Header Tags and SEO: Best Practices for Using Heading Tags

Header Tags And SEO

Heading tags are an important component of on-page SEO and content structure. Proper use of header tags like H1, H2, H3 tags can help improve your website’s rankings and visibility in search engines. This comprehensive guide will teach you best practices for using heading tags for SEO.

What are Header Tags?

Header tags are HTML elements used to create headings and subheadings on a web page. The main header tags are:

  • H1 – Main heading
  • H2 – Subheading
  • H3 – Sub-subheading
  • H4, H5, H6 – Additional lower-level headings

Header tags are indicated in HTML code by the tags <h1>, <h2>, etc. They make the text contained within them larger and bolder to indicate a heading.

Header tags provide semantic structure and hierarchy to web page content, making it easier for users and search engines to understand.

Why Header Tags are Important for SEO

There are several reasons proper use of heading tags is important for SEO:

  • Helps search engines understand your content – Header tags provide a clear hierarchy and structure to your content, which helps search bots better understand main topics and subtopics.
  • Creates opportunities for featured snippets – Well-structured content with descriptive headings gives you a chance to rank for featured snippets, which display a summary of your page content right in the search results.
  • Improves keyword targeting – Including targeted keywords in strategic header tags helps search engines know what the page is about and what keywords it should rank for.
  • Provides internal linking opportunities – You can link to headings from other content on your site, which improves SEO.
  • Enhances user experience – Headings make content scannable and easy to digest for users. Good UX improves conversions, bounce rate, and more.

Clearly, there are many SEO benefits to using header tags properly on your site.

Best Practices for Using Heading Tags for SEO

Follow these best practices when using header tags to maximize their SEO and usability benefits:

Use One H1 Heading Per Page

Each page should have one (and only one) H1 tag containing the target keyword or main topic of that page. This helps search engines identify the primary focus of the page. Any additional headings on the page should use H2, H3 tags etc.

Include Keywords in Your H1 Tag

Your H1 heading tag should contain one or more of the main keywords you are targeting on each page. This clearly tells search engines what the page is about.

Follow Heading Hierarchy

Headings should use a proper hierarchy structure, starting with H1, then H2 for subheadings, H3 for those subheadings, etc. Don’t skip heading levels.

Use Descriptive Headings

Headings should be descriptive and summarize the content they contain. This enhances user experience and SEO.

Optimize Your Title Tag

In addition to H1, optimize your HTML title tag with your target keyword. The title and H1 should complement each other.

Use Multiple H2 and H3 Tags

Use H2 tags for main subheadings and H3 tags for lower-level subheadings to break up text and optimize topics.

Don’t Stuff Keywords

While keywords in headings are good, don’t over-optimize. Headings stuffed with keywords look spammy.

Use Semantic HTML

Use proper semantic HTML elements like <header>, <section>, <article> etc. where appropriate to further structure your content.

Let’s look at some specific benefits of proper heading tag usage and how it can affect your pages’ SEO and visibility.

How Header Tags Can Help You Rank Higher in Search Results

Optimizing your use of header tags is an important on-page SEO tactic that can directly help improve your search rankings when done properly. Here are some of the main benefits:

Targeting Keywords in Headers

Including your target keywords in strategic header tags is a direct way to tell search engines what the page focuses on and what you want it to rank for. For instance, having your primary keyword in the H1 tag clearly identifies relevance.

Optimizing for Featured Snippets

Featured snippets are special summary boxes Google sometimes shows at the top of search results for certain queries. To rank for them, you need concise paragraphs and well-written headings summarizing your content. Perfect H2 and H3 headers can help trigger featured snippets.

Establishing Keyword Hierarchy

How you order and structure your headers establishes a keyword hierarchy. Main topics in H1 tags, subsidiary topics in H2 tags. This logically guides search bots in understanding your content.

Providing Structure for Users

Headings create visual scannability so users can easily skim and understand your content. This improves user experience, in turn improving rankings.

Enabling Internal Linking

You can link to header tags from other pages or within the same page. These help search bots crawl your site and pass authority to those pages, boosting their rankings.

As you can see, there are tangible SEO benefits to using headers properly. Let’s look at how to implement header tag best practices.

How to Use HTML Header Tags for SEO

Here is a step-by-step guide to optimizing use of header tags for SEO:

1. Identify Primary Keyword Targets

Research keywords you want the page to rank for. These will inform your H1 and title tag. Use keyword research tools to find relevant long-tail keywords as well.

2. Craft Your Title Tag

Write a compelling title tag with your primary keyword targeting the head of the tag. Keep it under 60 characters.

3. Write Your H1 Header Tag

This should also contain your primary keyword and closely mirror your title tag. Keep it concise.

