How to Use H-Tags for SEO
Think about the ways visitors arrive on your site.
Some of them will come directly to your site. These are generally visitors who have been there before. They’ve bookmarked your site, added it to a favorites bar, or visited often and recently enough that a couple of letters tapped into a browser search bar brings up your site.
Some of them will come following links from other sites. Often these are new visitors. They have arrived on your site after clicking a link on another site that they trusted enough to visit. There’s not a lot you can do to influence these visits, save having an awesome product, service, and content that other people want to link to.
(Actually – come to think of it – you can do a lot to create that sort of experience, but that’s another blog post.)
And some of them will come from search engines. These visitors will have searched for a phrase, or a keyword, and found a link to your site. Most likely you were on the first page of results, and very likely you were in the first couple of results, and now they are on your site.
When it comes to this third group you can do an awful lot on your website to try and rank higher. These actions are known as search engine optimization, or SEO, and because you are working on your own site, they are generally called on-site SEO.
Your on-site SEO is targeted at winning more of those visitors from the third group, the search engine referrals. The better your on-site SEO, the higher you’ll rank on a search engine results page (or SERP), and ranking high is important – here’s why.
How High Should I Fly?
The goal for your site should always be to arrive at position one on a SERP, and in most markets that means position one on Google.
The reason you want to be on that first page is that most people who click on a link on a SERP never look beyond the first page. In fact, research suggests that:
- three out of ten people only ever click on the first result
- five out of ten people choose either the first, second, or third result
- nearly eight out of ten people choose one of the results on the first page
Let’s make those numbers a little more real with an example.
I searched for the term digital marketing on Google and was informed that there were nearly 350 million results.
Of those results, 80% of people will choose one of the top ten results.
And this means that most people will never click one of the other 349,999,990 digital marketing results.
Getting to the front page isn’t just something you should do, it’s something you need to do.
On Site SEO
No one can control what appears on Google’s front page except for Google. But there are a lot of things you can do on your site to ensure you have the best shot of making it to the front page. This SEO – or at least a part of it – is what we’re talking about in this post.
SEO includes optimizing titles, text, images, and making sure everything loads fast – lightning fast. Recently Google and Bing have both started using mobile friendliness as a ranking factor, and natural, user-experience focussed design is preferred over keyword-stuffed pages.
And then there’s h-tags.
These aren’t major ranking factors, but they are important and they are so easy to get right. Want to do just that? Read on.
Let’s start with the basics: what are h-tags?
H-tags are embedded in the code of you website and designate the headings and sub-headings on your page. H-tags exist in a hierarchy from H1 (the most important) through to H6 (the least important) and when coded into your website, look something like this:
When you place text between the tags (for example, between the <h1> and </h1> tags) then you designate it as a heading. Whatever text you include will be formatted in the style you have nominated in your site’s code, and the text between the tags will also signal to search engines that this text is important.
Indeed, you can think of the different h-tag levels as follows:
What you put between the tags is up to you, but we do have a couple of tips on how to use the h-tags to best effect for SEO below.
Using H-Tags for On Site SEO
Headings and sub-headings do more than just break up your content. They also act as signals to the search engines about what the page is really about, what is most important, and how useful the information on the page is likely to be.
As a result, you’ll need to think about how you use your h-tags in terms of your on-site SEO, and here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Every page should have a H1 tag. Maybe it is the page title or the title of the content on the page, but you need a H1 tag on every page. Many CMSs will do this automatically when you title a page or a blog post, but you should make sure this is the case for your site.
- If you open a tag, close it again. If you open the tag <h1> you need to make sure that you close the tag using </h1> later. if you don’t, your entire page could turn into a H1 heading, and neither you, your visitors, or Google want that.
- Use targeted keywords in your h-tags. You don’t want to stuff the h-tags with keywords, but having a targeted keyword in the title of your page and present in the H1 tag is going to be beneficial in terms of SEO.
- Use the hierarchy on your pages. Remember that h-tags exist as a hierarchy and you should use these as such. If you have a H1 tag for the title, then break up the wall of text with H2 tags and even H3 tags, too. Your readers will appreciate it and so will the search engines.
- Don’t skip levels. Using H2 and H3 tags? Good. Jumping straight from a H1 to a H3 tag? Not so good. You should use the hierarchy as it exists, so don’t ‘skip’ levels by jumping from a H1 to a H3 without using a H2 tag, or jumping from a H2 to a H4 without a H3.
H-tags are the most important thing on your website, but they are easy to get right and your page will enjoy the benefits on those all important SERPs.
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