In this article, I’m not just going to sing the praises of content marketing. Instead, I’m going to take a deep dive into something that most people don’t talk about: a tiny slice of content marketing called H1 tags.
Truth be told, most SEOs, content marketers, web developers, and marketers know a little bit about H1s. That can be a problem though; we’re so used to hearing about H1s, using H1s, and talking about H1s, that we don’t stop and think abouthow to write them in a way that appeals to users and search engines.
You’re different though. You’re reading this article, and are going to learn the exact method for producing great H1s that will take your content marketing to the next level.
What Is an H1?
The H1 is an HTML tag that indicates a heading on a website.
Let me unpack that.
HTML: This stands for Hypertext Markup Language. Most websites use this language to create web pages.
Tag: An HTML tag is a snippet of code that tells your web browser how to display the content.
Heading: HTML has six different heading tags: H1, H2, and so on. The H1 is considered the most important tag, and the H6 is the least important. The tags are often formatted from large (or most important) to smallest (or least important).
If you were to create an H1 in HTML, it would look like this:
<h1> Hi, My Name is Header One! </h1>
You can take a look at this yourself. Open up any web page (preferably a good quality blog) and follow these instructions.
First, make sure you’re on a web page.
Next, view the source code.
To do this, I use a keyboard shortcut for Chrome (Mac): command + Option + u (do not press the plus sign, you just hold command, option, and u at the same time).
You can also click View → Developer → View Source (in Chrome):
This is what you’ll see when you view the source code:
Next, search for the h1 tag.
Press CTRL + F to open the search feature on your browser. Again, I’m using Chrome, but most browsers use this function.
When I press CTRL + F, I see a small search bar in the upper-right corner of the browser window.
Then, press Enter.
Chrome highlights the h1 on this page.
There’s a bit of intervening code between the start tag and the end tag, but the tag is there.
The copy within the h1 tag is “How to Keep Your Facebook Group Active and Engaged.”
That’s it. It seems pretty simple, but the h1 has a big impact, as you’ll find out in the next section.
Why Are H1s so Important?
First, I’ll tell you a story. A little while back, business was humming along as usual. I was doing my thing, running my blog, and writing my articles.
My blog traffic had been pretty good overall, but I decided to get another set of eyeballs on it to help identify improvements. One of these improvements was to update an H1 on one of my articles. Within three days, the page had 85% moreorganic traffic. Plus, it had gone from page 3 of the SERPs to page 1, position eight!
All because I changed the H1.
I’m not the only one who’s experienced such a dramatic change. In fact, my bump in search traffic is nothing compared to a local car parts store in Houston, TX, who changed their page titles and H1s. The result?
H1s are usually the most visually notable content on the page and are probably the most important SEO feature.
And at first, it might not seemlike H1s are an “SEO” feature at all, because it’s more about the user than about the technical optimization of the page, right?
Right! That’s the direction that SEO has taken in recent years. SEO is more about user optimization than it is about search engineoptimization.
Don’t skip over this idea of usersnoticing the H1. It matters.
H1s are one of the most potent on-page SEO and UX elements that you have in your arsenal.
Now, let’s figure out how to use them.
How Do I Create Killer H1s?
H1s aren’t a big secret. The fact is, just about anyone who knows anything about SEO or HTML uses them.
So why did I even write this article? It’s because most people use them incorrectly.
Until recently, even I didn’t realize just how wrong I had been when I was writing H1s. After turning the corner and making a discovery, my knowledge of H1s hit the roof, and my website traffic changed as a result.
Here are the rules of H1 creation.
1. Use Only One H1
Every page needs only one H1 tag. There is no reason to use more than a single H1 tag.
Why not? If one is good, wouldn’t two or sixteen be even better?
Search engines will crawl multiple H1s on a page, sure, but the logical priority of an H1 semantic tag means that you’refocusing your SEO efforts on one keyword phrase or sentence, as opposed to many.
The presence of more than one H1 won’t necessarily confuse the search engine, but it could dilute the SEO power of a single H1.
Google may also consider your page over-optimized if you use more than one H1, and may penalize you as a result.
