What Are H Tags and How Do They Help SEO?

Those who are seasoned in the ways of SEO will know there are tactics and optimisation that come and go, and what would help rank a website one day, suddenly becomes something that detracts from that ranking.

On the other hand Oxygen Marketing say that, there are certain ranking factors that you could call evergreen and are likely to continue to be ranking factors for many years to come.

One of those is H tags, and while they are relatively simple aspects of SEO, a surprisingly high number of people are confused by what they are. In addition to that, they are unsure how to use H tags within an SEO campaign, and how they can help improve the ranking of a website.

What Are H Tags?

A long time ago, before websites had even been thought of, the main way people were able to access content, was by reading physical print as it existed in newspapers, magazines, and books.

Within those publications, different sizes of text were used to identify specific blocks of content, with one of the most common being the headline that appeared at the top of a story in a magazine or newspaper. In the printing world, that larger text was known as the header text

That same principle applies to websites where the larger text is used at the top of pages to identify what the content on those pages is about. The name given to that larger text is also called the header text.

The specific size of the header text is identified by a number and therefore the largest header text is represented by the letter ‘H’ (for header) and the number 1. This is the H1 tag.

As the size of header text decreases the number also changes, but inversely, so the higher the number, the smaller the header text. Therefore, the full set of H tags in order of decreasing text size is H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6.

The Importance Of The H1 tag

For SEO purposes the most important H tag is the H1 tag. It is normally used at the top of the page, or as the title of a piece of content, and that applies even if the content that follows is not written text. An H1 tag can be used as the title above any kind of content including images, audios, videos, and infographics.

Now if all the H1 tag did was to identify to anyone landing on a webpage what the title or subject of any content was, that would still be important, however, its role goes beyond visitors to the page.

The reason for that is that when Google and the other search engines crawl a website, they all use H1 tags that are on a page to help identify what that page is about. Remember, in order for any of your web pages to rank for a keyword or keyword phrase, the search engines need to be aware that the page has relevance to them.

Whilst they will use the page URL, page title and page description as part of that relevancy check, the next thing they look at is the H1 tag. That means if your H1 tags are not in place, or worse, they have no relevance whatsoever to the keywords you want to rank that page for, your rankings could be adversely affected.

Using H1 Tags Correctly

One aspect of H1 tags that is often overlooked is that, while they serve a purpose with regards to search engines crawling the website, they also help those who visit it. For example, if you are a legal practice, you have a highly ranked page on your website relating to writing a will, the H1 tag should make that abundantly clear.

The reason is that if a visitor lands there having made a search for ‘How to write a will’, and the H1 tag says ‘We can help you with legal matters’, they are not going to know if it is about writing wills or not. The result is they are likely to click away, and if too many visitors do that, Google will lower the ranking for that page.

Instead, you want the H1 tag, which is the main headline on that page, to say something like, ‘We can help you write a will’. Now the visitors know they have landed on the correct page, and as such, they are going to remain for longer. They may also go a stage further and request q quote, which they will never do if they have left your website.

What About The Other H Tags?

Whilst they may not be as significant as the H1 tag, the other H tags should still be used properly to help with rankings, but more to help keep your content properly organised and easier to consume for your visitors. They can be used as sub-headers throughout a piece of written content, as image headers, video titles, and other media.

One thing you must avoid is to overuse a specific keyword in your H tags. Simply repeating the same keywords phrase over and over in H tags, will appear to be over-optimisation, and any benefit will be lost. Instead, try to vary your H tags as much as possible by using synonyms and alternative phrases.