How to optimize blog post header tags

Effectively structure your content and improve SEO with H1- H6 tags

Posted on 16 Aug 2013 by Jes Stiles to SEO Guides

What are these SEO header tags you speak of?

Header tags (H1, H2, H3, H4, H5 and H6) is HTML code which marks up content with a particular style (gifted by the CSS). A technical way of saying they are styled headings and subheadings which help to organise a blog article.

Example of html header tag code

Headings help structure your blog post

No matter how well you write, formatting an article is critical. It plays a major role in a blog success on two fronts:

HTML Header Tag Structure for SEO: From an SEO point of view, header tags help search engines understand the topic of your article, defining sections of content. In the words of Google:

Good headings express the general idea of the content below them, and search engines use headings to get an idea of what your post is about.

They are an important aspect of on-page SEO for your blog article. When Google tries to determine what your blog article is about, text in header tags is given more weight than other words. Adding keywords in H1 - H6 tags can improve search engine rankings.

Header Structure for Readability: It’s not all about Google. Header tags have different styles (font size, colour, etc). This styling allows people to easily scan through your blog article to find what is important to them. From a user experience point of view, utilising headings can help to reduce bounce rates, increase time on page and other engagement metrics.

Done correctly, header tags provide a clear article outline of your content for both search engines and readers.

Recommended SEO header tag structure for blog posts

You should treat header tags as you would headings in a textbook. Use them to section off key ideas.

Header Tag Comparable to Textbook Use in Blog Post No. Times
H1 Book title Post title 1
H2 Chapter title Subheadings within article body As required (commonly 2 - 5)
H3 Subsections of a chapter Sub-subheadings within article body As required (commonly 6 - 9)
H4 Headings of graphs, images, etc. Headings for related content, comment box, sidebar widgets, author bio, etc. As required
H5 & H6 - For styling As required

Optimise blog articles using H1 - H6 tags

How to use H1 tags in blog posts

A good H1 tag is essential. Not surprisingly, H1 tags have the highest SEO weighting, so as an powerful on-page factor. But they are often also the first things a visitor will read on your page. So you need to make a good impression.

The H1 tag has some simple rules:

  1. Only use the H1 tag once per blog post - The same way a book can only have one title, a blog article should only have one H1 tag. Multiple H1’s on any page in an SEO cardinal sin.
  2. Use it on the blog article title - The H1 tag sets the topic of the blog article. So it should appear at the very top of the article surrounding the blog article title.
  3. Include your primary keyword - Both users and search engines will be looking for a keyword. Ideally, this should be the same keyword used in page url and meta title for a strong SERP rank.
  4. Don’t simply duplicate your meta title tag - Both tags are important, but if they are identical it seems unnatural to both readers and Google. These tags perform different purposes and so need different formats (although keywords should be shared).
  5. Make it attention grabbing yet descriptive - ‘Clever’ or overly promotional article titles are unlikely to engage your readers. Convery in a concise manner what they can expect in your post.

Blogger users, take note! Default Blogger templates use the h3 tag for the post title (reserving the h1 for the blog name). Restructure this in the code to improve SEO performance.

Wordpress users, you’re OK. Most WordPress blogs use the h1 tag for the post title by default. But it is a good idea to double check.

Why include H2 & H3 tags in blog posts

When it comes to onIine content, I believe Jakob Nielsen summed it up best:

How users read on the web
They don’t

He continues on to say people rarely read articles word by word. 79% prefer to scan a page looking for individual words or phrases.

Meaningful, keyword based subheadings break up your blog article, making it easier to read. This helps you to catch your readers attention or satisfy their needs.

H2 and H3 tags also draws Google’s attention to your keywords (although are not as influential as a H1 tag). Balance using head match and long tail keywords in these sentences for keyword variety and to ensure the text reads naturally.

A word of caution: Don’t abuse subheading tags. Similar to links, the more headings you include, the less SEO value each will receive. Overuse can also negatively impact readability.

Value of H4, H5, H6 tags

Use H4 - H6 tags in sidebars and sections below the main body copy (think related posts, author bio, comment heading, etc). It is argued these have no more weight with Google than bold text, so their primary benefit is they visually break up content for readers with their unique styles. Here at TailBee, often we only use up to the H4 tag.

Note to Wordpress and Blogger users: Default Wordpress templates use H2 tags for sidebar widget headings, Blogger uses H3. Change these to H4 tags and give more power SEO power to the body content.

SEO header tags structure for a blog post

How HTML header tags tie into keywords and SERP ranks

Let’s take a look at this article. I am optimising for the keyword “header tags”. I have used this once in my H1 tag. I have used long tail variants (e.g. SEO header tags) and related phrases (e.g. H1 tag) in my H2 and H3 tags. I also used similar variants in my paragraphs.

The word “article” appears almost as often. However, because “header tags” is included in my H1, H2 and H3 tags, search engines will give it more weight. So, I am more likely to rank for it than “article”.

The trick is to use header tags in a way that engages users and clearly identifies a keyword to search engines, while still reading naturally (aka don’t keyword stuff).

That is the heart of optimising for a certain keyword with SEO header tags.

Keyword based header tags

5 core takeaways of blog post header tag optimisation

  1. Header tag structure is important to both search engines and your readers
  2. Only one H1 tag should be present in a blog post, used as the post title
  3. In long blog articles, use H2’s and H3’s to break up your article
  4. H1 - H3 headings should contain a valuable keyword where possible
  5. Check your current blog post heading structure against these best practices today!

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