How to Distinguish Between and Use Different HTML Headings

You’ve probably heard people refer to an “H1 tag”, but do you know what they’re talking about?

It’s important that (a) you understand HTML headings and the differences between them, but also (b) you know how to use them correctly, utilizing white hat SEO best practices.

What Are HTML Headings?
Search engines like Google take heading tags into consideration for their organic search results algorithm. They help indicate the structure and content of your pages. Headings are defined in HTML as <h1> through <h6>, with <h1> being the most important and <h6> being the least. They are also helpful to users of your site because, let’s face it, most people skim the headings before deciding if the content is worth reading. Headings help to show the document’s structure.

HTML Headings Based on Website Type
The type of site you have will affect the structure of your headings. An eCommerce site may have a more defined structure to its headings, so that all product pages are structured in the same fashion. Blogs and information sites are more likely to vary, as the content on each page will vary.

Keyword Usage in Headings
You should utilize your chosen keyword phrases in your headings. For example, if your page is about women’s shoes or, more specifically, women’s black leather pumps, your headings should utilize these keywords. Make sure you use proper keyword density by avoiding keyword stuffing.

Heading Structure
Headings should be formatted like a pyramid, with <h1> tags on the top, <h2> tags next, and so forth. Make sure you are using them proportionately. A good rule of thumb is to use headings in multiples of three. For example, one <h1> tag, three <h2> tags, nine <h3> tags, and so forth. However, it is acceptable to use one tag per heading type on a landing page. There should only be one <h1> tag per page and this heading should utilize keywords from the title tag.

H2 Tags
Next, <h2> tags can use slightly more broad keywords than in the <h1> tag. There is no limit to the number of <h2> tags that you can use, but be within the scope of the page. Often <h2> tags are part of the navigation or used in reference to product names. For example, “black puma shoes” may be the name of the product on the page and your <h2> tag.

H3 Tags
You can be even broader in your keyword usage in the <h3> tags. These can be even less related to the topic of the page. For example, <h1> is “puma shoes”, <h2> is “black puma shoes” and <h3> is “how to tie your shoes.” This heading is often referring to some secondary content on the page.

H4, H5 & H6 Tags
Your <h4> tags can be very broad and have little reference to the subject matter on the page. Once you get to <h5> and <h6> tags, you are usually better off creating an entirely new page. If your headings are structured correctly, these shouldn’t even be used.

Heading Style and Font Structure
Your <h1> tags should stand out the most by being a larger font than <h2> tags. Your <h2> tags should be larger than your <h3> tags, and so forth. Browsers will automatically add a margin or empty space before and after each heading to help with the spacing. Don’t use headings as a way to make certain text stand out on your page, unless that content is actually a heading. This is where you should use <strong> to bold your text and other style options as necessary.

White Hat SEO Best Practices for Headings
Keywords are important in your headings. Make sure you are being consistent, yet not stuffing. Headings are a great way to make your keywords stand out to the user and add SEO value to the search engines crawling your page.

Having great page structure and clean HTML code is a sign that your website is putting effort towards implementing white hat SEO best practice standards. It will also provide a better user experience and help you achieve more leads and/or conversions from improved organic search engine placement.

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