SEO Header Tags

by Jason Capshaw on July 21, 2008

Header tags are an effective way to communicate to the search engines and readers what a page is about. They convey the importance of the text inside of the header tag. Often times, the header tags are not in the proper order. This is how a header tag would appear in the page.

<h1>Header</h1> — The Theme Of The Page

<h2>Header</h2> — Main Sub Sections Of <h1>

<h3>Header Text</h3> — Sub Sections Of <h2>

The <h1> header tag is the largest font. The <h2> tag is smaller than the <h1> tag but larger than the <h3> tag and so on to <h6>. However, the font size of each header tag can be easily adjusted with css making it possible for all headers to appear the same size:

h1, h2, h3, h4 {font-size:12pt}

The major mistake most webmasters make is creating the header of the website using the <h1> or <h2> tag. When this occurs, the header tags do not change from page to page making it irrelevant. If you want to use text in your header, you can easily format a div or paragraph to look like an <h1> tag with very little difficulty.


The <h1> tag should appear just above the content of the web page. It should closely match the title tag and be relevant to the content of the page. The <h2> and <h3> tags can than follow with relevant keywords related to the <h1> tag. It is also important for all the header tags to be grammatically correct and easily readable. Don’t just keyword stuff! Google can detect keyword stuffing very easily. If they believe that your page is more geared towards them than your audience, they won’t give you an audience. So make sure your header tags make perfect sense to your readers.

You may have heard of “siloing” or “theming” a website, which is a very effective technique for SEO.  I use the same concept for some web pages using header tags as depicted in the graphic below.

Header Tag SEO Style

Simply by doing a little h1 tag SEO and rearranging content with header tags I have seen web page SERPs jump almost immediately.

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Header Tags September 11, 2008 at 5:31 am

It’s amazing how many webmasters or so called “seo experts” still don’t know the proper use of heading tags. First, many people forget they aren’t just used to inject keywords onto your web page but rather to “structure” the content so a search engine and web visitor know what the web page is about. Good to see more blog posts aimed at the proper use of header tags.

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Jason September 11, 2008 at 6:34 am

Yes…its true…very few people understand structure and the importance it plays in SEO. But thats what we are here for ;)

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Julius@Brevard County Real Estate September 28, 2008 at 4:16 pm

Hmmm.. Yeah! it is true and it happens very often.

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Robert@Elk Grove Real Estate October 13, 2008 at 12:10 pm

I agree with you Header Tags! you said it right.

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Glenn@Park City UT Real Estae October 21, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Very well said. Thanks for the great share.

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Mike@electric guitars April 30, 2009 at 12:56 pm

I can certainly see the value in this technique, but how does it affect your site layout? For example, I understand that each of the tags (H1, H2, etc) is a different size and possibly appearance (bold or unbold, etc.). Does this interfere with the overall font and font size of the site?

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Peter May 24, 2009 at 11:01 pm

thank for header tips for seo

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nick@minneapolis SEO June 11, 2009 at 11:31 am

A lot of people manipulate header tags since you can easily change the size of the tag. However, its nice to see someone who accurately displays the real way to use header tags.

thanks for the read!

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Larry Vallely June 30, 2009 at 5:40 pm

the use of H tags can really help to not only structure a website, but make you think of the SEO importance that we neglect all the time. Great post

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bethany@makeup artist san antonio July 3, 2009 at 2:29 pm

I agree that is a big mistake not allowing the header tags to change from page to page so they become irrelevant. It’s odd that this slips through the cracks when so many people are supposed to be proficient in SEO.

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Kevin Dawson July 4, 2009 at 10:18 pm

Glad I stumbled upon this post tonight. We just optimized our website (an internet radio station) and boy was I surprised to see us drop in Google’s SERP. (However, we jumped in Yahoo and Bing, so go figure!)

Anyway, I only heard about headers this week, so now thanks to your post and a few others I found, that’s the next step… so, off to SEO Land again. Thanks for your help!

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James@find job in Dubai July 8, 2009 at 5:07 am

Headers tags are always play role to get higher ranking on keywords that you used as a header. You describe it nicely.

