If you’ve ever dipped a toe into the ocean that is search engine optimisation, you’ll likely have heard of H tags—they’re pretty commonly spoken about in nerdy SEO circles. However, you may not be fully clued up on A) what H tags actually are, and B) how to use H tags to make your content rank better than ever on Google. Well, sit tight: we’ve got all you need to know right here.
What are H tags?
H tags are little pieces of simple computer code (HTML) that transform what would otherwise look like a normal sentence into a larger, bolder font. These bits of code are used to create titles and subheadings on webpages that would otherwise be just tedious blocks of identically-sized text. A number immediately after the H indicates which calibre of heading you are referring to: a H1 tag is used to create a heading, while a H2 is a subheading, a H3 is a smaller subheading, and so on in diminishing sizes.
When you write them out manually in an HTML editor, H tags look like this: <h1> or <h2> or <h3>. Typing this out at the beginning of a paragraph of sentence indicates that the text that follows will be the title. When you have typed the sentence you will use for your title, you close it off using this: </h3>. What you should be left with will look like this in the HTML editor:
<h3>Whoaaa random article subheading!</h3>
The H3 indicates this will be a minor subheading. This will then appear to your readers—once the article goes live— as something like this:
Whoaaa random article subheading!
Now, at this point you may well be thinking ‘that’s awfully nice, but you’ve just spent 300 words essentially telling me how to type something in bold and a slightly larger font’. And you’d be right—to the SEO-uninitiated, H tags seem to serve a purely aesthetic function. This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth.
In order for an article to appear on the first page of Google (or to climb the rankings towards the first page over time), there are many requirements that must be met. Over the years, Google has laid out literally hundreds of ground rules that factor into what makes one page appear higher in the Google listings than another. One factor that is consistently hailed as one of the most crucial, however, is the proper use of H tags.
An H tag tells Google’s algorithm what your article is about. Your H1 (heading) indicates the overall subject of the page, while your H2s and H3s will divide the article up into nice, readable segments that relate to your overall topic. It’s much the same as writing an essay—except when content writing, you’re not only producing words that are going to be read by humans, but also the omniscient monolith that is Google. And Google loves an H tag!
Using H tags is easy peasy. Using them well, however… that’s a different matter.
How to use H tags like a pro
Describe your subject matter
With your H1 especially, it’s crucial that you get the overarching message of your article across—as succinctly as possible. You want to indicate to your reader very clearly what it is they’re about to read/learn/discover/be outraged by. You can get a lot more complex than this however: powerful language, emotive wordplay, numbers (indicating content lists), and clever rhetorical devices can be employed in your H1s to wow your prospective audience into reading further.
Only use one H1 per page
There’s no massive harm to be done in using multiple H1 tags per page, but to be honest you’d just be making it harder for Google to figure out the theme of your article. Too many headings of the same size just muddy the water. Go wild with your H2s and H3s though—they’re a bit more forgiving.
Don’t fret about length
Anywhere between 20 and 70 characters is decent. In the early days of SEO the letter count used to hold a lot more weight, but these days, as long as your heading isn’t a single word or a verbatim copy of Moby Dick, you’ll be fine.
Speak to the reader
Your H tags should speak directly to the person reading—much like the one above this sentence. Hello! Engaging your audience in this way is great for keeping them reading, and used properly, H tags can provide crucial structure to your content.
Add long-tail keywords
A keyword, in SEO terms, is something like ‘cars for sale’. Every single car dealer all over the world wants to rank for this keyword, which makes it very difficult to appear number one on Google for it unless you have a lot of time and money. If, on the other hand, you get super specific with the keyword you want to rank for, things get a little easier.
Something like ‘1993 Toyotas for sale in Manchester’ is more specific, and therefore far fewer businesses are competing to rank for it.
Adding long tail keywords like this to your headings can make sure your articles appear in front of the right audiences at the right time! Just be sure to always keep it sounding natural; don’t stuff your keywords anywhere they feel ham-fisted or awkward. Quality comes first!
Struggling to rank?
If H tags and keywords sound like I’m speaking French, don’t worry, we can help. Get in touch with the Suki Marketing team – we’ll help you optimise your site and content in no time.