Search Engine Optimization Tip #11: Using Keywords in your Heading Tags

This is search engine optimization tip number eleven in our continuing series of search engine optimization tips. Each search engine optimization tip is very specific, should not take a long time to fix (or to check to see if you are following the search engine optimization best practices), and will be rather “short and sweet” and directly to the point.

Heading Tags If you have not been following along with all of our search engine optimization tips, you might want to take a look at some of the previous SEO tips that we have already talked about. In the last SEO tip, search engine optimization tip number ten, we talked about checking your links on your site to make sure you are not linking out to any bad neighborhoods or other sites that you do not wish to continue to link to. In SEO tip number nine, we talked about linking out to web sites. In search engine optimization tip number eight, we talked about Alt Tags and how you need to make sure that your keywords are in your Alt Tags and that they need to describe specifically what the image is and what someone will see when they look at it. Previously, before that, we talked about the anchor text of internal links. Then, before that, we talked about having keyword in your urls, linking to your home page, the meta keywords tag, the keywords on your web page, the meta description tag, and your web page’s title tag. All of these “search engine optimization tips” are things I look at when analyzing a site or optimizing it for the search engines. Keep in mind, though, that this is only the beginning. There are a lot more search engine optimization tips coming.

For search engine optimization tip number eleven, let’s take a look at the headings you use on your page and the keyword usage in your heading tags. If you have not heard of heading tags or what I’m referring to, I am specifically referring to the heading tags within the body copy of your web page (e.g., your h1, h2, h3, etc. tags). If you are not currently using H1, H2, and H3 tags on your site then I highly suggest that you start doing so. This gives some “weight” to the keywords that you use in those tags which will ultimately help your search engine optimization.

To learn more about how and when to use the Heading tags, take a look at the W3c School site’s HTML H1 to H6 Tag informational web page. The heading tags define headers, and the h1 is the largest and the h6 is the smallest.

H1 Heading Tag Not Used

Let’s take a look at an example. I came across a typical ecommerce site that is selling a “chick feeder”. If you look at this example, you will see that “chick feeder” appears more than once, but the name of the product is in a smaller bold font. I took a look at the source code and although “chick feeder” is the name of the product, the source could only has span class = ” arial12bc “>Chick Feeder around the name of the product. The class only specifies the font and the font size, and the product name does not have a H1 tag around it.

Putting a H1 tag around the name of your product on the page (which typically would be the keyword you’re targeting on that page) is important because is tells the search engines that the words on that page are more important than the other words on the page. Certainly, if the company wanted to keep the keyword phrase “chick feeder” the same font face, font size, and bold attributes that is possible (they’re already using a stylesheet). After all, it is typical ( and recommended) that you use a stylesheet to change the attributes of the H1 tag.

You do not necessarily have to have an ecommerce site to benefit from the use of heading tags. For example, any page that has content on it should have a heading. If it’s a blog post then the blog post’s title should be an H1 tag. Sub-sections of the article could then have H2 and H3 tags. Additionally, if the web site is a “brochureware” type of web site, each web page should use heading tags where appropriate. For example, an “About Us” page that tells people about your company would have an “About Us” heading on the page: and that would then be the H1 Tag. Also, the keyword phrase for that page in your H1 Tag should also be very close to (if not exactly the same as) what is contained in your title tag.

Using Heading tags on your web pages gives your web page some “hierarchical structure” to the page and indicates to the search engine that the keyword used in the H1 tag is more important than other text on the page. So, take a look at your web pages and make sure that you are using heading tags. If you’re not using them, you might consider using them. It will help your web site’s search engine rankings.

  • Frank

    Great tips. So Google wont care if you try and make something appear like H1 and then in the CSS you knock it back down to normal font?

  • Mark Barrera

    Frank – As long as you use proper semantic structure, there is not a problem with changing the font of an H1. Just make sure that you don't keyword stuff or have multiple H1 tags.

  • I agree with Mark, there shouldn't be a problem. But, keep in mind the intention of the H1. The H1 tag should indicate the top Heading on a page, so as a user I would think it would be used as such, most likely in bold or a larger font than the other text on the page.

  • Great article – thank you for the information! One question, however,is there a guide line as to much in words/characters you can include in a header tag. I have currently one sentence of about 30 words (200 characters) in the h1 tag. Would this be too much?

  • Tuppence, in the H1 tag I like the "less is more" theme. In other words, I like to make sure that the H1 tag has only the words that describe the overall theme of the content that's below it. So, if the content (paragraph or paragraphs below it) is about "blue widgets" then the H1 would be "Blue Widgets".

    I do not think you should have a sentence; that's definitely too much, it should be a phrase (at most).

  • I agree with Bill, you can't aim for 30 words at a time. This won't bring any results. You should be more specific in choosing keywords.