2. On Page SEO for Beginners
Article #2.11

Are your Headings optimized for Search Engines and the users?

Only 2 out 10 people will ever read your article. The rest 8 you ask? They read only the headlines. That is how important writing the perfect headline is. 
Additionally, headings (heading tags) also play a role in your Search Engine visibility. These html headings are way to important to get you noticed.
Imagine if there were a book with just plain content, with no headings, would you prefer reading it? A Big No! So how do you expect the readers to go through your website if it is not organized properly with systematic headings?

Heading tags, as the name is suggests is the heading of the sections or paragraphs on a page which differentiates itself from the rest of the content. Heading tags organize the page into systematic sections (and make it look clean and tidy).
Heading tags range from H1 to H6. It’s HTML coding goes like this:
<h1>heading 1</h1>
<h2>heading 2</h2>
<h3>heading 3</h3>
<h4>heading 4</h4>
<h5>heading 5</h5>
<h6>heading 6</h6> 

It works as an hierarchy - H1 is the most important and H6 is the least one.

Detailing into the elements of Heading tags

Is the H1 tag more important than the others?

Hell yeah! This tag is the most important amongst all the other heading tags simply because search engines give more weight to this tag for judging the relevancy of the content.
H1 comprises of the main heading, which stands out from the rest of the page/content. It allows the readers to judge the content and thereby, decide whether to read it or not. On the other hand, it signals the search engines about the content associated with the heading, and hence helping them in judging the relevancy of the content. When used along with page title, meta description, keyword targeted content etc, heading tags can improve Search Engine rankings for the specific/targeted keywords. 

My Website is using an H1 tag. Now how can I tell if my H1 Ttag is Optimized?

Go through the checklist below and decide for yourself if your H1 tag is Search Engine optimized:

  • H1 is a Must! Make sure you use one H1 tag on every page and add highly relevant key phrases it, as it is weighted more than the other heading tags.
  • The use of important keywords should also proceed according to the hierarchy- the most important keyword in <h1>, lesser important in <h2> and so on.
  • Put <h1> at the top of the page, preferably after the body tag.
  • Keep the length of Heading tag reasonable – try not to put long lines in the heading tags as it de-emphasizes your keywords, which is not a very SEO friendly thing.
  • The keywords used in <h1> tag should be consistent with the page title tag and meta keywords.

What about H2, H3, H4, etc? Are these headings important?

The other tags are also important but, not as much as the H1 tag. Headings, other than H1 are the subheadings that are used to organize content for the ease of readers. These heading tags can contain some important keywords so that the readers can scan by reading these subheadings if the content is worth reading or not.

Does ordering of Heading Tags play a role?

Let’s hear the Man of Google speak about it


An important point to note that is heading tags should proceed in an order, that means you can’t jump from H1 to H3 directly- This will be not SEO friendly. So, make sure that H1 tag is used only for the main headings, followed by H2 tag and so on.

And then, there was Hummingbird Update!

Google Hummingbird Update opened up a great opportunity for optimizing H1 tags. It aims to provide a favourable user experience. It’s key feature was to extract the user intent by looking past the keywords in the search query. By a thorough understanding of the search intent behind a specific keyword, the headings (H1) can be crafted to convey the intent to the search engines. If your interpretation of User Intent is effectively communicated through your heading and if Google is satisfied with it, then it can effectively boost up your rankings.

Do you know that Headings are as important for the end user as well as the Search Engine? 

Just in case, if you are not aware, your heading tags are not only responsible for the first impression on your users but also, are helpful in convincing the search engines about the relevance of your page. Want to know how? Here you go!

From the SEO perspective:

  • Relevancy: Heading tags provide a way to the search engines to check the relevance of the headlines in terms of content associated with it. 
  • Keyword Placement and Consistency: search engines check the keyword placement and consistency between the heading tags and the other parts of the page.
  • And of course, User experience!: Search engines are always getting on to the next levels for giving the best user experience they can. Headers give a clear picture to the users about the content inside them, thereby contributing towards a positive user experience. So, in this way heading tags form an important component of SEO.

