How to Write the Perfect H1 For SEO

how to write the perfect h1 tag for SEO - Behtash Moojedi
Have you heard the phrase “content is king”? You probably have read dozens of articles on the subject, heard it from the entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, Neil Patel, and watched many Youtube videos on the subject. However, somehow the message remains entirely unclear. 

Why is content so important, and why is everyone now a content creator? 

You interact with content daily, from cute cat videos on Instagram to blogs and news articles you read every day. In my blog, “Top 10 Digital Marketing Trends to Look Out For”, I explained the relationship between a stimulus and response. The job of a content creator is to deliver a story that strikes your emotions that results in an action. That action being you picking up a guitar class because of a video you watched or just feeling happy that day due to watching a nature video. But that is beside the point. Let’s take a brief look at how content is evolving in the market. 

As per the research done by Research Dive, the global content marketing industry has seen massive growth over the years. In 2018 the industry was valued at $42.2M, anticipating surpassing $137.2M by 2026, at a CAGR of 16.2%. 

With this growth and expansion in the market, the question remains. Who is consuming all this content? Realistically, some of the content remains hidden from the eyes of the readers. I can tell you, I have not looked at 3 million photos or videos on Instagram, nor have I consumed that much in articles. If lucky, some content creators can get into a situation where the viewer is watching a Youtube video and gets sunk into that subject so much that they dive deep enough to find specific contents that otherwise could not have been found. 

Usually, problems arise with not having the right hashtags or the proper caption, etc. So it is essential to understand that while we see a huge boost in content creation, the majority don’t come with the right strategy and plan in mind. 

I can go days talking about content creation and strategy. But for today…I want to focus on a specific aspect of content that can drastically change your results. 

Imagine this…

You are planning content for a new website or simply working on your regular content calendar. One thing that matters to us all is, how much the content is yielding in results. You want the content to be found, and you want it to be read by the reader. So you are concerned about the traffic and time the reader spends on the article and whether or not they are using the call-to-action. In both cases having the right content that was built on four pillars of SEO is the key. Poor SEO or selecting many keywords from Semrush and throwing them at your content is not enough. The message has to be clear and organized to be comfortably consumed by both humans and bots. How does a human read the article? How should you organize the content? That is something that we will dive into in later articles and discuss optimization of the content in-depth. 

For now, let’s start with the opener—your H1. 

What is H1 Tag?

H1 header tag is the first tag visible on your page. It is used for the title of the page or a post. For example, in the HTML code, the H1 tag can appear like the following: 

how h1 tag appears on HTML code

To better understand this, imagine you are writing an outline for a large document. The main title of the document will be your H1 tag. 

Difference Between H1 Tag and Title Tag

Your H1 tag and Title tags are key factors of your SEO and, therefore, should not be confused by one another. 

H1 tag and Title tags are different in the following ways: 

  • Your title tag is the one showing in SERPS (search engine result pages). It is used as your main heading in the search result snippets. 
  • Your title tag does not appear on the actual page and is not visible. The title tag appears in the <header></header> section of your code along with the browser title. 
  • H1 is the first tag that appears to the user while they are browsing your page. 
  • A great title tag sends a solid signal to the search engines to crawl the content of your page. 

Why H1 Tag is Important to SEO?

Before we dive into that question, think about when you are writing an email. What is the most crucial part of the email to capture the readers’ attention? The subject line. The subject line is the first factor to determine whether a user opens or ignores your emails. The title tag does that for you in SERPS, and H1 tag does it for you when the reader is on your page.  One of the most important and complicated jobs of the search engine is to crawl and understand the page’s context. To do that, the crawler bots consider a few signals from different sources—one of them being the H1 tag. 

Crawlers read through the HTML code and identify the statements enclosed between two Heading tags. By utilizing your targeted keyword in your H1, you help the crawlers understand and give context to your page. It also allows the user to read the H1 tag and understand what they are about to read. So you can see…as mentioned before, you are writing for the search engines and your readers. Therefore, the H1 tag should be a statement that conveys the message you are trying to deliver. 

Take my articles; for example, the H1 tells you what the article is about, and the H2 tags highlight the key points that support the premise. 

Now, let me tell you a related story…

During the pandemic, I was constantly delivering content on the websites. The traffic was great, and I saw steady growth in my organic traffic. Because I was busy trying to answer different business needs and not wanting to spend money on a cool new gadget to improve my SEO, I began looking at small changes we can do to the article pages to increase our organic traffic the pages. So I sat down with the team and asked them only to write the best heading tags. Doing so, I saw exponential growth in organic traffic and the number of gained placements on the search engines. 

You can see how significant a simple change to H1 can be for your SEO. 

Now let’s talk about best practices…

What are H1 Tag Best Practices for SEO?

Here are few things to consider when writing a great H1 tag:

  • Your H1 tag can be the same as your page title with slightly different wording. 
  • Use targeted and long-tailed keywords in your H1. 
  • Make sure your headings are not too long. 
  • Allow the H1 tag to be visible to the users and not be hidden. 
  • Style your H1 tag differently than your other headings. 
  • When organizing your content use the right hierarchy for your headings. 
  • Use the H1 tag only once Use only one h1 tag per page.
  • Don’t try to write for bots. H1 tag should match the intent of the content. 

H1 Tag Should Slightly Be Different Than Your Title

Some of the CMSs out there, such as WordPress, are set so that your title and H1 are the same. This is not an SEO mistake and is recommended. 

For general practice, you may keep your title and H1 the same but with a slight change in wording. Google recommends that: 

google best practices for h1 and title

I tend to keep both the same since I believe in delivering the same result to users through SERP and website pages. 

But you can easily modify the two to deliver two different results if need be. 

