Using Htags (aka Headlines) Properly For SEO Benefits - Ep. 170

How to Use Header Tags in Your SEO Strategy

Headings are not only used for the design of your web pages, but they can also play a key role in your SEO strategy if implemented correctly. In this episode, Jesse goes over the proper way to use Htags and how to optimize them to help you rank higher for your keywords.

If you’ve got questions about SEO or digital marketing, reach out to us today and let us know! Whether you’re sending us an email or giving us a call, we’d love to hear your questions and hopefully provide insights for you and other listeners.

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What you'll learn

  • Why Htags are an important part of your SEO strategy
  • When to use H1, H2, H3 or H4 tags in your website architecture
  • How to put keywords in your headings so you can rank higher for them

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Jesse Dolan: In this episode we're going to be talking about headlines and H tags. What are they, how do you use them on your website, and how do you use them the wrong way and not get any SEO benefit? Check it out.

Welcome back to Local SEO Tactics, where we bring you tips and tricks to get found online. I'm your host, Jesse Dolan. Going to be talking today about H tags. Headlines, headline tags, H1s, H2s, H3s. These are terms and these are things that you've probably used on your website. Maybe you haven't. Maybe you're using them wrong. Maybe you're using them right. I'm going to go through real quick on some best practices for what they are, how to use them the right way, and how we often see them being used the wrong way. So, first things first, why are these important? Well, these are the headlines for your pages on your website. Whether it be your homepage, your location page, your service and product pages, your landing pages, whatever they are, there's probably a headline or there should be a headline on each page of your website.

So, for the purpose of this discussion here and what I'm going to go through, I'm going to assume you're using WordPress. If you're not using WordPress, it's going to be very similar on any web builder. Square, whatever, Shopify, whatever it is you're using, Wix, there's going to have some kind of functionality that's the same on this, and this is not that different than editing a Word document or things like that as well. Same convention, same thoughts here. We're just going to go through the right and the wrong way to use it. Now, if you're thinking about a page, there's going to be some kind of convention or basic template for the pages on your website. And what we like to tell people all the time is, and I've said it on this show many times as well, think about it like a newspaper. That is the architecture that we're going to want to follow.

Or I use the word architecture. Sometimes people think that's way more technical when I use that word, but I'm just talking about the layout and the approach and the design of your page. And at the very top, just like a newspaper, we want to have the primary headline. What's the main thing that this page is about? Not your website. We're optimizing individual pages for SEO, and so here we're talking about a specific page. The top of that page you're going to want the H1, the primary headline, the main headline, the headline one of your site. Now, this should contain your keywords or related keywords, the main target, the main theme of this page, what you want it to be found for, what you want it to be ranking for, and what you want it to be about. And if you think about this like a newspaper, you pick up the newspaper, the front page headline of the newspaper, you're going to see that big headline right at the very top.

Then you're going to have some kind of a supporting photo, graphic, some kind of illustration that goes along with that for us to have some intrigue and some interest and to tell that story. An image is worth a thousand words. And then underneath that photo maybe there's a caption, maybe there's a couple paragraphs of texts. There's the contextual information that's under the headline. So, we've got our main headline. We've got some kind of photo or graphic to support it, and then we've got some text to support it. Underneath there you're going to have, sticking with the newspaper thought, you're going to have some sub-headlines. Now, depending on what section of the paper you're in, and maybe not the main cover, usually you're going to have this convention where you have the main headline, contextual information, contextual photos and graphics, and then underneath it your sub-headlines are going to still be related.

If we're in the sports section, now we're talking how did the football team do, how did the basketball team do, things like that. It's still all about sports. Your sub-headlines are what we'll refer to here as your H2, your headline 2. Your H tags are going to go H1, H2, H3, and so on down the line. The lower the number, as in a number one, the more weight it has. It's your primary, your number one headline. You're usually only going to have one of those on the page, and that's at the top. As you're moving further down the page and cascading down, there's going to be multiple sub-headlines. Your H2 is your next most powerful H tag, your next most powerful headline. You're going to want maybe two, maybe sometimes three of those on the page, but you're going to want to use those sparingly as well, where you have one H1, maybe two H2s, and then you can mix in more H3s, even smaller headlines from there.

As you're doing this down the page, again, just like a newspaper or a magazine article would, these headlines are getting smaller but they're still sticking out as headlines compared to the regular text on the page, and they all nest underneath each other. You don't want to get too far off on a tangent or off the theme or off the topic with those headlines, because these are very powerful parts of the page. They should always contain some keyword or phrase that has high value for you. Because if you think about this, as human beings when we read and skim and scan that page, we're going to be seeing those headlines jump out to us. Google and search engines are going to do the same thing. They're reading that text as special. If you just think about this, instead of a visual newspaper or maybe a webpage, think about it in just a simple outline document.

