Google’s SEO expert John Mueller revealed last week that heading tags are a very important signal for search and are strongly linked to the quality of content and what an article or blog is actually about.
Mueller has stated in the past that content can rank near the top of SERPs without H1 headings. This remains true, but this does not mean that they do not play an important role in search performance. This is because headings enable Google’s algorithm to get a better grasp of what is on a page.
During a Webmaster Central Hangout, Mueller noted: “Headings on the page are not the only ranking factor that we have. We look at the content on its own as well. But sometimes having a clear heading on a page gives us a little bit more information on what that section is about.”
Mueller went on to confirm that heading tags are a “really strong signal” for this reason – so what are headers exactly?
Headers are different from an article’s title. The first header on a page will use an H1 tag and ideally is an introduction to the topic covered on a particular page. Headers like this are used on ecommerce pages as well as blogs. In addition to providing useful information, they give structure to a webpage, which is what Google wants to see before it starts indexing content.
If you want to deploy excellent header tags to boost on-page SEO, these four best practices will give you a head start.
Use headers for at-a-glance insights
Just 16% of internet users read every word of an article after navigating to a webpage. The vast majority prefer to mix scanning with reading to get what they are looking for. Headers are great for breaking up text and improving the readability of a page, which in turn gives it a better chance of performing well in SERPs.
Include keywords and be consistent
Mueller says that headers are very important signals, so it makes sense to include a few of your target keywords in them. Don’t overstuff though and try to fit them in naturally. This will ensure that the user experience remains exemplary, something that can also be supported by being consistent with your use of header tags. The formatting and character limit should be the same across the board. Also, aim for shorter tags where possible.
Capture the reader’s attention
Bland and forgettable tags can undermine an otherwise excellent piece, so target the use of intriguing or interesting headers to keep those scanning engaged as they move down the page. High-quality tags are also more likely to encourage more readers to take the time to read important sections.
Focus on the H1 tag
The H1 tag is the first header that readers will notice, so place a particular focus on getting it right. Google has said in the past that there is no limit to the number of H1s that publishers can use on a page, but when optimising for SEO, it is best to start with only one as they are likely to be as long as titles and need to be used judiciously for the best results.