HTML header tags (like <H1> and <H2>) play a crucial role in helping search engines index your web pages, so it’s surprising how many WordPress users either don’t understand how to use them to their best advantage — or indeed, how to use them at all.
The proper use of header tags in your WordPress blog not only makes your content more accessible to your readers — it makes it easier for search engines like Google to crawl, categorize, and index your content.
If you have any confusion regarding how, why, or when to use header tags, this article is for you!
What Are Header Tags, Exactly?
When we are creating written content, we naturally tend to separate it into sections using heading to make things easier to read and understand. While people often just denote headers by making the text larger or bolder, HTML header tags also provide a more defined, technical hierarchy. H1 tags are generally the most important or prominent header, H2 tags are second-most important, etc., all the way down to H6, which is the smallest possible header.
Let’s take a look at this blog post as an example. On the post, the H1 would be the title of our blog that appears at the top (“How to Use Header Tags (H1-H6) in Your WordPress Blog”). Meanwhile, there are multiple examples of an H2 tag on the page, including the one directly above (“What Are Header Tags, Exactly?”). When you scroll down this page, you’ll notice that other H2 tags have slightly smaller subheaders nested beneath them. Those are H3 tags!
To put it simply, header tags are a great way to create hierarchical sections within your content so that it’s easier for users and search engines alike to to absorb your content.
Why Are Header Tags Important?
As Google’s algorithms continue to get “smarter” about indexing content, some experts have suggested that header tags aren’t as significant to overall SEO site rankings as they used to be. However, they do make your content easier to read, and readable, accessible content does improve your SEO. Specifically, header tags benefit your blog in the following ways:
Header tags make your content easier for readers to navigate.
It’s very easy to get lost in a wall of text. Headers break up the content so your readers can access it more easily. In fact, only 16 percent of readers will actually read your piece word-for-word; everyone else will scan the article. Headers make the article easier to scan and get the gist of what you’re saying.
Header tags help the search engines evaluate the content on your page.
Search engines “scan,” as well. Headers create structured content, which helps search engines understand your content better. As we explain below, a well-structured page sometimes gets preferential treatment in search results.
Header tags provide opportunities for strategic keyword placement.
While the old practice of “keyword stuffing” no longer works, Google still relies on keywords to attribute relevance. Inserting strategic keywords in the headers helps add weight and authority to your content.
Tips For Using Header Tags
1. Use only one H1 tag per post.
There’s no rule that penalizes you for using more than one H1 tag, but as the primary heading, H1 identifies what your whole page is about — so best practices suggest there should only be one and it should appear at the top of your article. (WordPress automatically attributes H1 to the title of your blog post, so for most users, this will be a non-issue.)
2. Use header tags to provide natural structure.
Header tags are numbered according to importance (H1-H6). Skipping from H2 to H4 because you prefer the smaller size of the header will disrupt the organizational flow of your piece. Think of these tags almost as elements of an outline: H3 tags should ideally nest under H2 tags, H4 tags should be nested under H3 tags, etc.
Don’t get too bogged down with the technical aspect, though. Just use the headers as tools for naturally organizing your content. (For reference, the majority of blog posts only use one H1 and a set of H2 tags; longer, more informative pieces may use h3 and h4.)
3. Place keywords in header tags where appropriate.
Again, avoid “stuffing” the headers with keywords — but when discreetly and strategically placed where they make sense, keywords in the headers can improve your readability and SEO.
4. Optimize header tags for Google “featured snippets.”
Google sometimes favors a well-organized set of header tags by turning them into bullet points for the “featured snippet” that now comes up at the top of a Google search results page. You can optimize your tags for this outcome either by using them in a highly structured manner to simulate an outline or by phrasing your headers as a long-tail keyword, the way a user might phrase a question to Siri or Alexa on their smartphone. (Think almost in terms of an FAQ format.)
The More You Know…
Header tags can seem a little confusing at first, but WordPress makes it fairly easy to implement them, so there’s really no good reason not to use them to your best advantage.
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