Understanding HTML Heading Tags
HTML heading tags are used to define headings and subheadings in HTML. In the early days of SEO, HTML headings featured prominently in Google’s organic search ranking algorithm. Due to incessant abuse however, it was once thought that their impact on search engine optimization had been watered down over the years. However, HTML tags are still considered an important ranking factor by many of the top minds in the SEO industry.
In any case, if used correctly, there’s no doubt that heading tags can provide context to the search engine spider’s understanding of your web page’s content.
The six different HTML heading tags are:
<h1>This is heading 1</h1>
<h2>This is heading 2</h2>
<h3>This is heading 3</h3>
<h4>This is heading 4</h4>
<h5>This is heading 5</h5>
<h6>This is heading 6</h6>
The <h1> to <h6> tags are generally used to define HTML headings on a webpage. Essentially, they are specifically designed to indicate the headline hierarchy on a webpage. Note that it is not necessary to use all of the tags to structure your webpage.
Heading Tag Structure
The H1 header tag is the most important tag, and has the largest font. It has traditionally carried the most weight with search engines. In fact, according to this correlation study, a keyword in an H1 tag sends a strong relevancy signal to Google. The H1 tag is typically considered the main headline of the entire page. It is mainly used to highlight the webpage’s topic as well as the most important keywords on the page.
It is recommended that the H1 tag is not used more than once on a webpage because it defines the overall subject of the webpage, and using the tag once helps to maintain a page structure that is meaningful to both users and the search engines. As earlier mentioned, the H1 tag should include the main keyword of the page, be descriptive, and should provide a clear idea of what the content of the entire page is all about.
The Content of the Title Tag Should be the Same as H1 Tag
You can use the content of the title tag of a page containing the important keywords as the H1 tag. However, if you have a longer title tag, you may want to use a more focused, shorter heading tag using the most important keywords from the title tag.
It is significant to note that in a Google News Publisher hangout on Google+, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller maintained that the content of your title tag and your H1 tag should be consistent and the same, which directly contradicts Aaron Wall at SEOBook, who recommends not making your H1 tags the same as your title tags. Some have argued that there are instances when you can effectively use the H1 tag multiple times, and HTML5 also allows for the tag to be used more than once on a webpage. However, it is hard to see how this will work in light of the clarification by John Mueller.
Using the H2 – H6 Tags
You can use H2-H6 tags to introduce other section headings as required. Note that when implementing the tags on your web pages, you don’t have to order your headings in h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6 all the time. Most people tend to use H1, H2 and H3. However, there are occasions that may call for the use of H4 and H5 tags.
Consider the following example: Assume that this is a page that describes how to make handmade greeting cards from home:
<H1>How to Create a Handmade Greeting Card</H1> – This will be the top-level heading that describes the overall theme or subject-matter of the page.
<p>100 to 200 words of content about creating handmade greeting cards.</p>
<H2>The Beauty of Handmade Greeting Cards</H2> This will be a subheading of the H1 tag, and it will expand on the top-level heading.
<p>200 words of content about the beauty of handmade greeting cards.</p>
<H3> Getting Started </H3>
<p>200 words of content about the materials that you need to get started creating handmade greeting cards.</p>
Adding the <H3> Tag
If you wanted to add an H3 tag, best practices indicates that it should follow an H2 in the code. However, there are times when you can omit the H2 tag, and this will depend on the content you are writing about. However, if you are going to have an H4 tag, it could only follow an H3 tag and not an H2. It is also perfectly acceptable to have an H2 tag under an H3. You can then go back to another H2, then place another H3 underneath it. This is illustrated in the diagram below, showing correlation between the headings:
Using H2 and H3 HTML Heading Tags
This means that you can have an H3 under an H2, then you can go back to another H2, then place another h3 underneath it, and so on. What you cannot do is skip headings in the following manner: H1, H4, H2, H3, H6, etc.
It is important to ensure that the words you have used in each of the Heading tags are unique, relevant and targeted to the content of the webpage it is on. This content cannot be duplicated across other webpages on the site because that could get the page filtered by the Panda algorithm. For example, if the H1 heading on the page is “How to Create a Handmade Greeting Card” you cannot have the same heading on any other page on your site.