How To Properly Optimize Headings to Improve SEO

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Simply writing great content for your website may not be enough to attract visitors from Google. Of course, you could write the most relevant piece of content for a particular topic, but if your page is not optimized for readers and search engines, then you may as well not bother.

One of the most crucial aspects of optimizing content and on-page SEO is the effective use of H1-H6 heading tags. Great headings can capture the readers’ attention and get them to continue reading. If you can optimize your page’s H1-H4 headers, readers will love your content, and Google will start ranking that page higher in its search results. This short guide will walk you through the importance of heading tags and the best ways to structure your H1-H4 headings for SEO.

What Are Heading Tags?

Like the one directly above, heading tags are the parts of an article or page that tell the reader what the information in a particular section of the page will contain. When writing content for your website, heading tags create a clear structure within a page, making it easier for the visitor to read.

Not only does the heading tag speak to the reader, but it also speaks to search engines. Within HTML code, there are six heading tags ranging from H1 to H6. Within WordPress sites, it’s very easy to add headings without having any code knowledge.

Search engine web crawlers use heading tags to identify a page’s topic, prioritize information, and understand how each section of content relates to the other sections. If a phrase or keyword is included in a heading tag, it tells the search engine crawler that information is important. The higher that information is in the heading tag hierarchy, the more critical it is to the overall subject matter of the page (H1 most, H2 second-most, and so on).

Why Are Heading Tags Important For SEO?

With Google’s recent announcement that they will be rewriting title tags in the SERPs, it’s more important than ever to optimize your headings properly. Plus, if you want to rank well on Google, doing keyword research is essential

How exactly do you go about optimizing your headings for SEO? For starters, it’s valuable to understand from a user experience perspective how H1-H4 headings improve the readability of your content. Most people skim content, which means the headlines will dictate the flow of your article. Users want to scan a page quickly, and strong headlines make this possible. Without proper headings on a page, the text will be difficult to flow through, and many readers will not stay on that page for long.

Once you understand user experience, it’s essential to know the difference between H1, H2, H3, and H4. These tags carry different weights and need to be properly utilized for optimal headline optimization. So, how do you properly use H1-H4 headings to improve the user experience while also making search engines happy?

Example of Optimized H1-H4 Headings

The best way to showcase a proper structure for headers and sub headers would be to show you. Let’s take this article as an example. Below is a hierarchical outline of the H1-H4s used in this article. 

  • Optimizing H1-H4 Headings For SEO (H1)
    • What Are Heading Tags? (H2)
      • Why are heading tags important for SEO? (H3) 
        • Example of Optimized H1-H4 Headings (H4)
    • How To Structure Your H1 – H4 Headings (H2)
      • What is an H1 Heading? (H3)
      • What is an H2 Heading? (H3)
      • What is an H3 Heading? (H3)
      • What Are H4 – H6 Headings? (H3)
    • Using H1-H6 Tags to Represent Content Priorities (H2)
      • Tips For Improving SEO Heading Tags (H3)
        • Effective Header Spacing (H4)
    • Write SEO Headings For Readers (H2)

Note: Often, you will see articles containing a table of contents with jump links; this often uses the basic outline of the H1-H4 heading tags.

The Media Captain’s SEO team has a process where we go through a businesses website and optimize all headings. If you are interested in this type of support, Contact The Media Captain.

How To Structure Your H1-H4 Headings

Your H1-H4 headings are an integral part of your content structure, not only for flow and readability but for SEO as well. Headers show how the page prioritizes content and the logical ways to break that information into smaller sections.

You will want to use your headers to prioritize content by first determining the page’s primary objective. From your main topic (H1), you will need to decide the most important bits of information or ideas that have to be relayed to cover the objective of the H1. These main points will form the backbone of your article as H2s. These are the small parts of the whole that your reader has to understand your overall theme.

H3 and H4 work similarly. What information does the reader need to be able to understand the overall idea of H2? This is H3. Is there any detail that needs to be explained to understand the principles or information relayed in H3? This would be H4.

