, we’re talking about site structure. And then they talk about site maps. Okay. There are two different types of site maps, HTML and XML site maps.

Then they’re going to talk about the benefits of the site map. Then they’re going to show us how you create a site map. And as you can see, it breaks down each of the different concepts that we’re covering in the video, but we’re leveraging H tags on our website to help the crawlers also better understand the concept and the content within its own topically based chunks.

So headers are very, very important when structuring our content for both our readers, as well as the search engines. And the biggest thing to remember is that they are in hierarchal order and you don’t want to skip around.

You don’t want to just put your H4 here at the top and then have this next one in H2. That’s out of order. So you definitely want to follow it in order. And if you do that, like I said, it’s definitely going to make it easier for the crawlers to know what you’re talking about. And really your users are going to stay on your pages longer because it’s going to be easier for them to read and engage with as well.

Structured Data is a Game Changer

Using headers and H tags is one way to structure your content, but structured data is something else that’s also extremely important. If you want to structure your site at a much deeper level, you need to understand schema.org and how you could add this type of structure to your website. So that makes it easier for the machines to better read your content and help you really earn those rich results within search.

Now, because you’re watching this on YouTube, you can get a 25% off our course Mastering Structured Data and Schema.org for Rich Results by typing in the code ‘YouTube’.

You can sign up today at learn.simplifiedsearch.net. Thanks again for watching. If you’ve got any questions on the content we covered in this video, please comment below. And until next time, happy marketing.

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SMA Marketing Global Digital Marketing Agency Ryan Shelley Founder and CEO Headshot
Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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