2. Your H1 Should Describe the Topic of Your Page
At the most basic level, the H1 should describe what the content is all about.
Often, the H1 tag will be similar or the same as your title tag.
Usually, the H1 tag will be the title of your blog post or article.
Normally, the H1 tag gives the reader a strong sense of what he or she is going to read.
3. The H1 Should Be Between 20 and 70 Characters
If your H1 is too short, you’re wasting valuable space; if it’s too long, you’re diluting the power of the tag.
However, if you’re using the same H1 and title tag for a page, you should pay more attention. Best practices say titles should be between 40 to 60 characters so you can fit in the most keywords. However, when you start to reach the 50-60 keyword range, your click-through rate can start to decrease. As a result, try to stick to the 30-40 character range.
4. Make Your H1 Tag Stand Out
Your H1 should be the most important visual element on the page.
it should be big
it should be strong
it should be noticeable
you should use whatever visual, formatting, and style elements are necessary to make that thing stand out
Why is this important?
Keep in mind that an H1 is a semantic element, not a visual element, and it’s important to keep this distinction. Web designers don’t need to add style elements by using semantic tags such as the H1, H2, etc.
However, in the real world, style and semantic elements do mix. Following design and development best practice mean the most significant semantic tags are also the most important visual elements.
Size matters in web design, and semantic tags matter in web development. Conjoining them in SEO makes sense.
For a good example of this formatting, check out the blog at Smart Passive Income. Pat Flynn’s H1 is definitely strong.
When I check out the source code, this is what I see:
Here’s another good example from Ramit Sethi.
Can you guess what his H1 is?
The H1 is “Do you know your earning potential.”
5. Create H1s That Provide a Good User Experience
SEO changed massively over the past few years. The biggest change by far has been the influence of user experience (or UX) on SEO.
The best way to consider SEO and UX is with this Venn diagram (to access link, you must download a chrome extension).
That diagram was published in 2012.
Nearly a decade later, the SEO circle would be a smaller circle within an even bigger Design & Usability circle.
Part of the reason for this is search engines have evolved to such a high degree they can intuit what users want, even as users are searching and browsing.
Keep in mind that due to machine learning, search engines are constantly changing. There are no longer massive SERP upsets due to algorithm shifts.
Instead, there is the continual nuanced adjustment of search ranking factors based on the search and browsing habits of the search engine’s millions of users. In other words, how users interact with your page has a lot to do with how your page will rank; and the H1 is one of the most important elements on your page that influences their interaction.
This is because it’s noticeable. It sends a message. It communicates a sentiment. It makes a promise.
Your H1 should speak to the user in an overt way. It should be formatted and placed carefully so your user understands that it is the title of the page, and explains what the page is about.
6. Use a Focused Long-Tail Keyword in Your H1
Believe it or not, some SEOs used to not recommend using keywords in your H1s. They thought it could be considered keyword stuffing, which Google penalized a long time ago.
Luckily, there’s nothing keyword-stuffing at all about using a keyword in an H1. On the contrary, Google wantsyou to use a keyword in the H1. It helps their crawlers better understand what your page is all about.
If you don’t use a strong keyword in your H1 tag, then Google can still find out what the page is about, index it appropriately, and give you a nice rank. Why leave out the opportunity to give Google all of the information it needs and wants right in your website source code, though?
In order to have some great, Hummingbird-optimized h1 tags, try to understand what a user may be asking when they are searching for a keyword the page is targeting and format that question on the page with h1 tags.
Let me summarize the rules for creating amazing h1s.
Use only one h1
Your h1 should describe the topic of your page
Make your h1 stand out
Create h1s that provide a good user experience
Use a focused long-tail keyword in your h1
Answer user intent with your h1
Transform Your Website in 1 Week with an H1 Tag Audit
As a bonus, I want to give you an actionable way to put these lessons into practice. I’m going to give you a homework assignment that may boost your organic traffic by 50%. Most can carry out this task in a few days.
I see a lot of people waste a lot of time doing “content audits” on their websites. I’m not against content audits; but instead of doing a full-fledged content audit on your website, I suggest that you do an H1 tag audit first.
H1 audits are quick and easy and have the potential to produce successful results in record times.