When you’re looking to improve your web content’s SEO, most of the information you find will discuss content and keywords. Don’t get us wrong, those are critical to improving your SERPS (search engine page rankings), but there’s another important component that doesn’t get discussed enough – header tags. By the end of this article you’ll know the impact of header tags on SEO and be able to use them like a pro!

The Lowdown on Header Tags

When you look at a web page that is filled with information, chances are pretty good that you scan through it initially and read the bold titles or headings that break it into sections. You do this maybe not even consciously, to see if the piece is worth reading in depth. This is exactly the purpose of header tags when creating online content. The use of these tags breaks up your content and makes it easier for your readers to digest, but it also does the same for Google.

Now that you know their purpose, you need to understand how these tags are used in your content. For SEO purposes, headers create a hierarchy for the information you are putting on your page. Tags range from <h1> to <h6> and the font size decreases accordingly. Your <h1> tag defines the most important heading for your page, with each subsequent number ranking lower. Most of your content will focus on the combination of one <h1> tag and a few <h2>. In the case of a subsection or a prelude to a list, you might use the occasional <h3>. The last three sizes can certainly be used, but they’re not as common. Since your focus is to create relevant content, the headers for each section should be important enough to warrant the top two header tags in the hierarchy.

Proving the Case for Header Tags

Google’s algorithm can “read” your copy and check the semantics and context, which is why the natural use of keywords is important. More and more, we see websites that have pared down copy; most likely to accommodate mobile users. With less content, your copy has to be outstanding, or you risk creating an SEO nightmare because you have nothing left to optimize! If you combine this pared-down content with the omission of header tags, you’re signaling to Google that your page information isn’t important.

We performed a test using our own content so we could provide you with a visual so you could see for yourself the effects headers have on your SEO efforts. If you take a look at our keyword report, you’ll notice that we suffered a decrease in rank of 21 spots after we removed the <h2> tag from our long tail keyword.

sample keyword report

That’s a heavy impact!

Now that you have a better understanding of the hierarchy of your pages, you can use header tags like a pro to improve your SEO. Keep in mind that <h1> should be reserved for the most important message on your page and <h2> should highlight other headings that are also important and directly relate to your content. Use the other headers sparingly.