When creating content for your website, you want it to be scannable and easy to read.
If you have nothing but giant blocks of text, it’s harder for users to dive in and start consuming your content.
Typically, the larger the block, the less that someone will want to engage. Fortunately, a simple way around this is with header tags.
They can make your content easier to digest, whether you’re writing a blog post, web page, or landing page.
Header tags are also great for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which means they can help to boost your site’s traffic quickly and reliably.
So, let’s jump into the world of header tags and understand what’s the deal with H1 vs H2 vs H3.
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What are Header Tags?
Simply put, a header tag is a line of text that separates the content. Think of it as a headline you might read in a newspaper or digital article.
The purpose of a header tag is to break down your content into smaller pieces.
This way, readers can focus on one section at a time rather than try to read the whole article at once.
Header tags come in four main sizes, from H1 to H4.
We’ll break these down later on in this text, but just so you know, the heading “What are Header Tags?” is an example of an H2 tag.
Why are Header Tags So Important?
Without these tags, your content would be far less engaging and captivating for your audience.
Even if you break up your text with images or graphics, headers still make it easier to read.
Here are the top benefits of using header tags on your pages:
Research shows that most internet users don’t dive into content right away.
Instead, they’ll skim through the various header tags to see what the page is about before reading.
Scannability is crucial for online content because it helps lower your bounce rate. Visitors are much more willing to stay on the page if they can scan it quickly and efficiently.
Without headers, your content may be a meandering mess.
These tags allow you to organize your material so that it flows better and more naturally.
Search Engine Optimization
Readers aren’t the only ones who want to scan your content. Search engines also pay attention to headers to index your pages correctly.
Without heading tags, sites like Google may not rank your content as high as it would with the tags in place.
To maximize your SEO practices, you should incorporate keywords into your headers as well.
H1 vs H2 vs H3: How This Hierarchy Works
As we mentioned, there are four main types of header tags, numbered H1 through H4. As you go through them, you’ll notice that they get progressively smaller.
The point of having multiple tag options is to break your text into subsections.
Here’s a quick overview of how this hierarchy works:
Typically, the H1 tag is reserved for the top of the page. It acts as a headline for the entire piece.
You should only have one H1 title for each page. More than that, and you could confuse both readers and search engines.
In some cases, Google will use your H1 as the meta title for the page in search results.
These headers are used the most often, as they break the content into smaller subsections.
Think of H2s as the main points of your piece.
If someone was just going to read these tags, they should have a good idea of the flow of your article.
These tags are less common, but they help you break subsections into smaller divisions.
If you’re writing about complicated material, it helps to segment it multiple times. Otherwise, it’s harder for the reader to stay focused throughout the whole piece.
Usually, H4 tags are rare, but they can help break up the H3 sections. Only highly complex pieces will need all header tags to break up the content.
Here is a visual representation of the different tags within the hierarchy:
- H1 – Main Title
- H2 – Subsection
- H3 – Sub-Subsection
- H4 – Sub-Sub-Subsection
Best Practices for Heading Tags
Since search engines pay attention to headers, you want to optimize them as much as possible to help improve your ranking.
While headers won’t bump you into first place automatically, every component counts.
So, here are some best practices to get the most out of your headings:
Only Use One H1 Per Page
We told you that Google will sometimes use your H1 as a meta title in your search results.
While you can avoid this by writing your own title tag, it helps to make your H1 as informative as possible. This way, if Google does use it, the header acts as a secondary title tag.
That said, Google has stated that there’s no issue with having multiple H1s on a page. So, if you have more than one, you won’t get dinged for it.
However, additional H1s can make it seem like you’re moving onto a new topic, confusing your readers.
Use Keywords in Your Headers
Keyword research is essential for SEO since it shows you what people are searching for when trying to find your website.
Realistically, you should have a shortlist of top-ranking keywords that work well for your industry.
When developing content, you should incorporate as many keywords into your headers as possible.
But remember: they should fit in organically rather than stuffing them in. Google tends to punish sites for keyword stuffing, so avoid it altogether.
Again, this tactic comes down to how Google indexes your pages. The algorithm scans the headers, so adding related keywords helps reinforce the content and prove its relevance.
Optimize Headers for Featured Snippets
If you type a question into Google, the search engine will often provide the answer in a featured snippet (if possible). So, when developing content, you want to use your headers accordingly.
For example, if you post a question in the header, be sure to answer it immediately.
So, if the question is something like “What does SEO stand for?”, you can answer it by saying “SEO stands for search engine optimization,” and then moving on to the rest of the content.
Doing this makes it more likely that your answer will get featured, thus boosting your SERP ranking.
You can also utilize headers to create a featured snippet list.
For example, Google will look at the H3s of a relevant section and organize them into a bulleted list. Without these headers, Google wouldn’t be able to arrange them effectively.
Be Consistent Across Pages
When creating content for your website, you should have a standard template or outline that you use for each page.
Doing this provides better consistency, meaning that users and search engines know what to expect.
If you don’t utilize a proper heading hierarchy all the time, some pages will look confusing.
Depending on how much content you have, you might have to go through past pages and reorganize them to be as SEO-friendly as possible.
As we mentioned, every component counts, no matter how small.
Make Them Short, But Engaging
While you should incorporate keywords into your headers, you shouldn’t focus on long-tail keywords.
Instead, your headings should be relatively short, such as eight words or less. If they’re too long, then they’ll start to cut off on the end, making the piece look cluttered.
Also, remember that more people visit your site from a mobile device, so shorter headers work best on small screens.
Additionally, you need to make your headers captivating so that readers will want to keep going.
If the headings are too dry or generic, they’ll be far less engaging. Fortunately, you don’t need to have a master’s degree in creative writing to accomplish this.
Here are two examples of headers — one boring and one exciting.
- How Good SEO Helps Your Business
- Strengthen Your Bottom Line With Top-Tier SEO Practices
Overall, try to make your headers active and dynamic. Put the reader in the driver’s seat, and they’ll be more willing to read and remember your content.
Wrap Up: Great Headers are a Form of Art
That’s why you need to dedicate special attention when you’re creating them.
We hope that the “H1 vs H2 vs H3” differences are clearer now and you can start making your content much more scannable, organized and optimized for SEO.
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Just access our Content Marketing Maturity Assessment and answer the questions!