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Header tags: What they are and how to use them for SEO

Author: Chima Mmeje

What Are Heading Tags and How to Use Them to Improve SEO

While header tags do not directly influence search rankings, they do serve an important function for SEO and your site visitors: Headers make your content easy to read and engage with. And, for search engine bots, they also provide vital context around the keywords on the page.

It makes sense when you think of how readers and search engines interact with your page. The header is the first thing that gets the reader’s attention. It tells them what to expect when they click on a link or visit your web page. As they read through the page, each header tag (H2, H3, etc.) carries the reader along and makes it easier to engage with your content.

At the same time, search bots use it to understand the primary keyword for the page. This can affect where your content is displayed in search results.

What are header tags?

In simple terms, header tags are headers in your page. Use headers to show the flow of your content and break up large chunks of text so that it's more digestible for readers. Headers also highlight the important aspects of your content.

Where H1 headers are used for main headers (what the page is about), follow with H2 for supporting headers and H3 for less important headers.

For example, here’s a sample structure for a blog post about “Choosing a smart watch”:

  • H1: Qualities to look for when choosing a smart watch

    • H2: Basics

      • H3: Smartphone compatibility

      • H3: Price

      • H3: Battery life

    • H2: Features

      • H3: Fitness tracking

      • H3: Music

      • H3: Bluetooth & NFC connection

    • H2: My top recommended smart watches

Depending on how you format your content, most pages usually have H1, H2, H3, and up to H6 tags. When writing content, remember to craft headers and use them to guide your users—if it makes sense to users, chances are search engines will be able to make sense of it as well.

The benefits of header tags

In addition to providing a logical structure for your content, headers give visitors and search engines hints about how the page is organized.

Often times, users skim page content to find the information they came for. The right headers makes it easy for your visitors to scan the page and decide on which sections to read. Scanning becomes harder without headers—it’s worse when you have long blocks of text that hurt the eye.

Search engines, like Google, also look at headers to better understand the content on the page. But, that's not all Google uses them for: If you look through search results, you’ll notice that Google sometimes picks out H2 tags to compile answers or display them in search results.

heading tags
The links in the red box above were generated from the content's header tags.

In the example above, the links shown under the title of the result (which are generated from the page's header tags) indicate how the content is organized. This may make it easier for searchers to navigate to the exact information they're searching for. Additionally, these kinds of search result features may increase your listing's real estate in the search results page, making your content more eye-catching for searchers.

6 tips to improve your SEO with header tags

Header tags are important for both your content and SEO. Here are six tips to ensure your header tag optimization is follows best practices.

01. Use one H1 header tag per page

A common mistake on some homepages and other conversion-focused pages is to have multiple H1 headers on a single page, but it does more harm than good. You only need one H1.

While search engines will crawl multiple H1s on a page, it dilutes the effectiveness. The H1 header is the first thing the reader sees on the page. Take time crafting an H1 header that is engaging and persuasive, as it plays a role in determining if the visitor will go on to read the content or not.

02. Stick to the traditional header hierarchy

It’s important to use an easily understood hierarchy structure when applying header tags. That means you shouldn't jump from an H1 to an H4 header, for example.

So, if you want to explain something beneath an H2 header, the logical step would be to use an H3 header. If you were diving deeper within an H3 header, the next header would be an H4. Deviating from a hierarchy structure affects user experience and causes confusion for both the reader and search engines.

03. Match search intent to headers

It’s important that the header matches the search intent of the page. When users type in a query or keyword in the search bar, there's specific information they want to see. Your content has to provide that information or Google won’t display it on Page 1.

heading tags

For example, let’s say you want to create content targeting the keyword “best website builder,” but you don't know whether to format it as a review, long-form blog post, or a landing page.

To get a better idea of what's likely to rank, reference the search results for the keyword. In this example, it's clear that you’ll need to write a review, based on what’s already ranking. The header will also follow a similar pattern.

Optimize your header for the user’s search intent and you’ll have a higher chance of driving more traffic. However, avoid using clickbait headlines that don’t deliver the promised content.

04. Avoid keyword stuffing

Don’t use multiple keywords in a headline. A great way to avoid keyword stuffing is to use long-tail keywords that have lower search traffic but high purchase intent.

For example, the keyword “buy glasses online” has an average monthly search volume of 33,100 monthly searches. It would be impossible to rank for that keyword with a new website. But, you have a significantly higher chance of ranking for “buy glasses online with VSP insurance”—this keyword has a lower search volume of 260, it’s longer and users are specifically looking to buy glasses with VSP insurance.

Don’t use H1 tags like “buy glass online: best online glasses.” That’s two keywords in one header tag, which signals to Google that the content on the page may not be relevant or provide much value. Keyword stuffing hurts your ranking and prevents you from showing up higher on search results. Rather, integrate additional keywords between the H2 to H6 headers of your page.

05. Use headers to break up text

People love scannable content. In fact, Forbes calls it the most overlooked content marketing factor. Research from the Nielsen Norman Group also found that scannable content has a 58% higher chance of performing better with readers.

When writing landing pages and blog posts, it's best to keep paragraphs short (roughly three lines of text). Keep H2 and H3 subheaders no longer than four paragraphs.

06. Use secondary keywords in your subheaders

Conduct keyword research to determine the primary and secondary keywords for each page. These can be short or long (e.g., “Link building” or “What’s the best link building software”). Use the primary keyword in your H1 tag and spread out secondary keywords in H2 and H3 tags. This signals relevance to both Google and your potential visitors.

However, the priority should be to write naturally, not simply forcing keywords for the sake of ticking off an SEO checklist.

How to update header tags on Wix

Now that you know what headers are and how to use them, let’s add headers to your Wix website. Wix provides a few ways to update your headers, either through the Wix Blog or Wix Editor.

Text settings

It’s possible to change the hierarchy of header tags without affecting the design or content of that particular the page.

Highlight the text and select Edit Text. Next, click SEO & Accessibility and choose your preferred header tag from the list.

heading tags

Wix Blog

When writing a blog post with the Wix Blog editor, you can edit headers by selecting the text. By default, the H1 header is your post title in the editor.

heading tags

Highlight the portion of text you want to turn into a header tag. Next, click the text style menu and choose the appropriate header from the drop-down menu.


Chima Mmeje

Chima Mmeje is a content marketer and strategist at Moz, where she positions the company as the authoritative source of truth in the SEO industry. She's also the founder of The Freelance Coalition for Developing Countries, a UK nonprofit providing free resources and training for marketers of color. Twitter | Linkedin


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