How to Optimize For a Different H1 and Title Tags

If you are on WordPress or other CMS platforms configured to deliver the same result, you may optimize your title tag and H1 through the following. 

If you modify your HTML code, you can adjust the information by changing the value between the H1 tag and your title tag. See the example below: 

I set my title and Heading to be “Optimizing For Best SEO Title and Heading” in this example. 

example of h1 and title tag

Finding your title and H1 tag, modify the information using different text editors or other code editors. My favorites being atom and sublime

What should we change it to? Maybe we want to be more descriptive for both SERP and H1. Keep in mind, though when I say be descriptive, you should keep your title tag between 40-60 characters long. 

In this example, I’ll change my title tag to be: “Steps for Best SEO Optimized Title and H1” and my heading to be “How To Optimize Title and H1 Tags For SEO.” 

h1 and title tag changed and optimized
If you are on WordPress, it can be much easier. WordPress CMS has plugins that can help you with your SEO needs. The most popular of these plugins is the Yoast SEO Plugin. This plugin offers a free version that covers most of your SEO needs or a paid version if you would like to be an advanced SEO user.  Here is how you can install the Yoast SEO plugin on your WordPress if you don’t already have it. Otherwise, skip ahead: 
  1. Login to your WordPress Admin Panel
  2. From the left toolbar, find and hover over Plugins
  3. Click Add New 
  4. User the plugin search bar to search for Yoast SEO
  5. Click on the “Install Now” button to add it to your WordPress
  6. Once installed, click Activate
Once the plugin is successfully installed, you will see the Yoast SEO option on your left sidebar. 
yoast seo on wordpress

After you get into your posts’ editorial mode, you will see the Yoast Editor showing at the bottom. The view should look something like the following: 

yoast seo snippet editor

You may change your title and meta through this plugin to edit your SERP snippets. 

Use Targeted and Long-tailed Keywords in H1

It is essential to use your targeted keywords in your headings. Generally speaking, your targeted keyword should be used in your heading, and if possible, your related keywords should go into your other headings. 

Some SEO specialists say that using keywords in the headings is not recommended because it looks as if you are purposefully stuffing your article with your keywords. But, it is not like that at all. Even if you are not using the keyword in your headings, crawlers can still index the page and determine where to place it. However, why waste a great opportunity like that? Pages get crawled from top to bottom, and having your targeted keywords in your H1 can help your page get indexed more appropriately. 

Using various keywords and related keywords can help you better write your content without stuffing your article. The best candidate for this is utilizing long-tailed keywords. 

Make Sure Your Headings are not Too Long

Use headings that are descriptive but make sure that they are not too long. Use the same guideline I mentioned for the page title, for your heading. Typically the best size for that is between 40-60 characters. Some might recommend between 20 and 70 characters, but I find 40 to 60 characters a sweet spot for the title and heading tags. 

Allow the H1 Tag to be Visible to the Users

Some CMS platforms give you the option to hide your h1 tag. While this is an option, it is not a good SEO practice. 

Make sure to check your theme settings and check to ensure your H1 tags are visible. 

A quick way to audit your pages is to use the “inspect” or “page source” option of your browser to find the H1. 

What is enclosed between the H1 opening and closing tags should always be visible to the reader.

Style Your H1 Tag Differently than Other Headings

Make your H1 stand out. The bigger, the better. Keep in mind that the H1 tag is a semantic element and not a visual element. When designing a page, web designers don’t have to think about semantic elements. 

That said, in the real world, development, and design work hand to hand. Therefore, following their best practices should result in the most prominent semantic tag being the most visible on the page. Working on these best practices also matters in SEO. Therefore it matters to pay attention to both your development and your design when thinking about SEO. 

Consider the Hierarchy of Content When Using Heading

As previously mentioned, you have to write the content for both your readers and your crawlers. Therefore, writing your content should follow the same guideline when writing a document or a paper. 

Here is the hierarchy of headings

proper heading hierarchy

Use the H1 Tag Only Once Per Page

The best practices dictate that there should be one h1 tag per page. Therefore, it’s an excellent time to go back and check your pages for headings and fix any misuse of headings on your pages. 

H1 Tag Should Match the Intent of the Content

When writing your H1 tags, be sure it matches the intent of the content. Few important things here to consider: 

First, if the heading doesn’t match the content’s intent, the users end up leaving the article without reading it. Why is this important?

It can increase your bounce rate and decrease your average time on site. While there is no way to understand if the google algorithm uses these two measurements to rank a website, we can infer that the two measurements do have some causation on how Google ranks your website. What matters is what these two measurements signify for Google. 

Have you heard of RankBrain? 

RankBrain is the most important factor in how the Google algorithm ranks a page. It focuses on understanding the user’s search intent and how Google presents the information on SERP. 

When a user leaves the website too quickly or leaves after visiting one page, Google infers from this behavior that the page is not what they are looking for. The more this happens to the users, the more it can affect your ranking. 

This is now more important than ever, considering Google’s latest algorithm update that focuses on intent as another prominent factor for ranking websites. 

Conclusion

Writing or modifying H1 tags is only one of the few things you can do to help your SEO. Optimizing for your website’s SEO doesn’t begin or end with this change. However, this simple modification is one of the tools in your arsenal that takes the shortest time yet yields a great result. Something that you also have complete control over. 

Now that you have made it to the end of this article, it is time to take action. First things first, take time to do a full SEO audit of your website. You can do so by using tools such as Semrush. 

Among many tools available to you through Semrush, you can use this platform for auditing your h1 tags. For example, find pages that do not have proper headings and fix them. For extra help, this platform also provides you recommendations on how to optimize your tags. 

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