Heading Tags: Improve Your Search Engine Rankings

Text without headings is difficult to read.  Headings and subheadings are the most important anchor points that people use to determine a text’s topic.  Headings are pieces of HTML code that allow you to make certain words stand out on a page and scan for the sections you want to read.  A header also helps tell search engines what your page is about, as well as when used in conjunction with page title, metadescriptions, keywords, and keyword-targeted content.  So, how do you properly use heading tags for your site? 

Structuring the Entire Page

The text (content) structure on your page is important for SEO.  The page is read as an outline and if your content is clearly structured, your chances of ranking well in search engine results are higher.  To improve the structure of your web content, you need to focus on the: 

First Paragraph

You need to convey what your topic is in the first paragraph of your text.  You have seconds to draw you reader’s attention, so make sure the first paragraph articulates the main point of your post.  Also, don’t forget to include your topical keyword in the heading.  People instantly recognize the word they are looking for and this will help draw them in.


Headings should be attractive and clearly state the theme of the section’s content.  This is helpful to search engines to define and advertise what your text about.  Put a header above group of paragraphs that are thematically similar.  Headings allow readers to scan through your content and to decide whether they want to read the article. 

Page Title and URL

URLs and title tags provide information that helps describe your page and website to search engines and visitors so keeping this information relevant and accurate is one of the first major steps to making your website search engine friendly.  So, with an increasing number of bloggers and companies utilizing SEO to increase their online visibility, it is surprising to see many of them still using longwinded URLs and generic title tags for their webpages.

URLs should be descriptive, yet brief.  Visitors should be able to get an idea of what kind of information will be on the page just by looking at its URL.  Page titles tell users and search engines the topic of the webpage.  Title tags are different from page titles, they are the bold blue hyperlink text that appears for each search result.  They not only aid in defining keyword terms but also help drive click-through-rates from search results pages.  Many title tags are surprisingly generic; you need to focus on making yours unique to the content on the page and keywords you want to rank on.

Core Sentences

Text structure is important to attract readers as well as to optimize search engine results.  The first and last sentences of a paragraph are the most important.  People tend to read the first and last sentences of every section as they scan through content; and search engines usually pay extra attention to these sentences when determining the content’s topic, so these are great places to use keywords.  The other sentences elaborate upon that first sentence and the last sentence wraps up the point of the paragraph.

Headings and SEO

Heading tags structure your content.  In HTML, there is one H1 heading tag on each page; maybe a couple of H2-H4 tags, and these would form an outline of the content.  On a category page, H1 is the category name and on a product page, the product name.  H2 are subheadings for H1.  Although not a major ranking factor, headings do affect SEO.  So, use these headings and subheadings to divide content into scannable sections; search engines and your visitors will appreciate it. 

The Difference between an H1 Heading and SEO Title

Titles are important for readers and search engines.  However, Yoast notes that it is important to understand that your SEO title doesn’t have the same purpose as your post title.  Your post title is for people already on your site.  Your SEO title is for people on the search engine looking for content that can be found on your page.  The purpose of your SEO title is to convince consumers to click on the preview and come to your website. 

Use of Headings

Heading tags, not to be confused with the HTML tag or HTTP headers, are tags used for the creations of headings and present structure on the page.  The most important heading tag is the H1 tag, which is typically used as the title of a page and only used once.  The other headings can be used multiple times in a hierarchical structure (i.e., before you use H3, you have to use H2); however, you can still go back and use H2 after you’ve used H3—as long as it makes sense. 

How to Improve Rankings

If you want to improve the visibility of your website and increase traffic, you need to run a strong SEO campaign using heading tags. How do you improve rankings using heading tags, you ask?  Your content has to be good AND organized.  You can’t expect a user to have a good experience on a page that has all the words jumbled together, without any headings or section breaks.  Using header tags, you can tell search engines and users about the content of different sections as well as the topic.  It is important to note that when you are considering ranking for varied keywords on a topic, you want to be ranked for the long tail keyword search, and header tags play a key role.


With short keywords, competition for rankings is high.  Long-tail keywords are longer, more specific keyword phrases that consumers are more likely to use when they’re closer to a point-of-purchase.  With long-tail keywords, competition is lower, but you may pull in less traffic.  However, the return on your investment will be proportionally much higher: you’ll be attracting the audience looking exactly for what you are offering.

When you bid on long-tailed keywords, the cost per click is lower, since there is less competition.  By using long-tail keywords in your ad campaigns, you can get higher SEO without paying a premium for every click.  The trick is just to find a reliable source of long-tail keywords that are right for you and for your targeted consumers.  

How to Write a Header Tag

When you’re constructing the HTML coding, it sometimes looks like an outline, with headings and subheadings.  Heading tags carry a lot of weight with search engines because they help with categorization, not aesthetics.  Therefore, you want to avoid thinking of heading tags as simply formatting for your pages.  For best SEO results, place keywords in your heading tags.  From here, you can aesthetically control what each heading consistently looks like through your site using a CSS style sheet that specifies the color, font, size, and other attributes for each Heading tag.  When you view the code of your page, it should look something like this (note that a lowercase ‘h’ in the code is best practice):

<h1>this is a heading</h1>

<p>200 words of content about Heading using the keywords.  </p>

<h2>this is subheading A</h2>

<p>200 words of content about Heading using the keywords</p>

<h3>this is a lower subheading</h3>

<p>200 words of content about Heading using the keywords.  </p>


H2, H3, and H4 headings are important, but not as important to the search engines as your H1 tag.  The H1 tag is the most important heading because it specifies that specific page’s topic.  Search engines generally give this tag more weight over other headings, so it usually improves your search engine ranking when used correctly.  Unlike the H1 tag, you can use multiple H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6 subheadings in conjunction with keywords to help organize your content into sections so readers can scan your page and decide if it’s something, they’re interested in reading.  Trends in SEO come and go, but H1s have never lost their significance.


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