Your headlines are going to be very important. They're going to jump off the page. They're going to be bigger, they're going to be bolder, and they just carry more weight and they matter more compared to the rest of the text on that page. Your main H1 is the most important, H2s, H3s, H4, and so on down the page become less important, but are all still more important than the regular old text that's on your page. Oftentimes, we see people configuring their webpages and designing their webpages choosing these H tags only for aesthetic purposes. They just want the font on the page. They want this one sentence, or they want this one title to be a certain size look and feel. And so they'll pick the H tag, the headline, that makes it look the way they want on the page. And we'll see a client's website with five primary headlines. Or they're going the other way around.

They're not using any primary headlines. They're not using any H1s or H2s. The top thing on their page is a H3 or an H4, a sub-headline. And while that's not going to completely break your website and crush your rankings, again, you're not taking advantage of presenting this to Google and search engines the right way. Don't use your H tags for visual purposes, for aesthetic purposes. Understand that when you're applying the H tags to your text you are saying, "This phrase is special. This phrase is the number one thing or one of the second or third most important things on this page." So, use it for that intent, to communicate how special the words are. In the same way, as a little pro tip off to the side here, bold, italic, bullet pointed lists, colored text, anything else within the body and the paragraphs on your webpages, anything else you're doing to the text to make it special, just makes it stand out more and get more attention and carries more weight and relevancy to Google, search engines and to us human beings reading it.

So, just like we're talking about keeping your keywords in your H tags and your headlines, you're also going to want to have those keywords and related keywords in those bullet pointed lists, in bold, in italicized, in these special areas of the text on your screen. And I'm illustrating that little side topic because that is the real lesson here that I'm trying to extrapolate, is that just like everything else in SEO, we're doing this on purpose and we're doing this with intent. And when we're leveraging and utilizing your headlines, we're doing it with intent for SEO. We're calling out these things on the page to make them special, to give them attention and to make them stand out. And so you should use the H tags on purpose, and you should be very mindful of the text and the content and the keywords that are inside those H tags.

Hey everyone, just quick message about our free SEO audit tool on, and we'll get right back to the show. If you haven't taken advantage of it yet, go on out to, or look for the yellow button up on the top right corner. Click that and it's going to take just a couple seconds. You enter in the page that you want to optimize, what you're looking for the audit to score against. Enter in that page, enter in the keyword you're looking to get optimized for and enter in your email address. Click the button and it's going to take you a few seconds, and then it's going to send you off a PDF report via email. It's a great report.

It's going to give you an overall score of some vital SEO areas for that page and for your website at large, even though it's auditing this page, that's going to tell you some of the good things that are happening, some of the bad things that are happening too, and give you basically a checklist of some things that you need to shore up and what you can do to improve your SEO for that page, for that keyword that you're auditing. Now, you can use this as many times as you want. You can do multiple keywords, multiple pages, multiple keywords on the same page. You can even use this to check against your competitors. If you want to do a little reverse engineering, see how they're scoring for a certain keyword, what they may be doing good that you're not, and some things to improve there. So, lots of different ways to use it. Completely free. Again, go on at the, or look for the yellow button in the top right corner of the website.

So, that's the overall. Going back to some maybe specific uses, again, just one primary headline. We're going to want that at the top of the page, and we like to see that as the first thing hopefully on the page, or it's overlaying an image, but it's at the very top. So, not only we as human beings see that right away, but Google, when they read your page top to bottom, left to right, that's one of the first things that they're seeing as well, and it's just a standard convention, a normal thing to follow that we all expect, and so does Google. Again, support that headline with text and photos or graphics and videos on your webpage too, whatever it is that makes sense, and then cascade down the page with sub-headlines, text that supports those sub-headlines, images and graphics and multimedia that supports those sub-headlines and keep going further and further down.

There should be a cohesive feel to the content, a natural flow to these headlines and sections and paragraphs of text as you go down the page. One primary headline, a couple H2s and H3s. Then as you get into the H4s, 5's and 6's further down the line, use those judiciously however many you want on the page. There's really not a wrong way to do that as far as how many or the density and things like that. There's more of the way you're using them. This brings me to the last point, is headlines are headlines. Again, just like we see people using them a lot for aesthetic reasons and layout reasons, visually in the wrong order.

