Header Tags: What They Are and How to Use Them Effectively

In the “olden days”, the headline was the most important part of any newspaper article. Frontpage news headlines would help sell the entire newspaper and each following headline would convince the reader to keep on reading. Today, in our digital world of information overload, headings and headlines matter even more. 

But, headings don’t just make the content of a webpage better organized, appealing, and easier to read. They are also critical to good technical SEO and your rankings. 

Let’s talk about what header tags are, their importance, and how to leverage their power to boost your SEO and user experience.

Ready?

What are Header Tags?

HTML header tags are used to differentiate the headings (H1) and sub-headings (H2-H6) of a webpage from the rest of the content. These tags are also known to webmasters as heading tags. They rank in order of importance, from H1 to H6, with H1s usually being the title. They tell a browser what styling it should use to display a piece of text on a webpage and how to structure content, thus improving the readability and SEO of a webpage.

You can look at your page’s HTML header tags as a way of creating an outline or “sketch” of your article, using body content to fill in details and provide examples.

Types of Header Tags

Just like headings in print content, header tags are used to title, introduce and segment the content below them. HTML header tags follow a top-down hierarchy, from <h1> to <h6>.

  •       H1 tags are used to denote the most important text, such as the main theme or title of the content. It’s what gives readers the idea of the entire content and captures their attention. They’re also the most important in the eyes of search engines, as they tell the algorithm what the content is about.
  •       H2 and H3 tags are commonly used as subheadings, to section the content. They usually contain semantic keywords related to the “big idea” in your H1, while also helping your reader easily find the sections they are interested in.
  •       Finally, H4, H5, and H6 tags may be used to provide further structure and information within those subsections and further clarify the points made in the H3.

Why are HTML Header Tags Important?

If you’re trying to grow traffic organically, you’re probably looking to use SEO to your advantage and awe your audience. Adding sections and subsections, with appropriate header tags, divides content into scannable blocks that are much easier to consume – for both humans and bots. Overall, using headers that accurately represent your content will help both users and search engines read through the entirety of your content without bouncing off of the page. Isn’t that the ultimate goal?

Let’s dive into it in more detail.

Readability, User Experience, and Satisfaction

Header tags are important because they make your page more user-friendly by making your content more readable and accessible. Readers like to scan content to get an idea of what the text is about and decide which sections of the text they’re going to read. Headings help them do that. To make users not only land but also stay on your page, it’s very important to optimize your header tags in a way that suits the query of the user.

 A better text is better for users, which is better for your SEO. On that note…

The Overlooked Importance of Header Tags in SEO

Heading tags are not only an important tool for comprehension but technical SEO efforts, as well. Don’t let the term “technical” scare you off. It simply refers to practices that focus on the website’s infrastructure, such as the use of different headings. Header tags are an easy way for you to improve any homepage’s technical SEO. How? They help Google understand your content and thus, rank you higher in SERPs.

Accessibility

Because headings are in HTML, a screen reader can understand the article structure and read them out loud, which aids visually impaired people. Also, screen readers offer shortcuts to jump from one heading to the next, so they are used for navigation as well. What’s good for accessibility is also good for SEO and UX!

Heading Tags Best Practices: How to Use Header Tags to Boost Your SEO and UX

Don’t make the mistake of using header tags as nothing more than stylistic elements. After all, they are structural in nature. So, what is the best way to use heading tags to maximize your efforts?

1. Structure Smartly

The way you organize your content structure can make a big difference in grabbing readers’ attention and keeping their focus on your page. Every header tag needs to give the reader a good idea of the information they can get from the next block of text on the page. Even though it’s a common SEO myth, there’s no problem with using multiple H1 headings. However, that doesn’t mean it’s the best practice.

Think of your content pieces as stand-alone books. Think of the H1 as you would a book title and H2s, H3s as the subsequent chapters that follow. Plan out the formatting of your content so that the heading elements lead readers and search engines through a quick scan of your writing.

2. Include Relevant Keywords

Google sees the text used within the HTML header tags as a high priority. Therefore, words used in the header tags are weighted more highly when Google is crawling, trying to figure out if a page is relevant to a user’s query. That’s why it’s important to make sure your header tags are correctly matching a keyword intent. But, this does not mean you should turn to keyword stuffing.

Remember, your header tags aid in communication. The better your content addresses users’ main points of interest, the more likely they are to read on. Quality should always take precedence over excessive keyword use or irrelevant jargon. Only include your target keyword in the header tag if it’s meaningful to the piece of content below. Be judicious and smart – not spammy.

3. Optimize for Featured Snippets

Unfortunately, header tags are an afterthought for many, even though they can make a sizable impact on your chances of scoring a coveted featured snippet. How about using them to your advantage, instead? Optimize your content and header tags to one of Google’s more recent changes: featured snippets. Featured snippets aim at answering the user’s search intent right away and being featured means getting additional traffic and exposure in search results.

4. Stay Consistent

Whatever you do, your goal is to create and maintain a consistent experience for users. So, aim to impress with consistent header tags on your website. If you choose to use title case format, stick with that across all your pages. When it comes down to it, the best practice for staying consistent is to think of your header tags as little, uniformed mini-titles for the subsequent text.

Intrigue & Engage

Yes, your header tags make an article scannable for both users and search engines. But, what will make them scan the whole way through? Strong, descriptive, and intriguing heading tags give structure to your content and guide readers along. Place special importance on your H1 tag in particular – it might even dictate whether visitors will bother to scroll down the page at all. 

Do your best to write engaging header tags that answer the users’ search intents and get them excited about reading your entire article.

Use Header Tags to Your Advantage

Write your headers well, and you’ll not only make your content more scannable, but you’ll intrigue visitors to keep on reading and even come back for more. Plus, optimized header tags can help you win featured snippets, make it easier for search engines to understand your page, love it and rank it higher.

Make sure your website is attracting the organic traffic you deserve by getting the most out of your header tags. Get strategic with your header tags. Your website deserves it!