From the usability perspective:

  • A blessing to screen readers: For the users who use a screenreader, heading tags are a blessing in disguise. It becomes much easier for them to navigate between different sections of the content through properly structured headings.
  • A quick overview of the page: The H1 tag (Main heading) and the other heading tags gives a quick sneak peak into the content that follows on the web page, thus saving the trauma of reading irrelevant content for the readers.  
  • Makes the page look neat and organised: It saves the struggle of the users to find out the section, they are looking for. Additionally, makes the page look neat too.

Want to make your headlines appealable?

Ideally, you should invest half the time to come up with interesting and informative headlines, as much as you invest in the writing the content inside it. 
Your readers scan the headings and judge the content inside it. So, in a way, your headlines are a way to reach out and connect with your customers.
Now, coming to making your headlines attractive and appealable, follow the 6 points rule below:

  • Use Numbers: Before I begin to explain the logic behind it, have a look at the stats below:

    As can be clearly seen from the picture, headlines with numbers are preferred the most. Now the reason you may ask? Well, this logic lies behind an entire concept of psychology and behavioural economics which concentrates on studying the effect of how numbers influence perception. To put it simply, headlines increase the efficiency of the people reading it. A numbered list imply easy steps. Moreover, numerals always stand out of letters. 
    Odd numbers? Even better! Odd numbers appeal to you more than even number.
    Look below:
    Problems of a short-heighted person !
    7 problems a short-heighted person can associate with!

    Needles to say, the second heading makes you want to click more than the first heading.
  • Use Adjectives: Using interesting adjectives like, ‘unique’, ‘undefeated’, ‘effortless’, ‘incredible’, ‘essential’, ‘strange’, ‘fun’, ‘painstaking’ in the headings can appeal to the users and make him click on them. Here is an example of the same:
    7 effortless ways to help you reduce extra fat!
  • Use Negative words: Mostly, writers are of the view that writing positive words in headlines attracted more clicks than their negative counterparts. Unfortunately, they have been under the wrong notion. Positive words and superlatives have become cliched, negatives turn out to be more intriguing and unexpected. Negative words like ‘No’, ‘Stop’, ‘Never’ etc tap into our insecurities and makes us want to read more about it. Here is a snapshot, revealing the same.

    The above picture clearly narrates that Negative superlatives outperform Positive superlatives by 30%.
    Startup Moon Research found out that, words like, ‘lose’, ‘kill’, fear’, dark’ etc outperform their negative counterparts.
    STOP right there before your next workout session! These 5 exercises might be hurting you!
  • Add a little personalization: Add a little extra to the headline by personalizing it. It works well for increasing the user’s curiosity. But, be carefull with it’s use; overuse might reduce its efficiency. 
    Here is an example:11 quick ways to earn money through internet! 5th one blew my mind.
  • Generate curiosity using trigger words:Words like, ‘unbelievable’, ‘proven’, ‘scientific facts’ ‘unbeatable’ in your headlines trigger curiosity in your users to click and read more on that.
    Example:11 unbelievable ways to lose weight without exercising.
  • Use keywords: Use keywords in the beginning of your headlines. This helps to communicate the relevance to the search engines. 
    Example: Content marketing made unbelievably simple in these 10 ways! 

Heading Tags are not for Styling! Make them look better.

Nobody likes boring stuff.
If you don’t use CSS in styling your heading tag, then it will appear as extremely large text in your browser. Get into the shoes of users and then think would you read a page on a web that appears to be a thesis to you? 
In order to make the headings consistent with the page design and make it look attractive and appealing, use CSS.

What is the ideal size for Heading Tags?

h1 = 16pt 2X more important than body
h2 = 12pt 75% as important as the header
h3 = 10pt 65% as important as the header
body = 8pt 50% as important as the header

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