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Monday, October 1, 2012

Improve Your Search Traffic By Using H1 Tags Properly

By Joshua Redman

Headers are used for structure on a webpage. The most important items on a webpage are typically the largest and the most obvious. A H1 tag, or Header1, is an HTML term used to indicate the most prominent text or image on a page. These are followed by other tags, H2 through H6. These tags are ranked by order of most important to least. Not only is it important from an SEO perspective to get these right, it makes the page easy for an actual person to read. A good analogy for headers is a newspaper. The most important things, like the papers title or front-page feature, is the most prominent. Other article titles might be H2, then maybe a subtitle as H3, and then finally the article text which is usually handled with a 'p' or 'paragraph' tag. Google expects a webpage to be laid out with a series of headers that makes sense to the reader.

So, can I use more than one H1 tag on a page? There is some controversy around this point. Many will argue multiple tags can occur, per page. Others will always suggest only one on a page at a time. They do seem to agree that abusing these tags on a page is always a bad idea. The search engines have shown that they will penalize pages and, in some cases, harshly, for doing so. For example, take a look at WordPress as a platform. They have a reputation for SEO. The default theme, Twenty Eleven, makes two Header1 tags on a page by default. If that's the default, it seems like it can't possibly be a problem to put two. Bing, however, always suggests only one H1 tag per page.

Developers can also create H1 tags on images. Many prominent, well-ranking websites utilize these tags. Of course, Bing also suggests that all H1 tags are text only. So, it doesn't appear as if using H1 tags as part of images is a huge problem, but should be avoided when possible. If they truly appear to be a prominent part of the page then a Header1 tag may be a sensible approach. However, typically it's preferred to leave H1 tags to the title of a page or post, and leave images without them. This is because the same image, whether it be a logo or other image is displayed on multiple pages. SEO specialists may want to use a unique H1 tag on every page from an SEO strategy perspective, and not repeat the same phrase multiple times. This is much easier to achieve by reserving the H1 tag for text. One could, however, choose to use two H1 tags on the page, one on the logo and one for the title. However, since the logo appears at the top of the page it would be evaluated first.

So how much will using Header tags properly help a site's SEO? As far as on-page SEO goes, a H1 and other on-page tags play a role in an overall page rank. After things like the url and site title, tags are evaluated for on-page natural search results. "It may not play a tremendous factor in overall search engine results compared to, say, inbound links," says Jason McBride of a NJ Web Design Company, "but ignoring it makes no sense." SEO professionals should take advantage of every factor they can from an SEO perspective.

So, yes, these tags are meaningful for a few reasons. For one, it's possible to gain some SEO advantages by properly assigning these tags to the right page elements. It's also true that abusing them is surely a way to get a website penalized by the search engines. Also, including too many is confusing for the reader and since that's who a site is ultimately for, it should look right. Even though there appears to be no problems with using more than one, designers may wish to keep one single most-important element reserved for H1. In addition, developers can create separate keyword rich page elements, one for H1 and one for a page title. This way a website can garner as much SEO value as possible.
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