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Noah@internet marketing consulting July 13, 2009 at 12:06 pm

@Mike, its not going to interfere or mess up the layout of the site at all, providing that you’ve properly setup your css to reflect your header tag changes. So, basically, make sure you make the appropriate font style changes to the tags in your css file, and you’ll have no problems. :)

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buy text link ads October 15, 2009 at 1:26 pm

The thing I’ve never liked is that because google put’s an emphasis on the proximity of the keyword in the title, people always put their keywords forst, then the title name. Or the product name before the category.

i’ve always though in english, the title should read like a breadcrumb does, with the site name first, the category second, and the product third. But since SEO requires the opposite, it’s got us all reading backwards.

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gigel November 1, 2009 at 3:24 am

You call yourselves SEO experts, but you don’t even know that H1 is a heading tag, not header tag… like some people call it title tag insteal of title element…

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Jason November 1, 2009 at 5:41 am

@gigel, lol…you are right, the correct qualifications of an SEO expert are the correct use of specific development jargon like with the little “p thingy” and that title element that goes in the header, or head, or the top section of the website.

Oh…and it was completely an accident that I chose header instead of heading. I guess I just got lucky that “header” is less competitive than heading and widely searched ;)

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Diego Silva November 2, 2009 at 7:09 am

Olá.

Obrigado pela ajuda.
Estou buscando um maior conhecimento sobre Tags de cabeçalho.

Muito obrigado.
Porém, não podemos quebrar a estrutura.
Ir da H1 a H6 e voltar a H2 é um desafio interessante, já tentou? ;)

Abraço. Diego Silva, Brasil.

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lSEO San Diego November 4, 2009 at 11:45 am

I agree header tags are very important, I have seen them increase my rankings by quite a bit.

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Whitney@blogger templates November 12, 2009 at 7:58 am

This is an awesome article on heading tags, I’ve been studying this a lot recently and this helped out a lot!

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Calorie Shifting January 7, 2010 at 8:51 pm

I’m trying to figure out, in terms of SEO. If a Header has a title say Yeast Infection Natural Cures. Say I want to target Yeast Infection Cures will that also count as a Header tag in the eyes of Google or do the words have to be in the exact sequence?

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Kai@seo January 16, 2010 at 8:43 pm

It’s amazing how playing around with the header tag makes a huge different in the serps. Great post!
.-= Kai@seo´s last blog ..Keywords That Sell =-.

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WPExplorer@Wordpress Tips January 17, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Heading Tags are supper important for SEO and this post is a perfect explanation of how to use them.

Some people may have realized that Wordpress-powered sites tend to rank very well in searches, and this is because most Wordpress themes will automatically insert the H1 tags for the main header.

No one can ever stress enough the importance of H-Tags on SEO, especially the tag.
.-= WPExplorer@Wordpress Tips´s last blog ..Wordpress Site Hacked – Removal & Prevention Guide =-.

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BOFH February 5, 2010 at 9:27 am

@First comment..

Yes, because when I get lost looking for information on a webpage, I immediately open the source code and look for the header tags to tell me what’s what…

I completely agree that search-bots, and possibly even screen-readers, will get more out of proper use of H-tags, but to suggest that a human will misinterpret content because you used an h3 instead of an h2 is absolutely ludicrous, I mock thee sir. I mock thee good.

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Alan@Tulsa Real Estate February 6, 2010 at 5:28 am

I can still produce the list of numerous SEO companies website who doesnt have their header tags properly optimized. I feel funny when they proclaim themselves as seo experts without even fixing such basic things in seo. Remember the Header tags are quite simple and basic, but if not done properly they can easily ruin your website’s rankings.
.-= Alan@Tulsa Real Estate´s last blog ..Obama’s Budget Plan Dodging Bullets =-.

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Rob @ Spongebob Costume February 10, 2010 at 2:51 am

Thanks for all the useful info. I think many people dont really realise just how important headers are…I make use of all the tags I can whenever i start a webpage.
.-= Rob @ Spongebob Costume´s last blog ..About Us =-.

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best seo February 13, 2010 at 8:06 pm

your post reminded me of the major mistake I used to to, and maybe one of the most common among seo ammateurs: keyword sfuffing in headings and description meta tag. the structure you mentioned makes sense. am doing seo for a while with pretty good results but I never figured out before what’s the exact relationship between the hierarchy of headings and title. thanks for your post.
.-= best seo´s last blog ..Who will dominate the internet? =-.

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A.D. April 29, 2010 at 6:55 am

I skimmed through the posts here and didn’t see an answer to this, so please forgive me if it’s here and I just didn’t see it….but does it greatly impact SEO (specifically negatively) if you don’t use heading tags strictly in order etc.? In Jason’s original post I noticed the image illustration showed use of heading tags slightly out of order . Thoughts on going from a “smaller” H tag back to a “larger” H tag?