Let’s dive a bit deeper and explore how these different sections are organized by reviewing the common uses for each HTML heading tag. 

What is an H1 Heading?

H1 is the top tier in the heading hierarchy and is considered the most heavily weighted content on your page. An optimized page outline often starts with only one H1 heading tag to represent the page’s primary topic. In addition, the H1 often doubles as the visible on-page title of the article or blog post and is the largest font found at the top of the page. 

This heading should be clear and concise. You want to give your reader an idea of what your whole article will be about in just a few words. It is also vital to use the correct target keyword(s) in your title, as they remain a part of Google’s search engine algorithms.

Note: The H1 is different than the Meta Page Title and should be unique text.

What is an H2 Heading?

H2s are subheadings of the main subject, breaking the content down into easier-to-digest parts. H2 headings should be used throughout your entire page to break up your content into various subsections. While there should be only a single H1, a page can have multiple H2s to break up a particular subject into its core elements. 

H2 headings need to be descriptive and should represent the information contained in that section of content. But don’t give everything away. Keep it short. Not only does this help the search engines, but this also helps readability. With proper use of H2s, readers can easily identify the main themes of the page and where specific information is located on the page.

What is an H3 Heading?

Like an H2 heading, H3 headings are used to further explain and expand on a particular aspect of the overall topic. This is where information becomes more detail-oriented. You’ve moved from H1, the topic, to H2, which breaks the topic into its core elements, to H3, which gets into the specifics and details. H3’s can be used multiple times in a row to delve into different aspects of your H2 headings.

H3 headings should be more specific and contain keywords or phrases that quickly inform the reader of the content covered in that section. Proper use of H3s will make it easy for search engines and readers to scan the document and know exactly what the page contains.

What Are H4 – H6 Headings?

These headings, like H3, are further subcategories of the previous hierarchical headers. They are not often used unless you are dealing with complex topics with large amounts of information. If you find your article is using these lower priority H4-H6 heading tags, it may be worth evaluating if that information could be better delivered in another format.

Using Headers For Content Priorities

You want to make your content layout as logical as possible, so really pay attention to how you go about building out your subheadings. First, keep your eye on the main subject that you describe in your H1 title. Then you want to use the subheadings to explore different aspects of that topic in corresponding levels of detail. 

Your headers need to prioritize your information and provide a hierarchy that makes sense for the topic. For example, the information contained in your H4 is not as crucial to understanding the main topic as the information contained in an H2 section.

Tips For Improving SEO Heading Tags (H1-H6)

There are a few basic ways to improve your H1-H4 headings for SEO. Below are a few simple tips to help you write more effective headlines that grasp reader attention while maximizing SEO.

  • Only have a single H1 on the page.
  • H2-H4s should elaborate on the core theme and follow a clear hierarchy of information.
  • Use relevant keywords in your headings.
  • Use different fonts, styles, and text sizes to correspond to your H1-H6 headings.
  • Use headers to break up your page; you don’t want a large block of text.
  • Make your headings relevant and captivating; you want your readers to be intrigued and informed on the content within that section.

Effective Header Spacing

Unfortunately, an article can have too many H1-H6 headings. Another common issue with 

poorly optimized heading tags is that the H2-H4 headings are spaced out inefficiently.

The sweet spot for a section is often around 250 words or a few short paragraphs. A good rule of thumb is, if you can get the point across in just a few sentences, that section does not need its own header. On the other hand, if it takes more than 300 words, the section may need to be broken down into subheadings. 

Following this general rule will make the content easier to read and more appealing for the reader. It will also make it easier for search engines to understand the content.

Write SEO Headings For Readers

One last important tip is that you should always put the reader first when creating content. It is beneficial to use relevant keywords in your headings, but it all needs to make sense for the reader. Finding the right balance between readability and SEO effectiveness is sometimes difficult. Still, with the information you’ve learned here, you will be able to optimize your headings to be more effective and enhance the reader experience.

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