What is an H1 tag and how does it help my SEO?


H1 tags are a critically important component of a successful SEO strategy

Good SEO involves many different techniques. One of the important parts of "on-page SEO" (that is, everything that you do on your website itself), is formatting the page through the use of HTML. The use of H1 tags on your pages is a vital part of this. They are one of the most important search engine ranking factors on your site, so it's important to learn how to use them.

What is an H1 tag?

HTML heading tags are used to format headings on your page in order of importance. The H1 tag is the one that comes first and shows search engines what content can be expected on the rest of the page.

To expand a little on what an HTML tag is, HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is a language used to create websites. An HTML tag is a small piece of code that tells a web browser (for example, Google) how the content on a page should be displayed.

There are six different HTML heading tags, from H1 to H6. They go from most important to least important, with the size of the text generally decreasing in size with the importance.

An H1 tag is created by putting the heading in between HTML formatting like this:

<h1> add your content here </h1>.

<h1> tells the search engine that the tag starts here and then </h1> tells the search engine the tag finishes here.

Why are H1 tags important?

H1 tags play an important role in SEO. In fact, SEO experts Moz, say that it's the second-most important ranking factor.

On the page, H1’s are very noticeable due to their size and they tell people what they're going to see on the rest of the page.

Over the years, SEO has become much more about usability and accessibility and offering people a good user experience, rather than just hitting all of the right technical requirements. Unlike an HTML title tag, an H1 tag doesn't tell search engines what to display. However, it does affect user experience, which is important for SEO.

Many people actually use the same HTML title tag and H1 so that they match when a user clicks through to the page.

The H1 tag is essentially the page title. The title tag is what you will see on search engine results pages (for example, on Google it’s the large blue writing in the search results), but the H1 tag is what is visible on the page itself.

Appropriately selected and formatted H1 tags can make a significant difference to how well your content ranks in search engines and the response that you receive from searchers.

Should your page title be an H1 tag?

The title on a web page is usually tagged as an H1 tag.

While this isn't always the case, it makes sense in most cases. By making the title of your page an H1 heading, it shows that it's one of the most important pieces of content on the page. It's an opportunity to use relevant keywords and to indicate what the following content will be about.

When you tag your title as H1, it will also usually make the text a larger format than the text on the rest of the page. This is ideal because it allows you to highlight your title for your website visitors.

It’s also important that each unique page has only one H1 tag, so it makes sense for it to be the title of your page.

What to consider when creating an H1 tag

There are a few things to keep in mind when creating an H1 tag. It's worth spending some time on your H1 tag to craft the perfect heading for your page and reap the SEO benefits.

One thing to consider is making sure your H1 heading is reflected in your HTML title tag. Remember, the title tag is the text that will display in search engine results, the browser tab, and on social media. The only time an H1 tag must match a title tag, in line with official search engine guidelines, is when you are a Google News publisher. Otherwise, there is no requirement to do so from search engines.

If you choose to have your H1 and title tag the same, they don't necessarily have to match exactly, but they should at least be similar in their wording.

Should every page have an H1?

Yes… Generally.

The answer to this question is that all important pages should have an H1 tag. But what makes a page important enough to have one? There are some minor pages where a unique H1 heading might not be necessary, partly because it might be a page that you don't need to show up in search engines. Be sure to only use one H1 per page to form a clear heading hierarchy.

How long can an H1 tag be?

As a general rule, you don't want the title of your page to be too long. It should be concise and provide a snapshot of what the page is going to be about.

Technically, an H1 title could be as long as you like because there's no limit on the page. However, if you're matching your H1 tag to your title tag (which does have limitations on how much of it will be visible to users), you're going to need to pay a little more attention to the length.

A shorter title is often more powerful and gets your reader's attention but sometimes you may need to use a few more words to have clarity around your message. Google will typically display the first 50-60 characters of your title tag. If it’s too long, they will truncate how it is viewed on the search engine results page.

Key takeaways

H1 tags are an important part of SEO.

All of the important pages on your site should have H1 tags to draw in the reader and give a clear indication of the content on the page. When you have great H1 tags, especially when you match them to your title tags, it can make a big difference to SEO performance.

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