August 23, 2017 / SEO 101

H1 Tag & SEO

Having a blog is a great way to showcase what you do to the world.  Whether it is a passion, a business or a combination of both, it is the best way to spread word of the subject.

However, content marketing as an industry continues to grow and this can mean that you are competing against an ever-growing number of people for readers.  To help you beat the competition, you need to develop a range of tactics that make your website both user-friendly and search engine friendly.  One of those is the use of H1 tag – but what is it and how do you create it?

H1 basics

There are lots of elements that make up SEO or search engine optimisation – things like keywords and on-page factors, the speed and design of the website and whether it is optimised for mobile users.  The H1 tag might seem a tiny area that doesn’t have a lot of impacts but for something so small, it can have a major part in the search engine ranking of your page and website.

The H1 is an HTML tag that tells search engines what part of the website is the heading.  There are six different heading tags in use, one through to six and of them, H1 is considered the most important.  If you use a word processing document such as Word or Google Docs, you will see them as Heading 1, Heading 2 and so forth.

Finding the H1

So how do you find the H1 heading on a page to see what it looks like to search engines?  Go to a web page and view the source code.  You can do this on Google Chrome, for example, through the View then Developer then Source Code option when you right click on a page.

You will then see a huge amount of data that makes no sense – this is the code of the website.  In order to find the H1 tag, simply use the CTRL+F option and type in H1.  This will highlight the code containing the H1 tag on the page.  The H1 is used at the start and at the end of the tag and the bit in the middle is the actual heading.

Why H1’s matter

The H1 might seem like just another little piece of code that doesn’t have an impact but its presence and its accuracy can have a massive impact on the traffic to and rating of that particular page.  Some experts say that changing the H1 can dramatically increase the traffic to the page, by as much as 86% in one case.  And the rating of the page can go all the way to the top with the right H1 tag in place.

According to many marketing experts such as Third Angle Marketing, H1s have always been a rating factor but many businesses either didn’t realise it or didn’t know how to look for theirs.

In a recent study of the most important search ranking factors by Moz, tags are the third most important ranking factor after domain level link authority and page level link metrics.

Creating top H1s

Even people who are well versed in the existence of the H1 heading don’t always use them correctly.  If you study the top results for any search on Google, 80% of them will use an H1 but not all of these will be using the H1 correctly.  In fact, they could increase their position by the best use of H1 despite their already lofty position.

How many and what should it say?

The first thing to remember is that you only ever use one H1 tag.  If you use more than one, this will confuse search engines and have a negative effect on the ranking.  It could dilute the effectiveness of the primary H1.

Next thing is that the H1 should describe the topic of your page.  In most cases, it will be similar to the title of your post or in many cases, it will be the title of the post – the aim of which is to give a clear picture of what the content is about.  H1s should be around 20-70 characters in length to fit in the available space – anything over that and you are wasting letters as they won’t be seen.

H1 Tag & SEO

Making the H1 stand out

The H1 should stand out on the bag – it should be big, strong, noticeable and use visual formatting to ensure this is done.  This is more about the user experience than the SEO side.  While on paper, H1s are a semantic element, not a visual one, the real world application is that it is a mix of both.  In web design, bigger is more noticeable and therefore by making the H1 big and bold, you increase the emphasis on it and its content.

Use long tail keywords in H1

Long tail keywords are a matter of debate in terms of the H1 with some experts being against it but if you use it in your title and it is the essence of the article, then using the long-tailed keyword is logical.  It tells crawlers what the website is about, after all.  However, you should ensure that you don’t stuff the keywords into the H1, use them naturally and don’t try to force words in that don’t make sense.

Take user intent into consideration

Finally, when creating an H1 you should consider user intent.  Think about what people are looking for when reading the article, what problem they are seeking to solve.  Then create the H1 that answers that question.  That way, people get what they are expecting when they visit the page and are more likely to share it.


Auditing your website to see if you have H1 headings and what they are can be a little fiddly but the result in terms of the traffic and rating increase could well make it a worthwhile process. Even if you don’t see an immediately increase in traffic, you can build a better SEO profile and plan for long term success.


Paul Gordon (author)

Freelance SEO Expert, with over 15 years experience in digital marketing. And for a b2b marketing, I recommend Agency Inc.

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  1. Thanks Paul, for this post. H1 is one of the most useful and important part in ON PAGE SEO. It also help to improve page or blog content formatting.

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