Any SEO marketer can tell you what header tags are. While many of us use it daily in content marketing, the truth is that not many will think twice about how we are using our header tags. In fact, header tags have huge potential to impact your site’s search ranking – if you know how to use it right.
What are header tags?
First up, if you are new to SEO, let’s break down what header tags are.
Header tags are HTML tags added into the code of your website to label the headings and subheadings in your content. They range in levels from H1 – the broadest, largest, and most important heading, to H6 – the most specific, smallest, and least important subheadings.
Sure, it’s possible to have headings and subheadings just by altering the font size or type of your text. But by adding HTML header tags, you are also explicitly giving search engines the information, which has multiple benefits to your SEO performance as well as your users’ experience.
Now that you know what header tags are, let’s find out how you can use them to your advantage with these SEO best practices for headings.
Outline your structure using header tags
As mentioned, header tags range from H1 to H6. Having these various levels of headings allow you to organise your content, creating a mental framework for your reader to better understand your content. The most important heading is your H1, which should tell readers what the main topic is about. H1 is usually the title of the entire page or article, and can be the same or similar to your title tag.
To demarcate your levels of headings, it is always a good idea to make them visually distinct. Here is where design and SEO come hand-in-hand! Whether you like it bold, in caps, in italics, or any other way, the prominence of your headings should generally descend from H1 to H6.
Use header tags to increase readability
Remember, you are doing content marketing, not writing a novel! For your time-pressed readers, header tags are a wonderful way to boost the readability of your content. A wall of text is not only off-putting to read, but slows down readers who are just scanning for information.
According to research by Chartbeat, 55% of the time, users spend less than 15 seconds on a webpage. Another study by Jakob Nielsen found that the average reader will only make it through 20% of the text on an internet page. When faced with audiences like these, making your content as readable and scannable as possible will be to your advantage.
If a user can find the information they are looking for, or find your content interesting from your header tags, this also makes them more likely to slow down and actually read through the article.
Make your header tags interesting
This brings us to the next point – make it interesting! Headings are some of the first things your reader will see when they are scanning through your content. So, make it eye-catching and relevant!
Between straightforward headings and creative ones, it might be wiser to go with the former. Simple and clear headings are easily understandable, and help your reader find information, as opposed to overly ‘creative’ headings that obscure information.
Insert keywords into headings
We can’t forget the keywords, can we? Headings are another precious opportunity for inserting keywords, especially crucial topic keywords. Most of the time, headings are perfectly natural places to put keywords, including some long-tail keywords.
That said, the golden rules for keywords still stand, even for headings. Rather than spamming keywords, always make sure keywords are placed naturally. A good piece of advice to keep in mind is this: think about user intent. What are users likely to be typing into the search bar? Convert this into your title or subheadings, and you’ve got yourself an awesome set of headings.
Optimise for featured snippets
When you enter a search query into Google, the results sometimes displays a featured snippet as the top organic search result. This could be a short paragraph, numbered list, or a table. In the example we’ve shown, searching for ‘seo singapore’ displays this paragraph that explains what SEO is about. Websites that take this coveted spot enjoy higher visibility and credibility.
Gunning for a featured snippet isn’t easy, but optimising your header tags can help! One way to do it is to use long-tail keywords in your header, and make sure they sound like something people will actually search for. Then, you also have to optimise your content, by encasing the part that answers the query with <p> paragraph tags.
Using header tags to outline lists and bullet points can also help Google detect them, turning them into lists on the featured results.
If the trend of the recent years’ developments are anything to go by, SEO is shifting from optimising for search, to optimising for users. So, if you keep user-friendliness in mind, chances are, you are on the right track for creating some great header tags!