4. Plan Your Header Structure

Decide which subtopics will get H2 tags, lower-level topics that get H3 tags, etc. Consider content structure and keyword targeting.

5. Populate Header Tags

Write clear, descriptive headings for each header tag. Include secondary long-tail keywords where it makes sense.

6. Use Semantic HTML

Utilize <header>, <section>, <article> tags and others where appropriate to further structure your content.

7. Link to Headers

Link to header tags where appropriate from other pages or within the same page to pass SEO value.

8. Review and Refine

Review how your header tags look on the live page. Refine and restructure as needed for maximum SEO and UX benefit.

Optimizing your header tags takes time, but following these steps will help you maximize their SEO potential. Let’s look at some specific header tag SEO examples.

Header Tag SEO Examples

Here are a few examples of how you can effectively utilize header tags for on-page SEO:

Example H1 Usage

Your H1 should contain your target primary keyword:<h1>Create Viral Content with These 5 Simple Tips</h1>

This focuses the page on “viral content” as a main topic.

Example H2 Usage

Use an H2 subheading to elaborate on your H1:<h2>Optimize Headlines to Hook Readers</h2>

This H2 digs into one subtopic of creating viral content.

Example H3 Usage

At the next level down, an H3 further optimizes a subtopic:<h3>Use Emotional Trigger Words in Headlines</h3>

So H3 tags let you drill deeper into a topic.

Linking to Headers

You can link to headers from elsewhere like this:<p>For tips on writing headlines, see <a href=”#headline-tips”>How to Write Engaging Headlines</a></p>

Where #headline-tips is an ID attached to a header tag.

Title and H1 Coordination

Make your title and H1 complement each other:<title>Viral Content Marketing – 5 Tips to Create Viral Content</title> <h1>Create Viral Content with These 5 Simple Tips</h1>

As you can see from these examples, proper header tag usage allows you to target keywords, establish hierarchy, improve clickthroughs, and more.

Common Header Tag SEO Mistakes to Avoid

While header tags are very useful for SEO when used properly, there are also some common mistakes people make that you’ll want to avoid:

Skipping Header Levels

Don’t go from H1 to H3, make sure you use H2 subheadings as well. Proper hierarchy is important.

Using Multiple H1 Tags

Don’t use more than one H1 per page – this confuses search engines about your page’s main topic.

Weak H1 Keywords

H1 tags should contain strong, relevant keywords – don’t waste this opportunity.

Overstuffing Keywords

While some keyword usage is good, overstuffing will get you penalized by search engines.

Non-Descriptive Headers

Headers like “Section 1” or “Blog Post” don’t help users or search bots. Use descriptive headings.

Avoid these common mistakes and your header tags will be optimized for maximum SEO benefit.

Tools to Help Audit and Improve Header Tags

There are a number of useful tools you can use to analyze your existing header tag usage on pages and help optimize it for better SEO. Here are some top options:

  • Yoast SEO – The Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress gives header tag optimization recommendations.
  • SEMrush – SEMrush lets you audit and evaluate header tag usage across your site.
  • HeadingsMap – A Chrome extension to visually see and assess headers on a page.
  • Google Search Console – Search Console provides header tag warnings under “Enhancements”.
  • Screaming Frog – The SEO spider tool lets you crawl pages and output header tag usage.

Using tools like these can reveal opportunities to better optimize tags for increased organic visibility.

Tips for Optimizing Header Tags in WordPress

Here are some tips specifically for optimizing header tags in WordPress:

  • Use the Yoast SEO plugin which gives header recommendations.
  • By default, page/posts use H2 tags for titles. Change to H1s.
  • Use the SEO Smart Fix plugin to automatically change page/post titles to H1 tags.
  • Use the All in One SEO plugin for granular control over header tags.
  • Set your blog post permalinks so they include the post title for keyword targeting.
  • Manually check header usage with a plugin like HeadingsMap.

With these tips, you can leverage header tags for better SEO in WordPress.


Proper use of header tags provides immense SEO benefits. By following heading tag best practices, including keywords, establishing hierarchy, using descriptive text, and avoiding stuffing, you can optimize your pages for higher rankings.

Focus on crafting strong H1 tags targeting primary keywords, filling out lower-level content with H2 and H3 tags, and structuring your headers semantically. Avoid common errors like skipping levels or over-optimizing.

With the right header tag optimizations, you can better target relevant search terms, improve clickthrough rates, provide structure for users and search bots, and take advantage of featured snippets. This can directly lead to higher organic visibility and traffic.

Use a critical eye to audit your own header usage, leverage tools to identify areas for improvement, and keep these header tag SEO best practices in mind. Well-structured heading tags are a foundational on-page optimization. Contact 427 Digital for more!