Getting the right page headers is critical to SEO. Do them right to tell search engines your keywords. Do them wrong and lose their power.
Using Page Headers Correctly
Think of a web page as a legal document. These documents have one main header that covers the main topic. Under this header are sub-headers and which may also have sub-sub-headers. This basic concept of a web page as a document is how the web was first designed.
These headers have such a critical role in SEO that they Google explains them in their SEO Starter Guide to make sure they’re used correctly:
Heading tags (not to be confused with the HTML tag or HTTP headers) are used to present structure on the page to users. There are six sizes of heading tags, beginning with <h1>, the most important, and ending with <h6>, the least important.
Since heading tags typically make text contained in them larger than normal text on the page, this is a visual cue to users that this text is important and could help them understand something about the type of content underneath the heading text. Multiple heading sizes used in order create a hierarchical structure for your content, making it easier for users to navigate through your document.
Google makes great points about the normal display of these heading tags and what they mean to the user. The header tags that have the most important meaning to the user will also have a the most important meaning to your site in regards to SEO. Above all it comes back to the basic concept that you need to design for the user. Producing content that tailors the result to a user’s need will produce the best results in your SEO.
Using Page Headers Incorrectly
Over the years I have seen a lot of web pages produced by a Content Management System (CMS). This is great because it lets people who know nothing about HTML create their own web page. It’s also terrible because it lets people who know nothing about HTML create their own web page. Why is that a bad thing? Most people are visual designers. Many times this will lead to one of two scenarios:
- The content writer will select text and make them bold and increase the font size, rather than selecting a header tag.
- The content writer prefers one of the header tags to the default design. They will then use that tag throughout the page.
The first scenario is bad because it does not actually create semantic meaning for content. Making the text bold will give it some SEO value, but it’s nowhere near as importance as an <h1> or <h2> tag. It also produces more HTML code that wastes bandwidth and makes more work when you try to update the page. Use header tags instead since they are the right tool for the job.
The second scenario is bad because it waters down your ability to distinguish between important and unimportant topics. By doing so you have little ability to optimize your content. Instead you should look into your options to alter the default content produced by your CMS. Don’t forget to alter that header tag so that a user can distinguish between the header and your normal content.
Both of these scenarios suffer from the natural instinct to make the page “look good”. Of course everyone wants to think they know what they’re doing and what looks best. While there is some truth to this, you must remember that consistency between pages is important. Keep things similar so that visitors don’t need to re-learn your site on every page load. By keeping things consistent and adjusting the defaults to your liking will optimize content for users and search engines alike. As always, we are very familiar with this aspect of Natural Search Optimization. If you’re having trouble please contact us and we can help you with your site.
Thank you and keep building your brand.