Again, maybe like I said earlier, at the very top of the page you have an H3 or an H4, not an H1. But in addition to using them maybe in the wrong order or the wrong frequency, we see people using these H tags and these headlines in replace of normal text as well. So, by nature of these being headlines, when I say that in my mind I'm picturing a phrase. Three, five, seven words, whatever it is. But we will also see people use these H tags to manipulate the font in a paragraph form. So, we may have three, four, five sentences that are all a headline. Technically they're not a headline. That's just text on the page, multiple sentences, and then you're just highlighting those and picking them to be an H3 or an H4, because that's how you wanted it to look with the font on the page.

You can still achieve the look that we're going for here when you choose your H tags for aesthetic reasons, whether it be for a headline or whether it be for the just in-body paragraph of text. You can still manipulate your webpage to have it look that way. We just don't want to be applying that H tag to it. We don't want it to be calling this out as a headline. Your headline can't be a whole paragraph. Your headline can't be too long. It doesn't become a headline anymore. It just becomes text and becomes irrelevant and cancels it out. So, that's one thing we've seen people do. Another thing we'll see people do is use these H tags as spacers on the page. So, where usually a headline is going to be thicker text, taller text, if you will, however I can explain this representing it visually. If I highlight a phrase and apply an H1 to it, it's going to make that font bigger. It's going to take up more vertical room on the page.

So, we'll see people just have a space on their website, but they'll have a headline be there, but it's empty. There's nothing there, but it creates margin and space between maybe two paragraphs of text on their page. So, this is another example here of where the H tags are being used for a visual or aesthetic layout purpose, and not to call out text as a headline specifically. This creates empty H tags on your site, missing information in the eyes of Google or any other bot that may scan and read this page. So, just avoid that as well. If you want your page to look a certain way and you're having to use your headlines and those types of font deals to manipulate it, slow down, talk to your web designer or some professionals like us, and we can help you make it look the right way but still take advantage of the special characters of the H tags, the bold, the italics, the bullet points and things like that, which are very powerful things, for lack of a better word, on your webpage.

They should be used properly. They should be used strategically and with intent and purpose, just like everything else for SEO. So, there you go. A little bit of a technical topic here on this episode, but still hopefully shedding some light on this for you. If you're unsure of your website right now, if you're thinking to yourself, "Yeah, are we doing that on our website? How are we using it?" there's a couple things you can do. One, you can use our free SEO audit tool on our website, Plug in your page. Plug in the keyword. It's going to give you back a report for some good, bad and ugly on your SEO. One of the things it's going to show you is your usage of these H tags. That's a section on the report that'll call out how you're using it and what you're doing. So, you'll gain some insight there.

The other thing you can do is there is an extension that I love to use on Chrome. It's called just H-Tag. H-tag. You can install that, and when you click on it'll highlight on your page you're looking at the actual H tags. Any of you that are listeners of the show or watch the videos, if you've done our Instant SEO Audit and then had an email from me where I've asked if you want a review of your website, usually when I give a review of the website in a video form I'll turn this on and you'll see that, and this is one of the things I immediately go to is, how are you using your H tags?

So, It's something that's pretty easy to see, pretty easy to inspect on your website, and one of these SEO 101 type things that we always look at and try to tackle right away for our client. So, check it out in your site, see how you're using them, see what it looks like. And this is an area that I would suspect, unless you're really granular and down the road on your SEO game, this is probably an area on some of your pages that can use some improvement. We see it all the time, so we wanted to make sure we talk about it here today. Hopefully it helps you out. If you're liking this show, we'd love to hear from you with a review to let us know that we're doing a good job, that we're providing good insights, good action items for you, and helping you move the needle on your SEO.

If you'd like to leave us a review, go on on to, scroll down to the bottom, click on the link for leaving a review. There we make it easy. Whether you want to go to Google Podcast, Apple Podcast, whatever it is, pick your portal of choice and drop a review. We'd love to hear it. And if we get a review from you, ultimately we're going to read it on the show like this one here that I'm going to go through. All right, we got a great five star review here, and I hope I pronounce your username right. Zvetlania Golikova. I'm sorry if I didn't pronounce that right. Definitely one of the trickier ones I've had to read, but I do appreciate the review.

It goes on here to say, "I came across your podcast. Thank you very much for such invaluable information. I'm a small business owner trying to navigate through the world of SEO. Very helpful information. Thank you again." So, thanks for sharing. Everybody else, we'd love to hear from you. Again, check it out, Go down to the bottom, click the link for review, and we'll be happy to read it if you are so inclined to submit it. Hopefully there's some tips on here today that can help you out. Thanks for checking it out everybody. We'll catch on the next episode. Take care.

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