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Jason April 30, 2010 at 5:34 am

The effectiveness of the h elements has changed over the last year. I mainly focus on just using one “h1″ per page with content that closely matches the title tag. I don’t worry about the other h tags order as much. Constant improper use by designers has forced Google to drop the effectiveness of h tags way down.

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Constantin May 14, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Thank you for the tips. I’m learning my way through this.
Also bought an HTML book :-).

Cheers!

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Webhugger May 25, 2010 at 1:33 am

I don’t see a difference in weight between the H1 and H2 tags when it comes to weight as a ranking factor. Missing to use either of these will be a missed opportunity.

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header tags seo May 29, 2010 at 12:43 am

In my opinion header tags are very important in seo. It has given the second importance when compared with all other factors in on-page seo. Previously I wasn’t using the header tags in my webpages. But when i started using the header tags in my page. the serp ranking automatically jumped from 6th position to 2nd position in google.

header tags seo

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free tutorials June 12, 2010 at 1:41 am

Hey thanks a lot for sharing such a nice and informative article on seo header tags.
When writing your headings, include your main keywords in the headings. Be as specific as possible to increase your chances of being listed in a reasonable spot in the search engines. General search terms or keywords usually generate poor indexing because so many websites use them. Use a research tool such as the one available at Overture.com to find popular keywords in your field.

BY the way for more information on latest SEO TIPS check this link : SEO TIPS

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Nurse Halloween Costume June 29, 2010 at 9:25 am

Thanks for the explanation. I’ve never really understood the ins and outs of header tags – this has helped me answer a few questions. One thing I do understand is that if you make all of your header tags the same on any given page, it may help you with your SEO efforts at first but google will probably end up penalising you for it…

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Alessio September 19, 2010 at 5:28 pm

I want to ask if it is better to put before charset tag or the title …
What do you think about my seo taking care in http://www.bestourism.com ?
Some Webmaster do this…
What is better in your opinion ?
Thanks :)

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Pamula Riggings September 29, 2010 at 4:36 pm

bonjour et bravo pour votre blog riche en contenu je vais revenir souvent !Je suis la webmaster de ce site internet. Ma spécialité, le contenu rédactionnel optimisé merci à tous !

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Shoes Man September 30, 2010 at 10:28 am

The rules seem to be altering slightly but this is still good advice!

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Discounts February 14, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Good post! I just wanted to add that is hard to spot missing header or title tag on a page, while any SEO analysis software would point it out immediately.

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Nasif May 2, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Thanks for the awesome tutorial

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luke melton August 12, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Thanks for your thoughtful explanation of the proper use of header tags for SEO. My main comment is that your explanation would be much clearer for many readers if you would include illustrations of how a page looks with an tag used in different ways, and the same with and tags. Many folks learn visually, and being able to actually “see” the results of different ways of using header tags could, for many people, make learning to use them properly much easier. Thanks for the great post. Namaste.

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Brian Yang August 12, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Great concise post. I use these exact steps when posting as well.

But do we really need to use the other heading numbers after H3?

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John Lamar@ Barcode generator August 31, 2011 at 8:10 pm

I came on your site searching for seo header tags(Its on no 1 rank, congrats!)

What do you think of having same phrase for h1 as well as title tag, will it increase the value of that keyword phrase.

Like if i want my site to be optimized for keyword “Barcode Generator” then i set both h1 and title as Barcode Generator.

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Peter January 17, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Excellent article. I only just realised this morning that the Word Press theme and SEO plugins I’m using didn’t properly set the H1 tag for my site. I had to manually insert the H1 tag in the theme editor.
I was wondering why I wasn’t even ranking in the top 1000 for my main keyword. Will be interesting to see how much of an affect this will have.

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venkatesu.k March 29, 2012 at 9:13 am

Its very useful article

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khan May 3, 2012 at 7:33 am

It is very important that using of Header Tag. But where I can set this html code. Please tell details about that. I need to set a header tag in my blog. If it is possible you can visit here.Here it is .

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Key Biscayne Condos November 8, 2012 at 7:57 am

Setting proper Header tag matters a lot in SEO. It helps search engines to read easily about what the page actually contains. Header tags are from H1 to H6. Where H1 is the largest and H6 is the smallest.

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