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H1, H2 and H3 Header Tags for SEO on Sep. 16, 2010

Far too often I come across websites that are not utilizing their header tags on their pages for SEO. This should not be the case; by simply utilizing and optimizing your h1, h2 and h3 header tags, you can increase your site’s ranking and chances of being found through a search engine.

Why are h1, h2 and h3 header tags important for SEO?

Header tags are an important on-page SEO factor because they’re used to communicate to the search engines what your website is about. Search engines recognize the copy in your header tags as more important than the rest. This starts with your h1 and works its way down in importance to the h2, h3 and so on.  These tags will help support the overall theme or purpose of your page.

You can’t, however, just throw in whatever content you want into these headers. It’s important to utilize your header tags with short-tail and long-tail keywords. As search engines crawl your site, they will pick up on the headers and recognize the keywords you are using as important.

How to use the h1, h2 and h3 tags

While your header tags do extend to h4, h5 and h6, we’re only going to focus on the first three since these are the tags that carry the most SEO value. Now, you can’t just go insert your header tags anywhere and expect to see results.  Header tags have their own place on a page and have to be used in a proper order starting with your h1.

The h1 tag should contain your targeted keywords, ones that closely relate to the page title and are relevant to your content. The h2 tag is a subheading and  should contain similar keywords to your h1 tag. Your h3 is then a subheading for your h2 and so on. Think of them as a hierarchy based on importance, the above being more important than the below.

Keep in mind that it’s also very import that your header tags are readable and grammatically correct. Stuffing your h1, h2 and h3 with keywords is not going to help your cause. If anything, Google will recognize this and assume you are trying to manipulate them — that’s a no-no!

An Example of how to use h1, h2, h3 header tags

This post or blog is actually an example of how to use your header tags.  See below:

  • My h1 = <h1>H1, H2 and H3 Header Tags for SEO</h1>
  • My h2 = <h2>Why are h1, h2 and h3 header tags important for SEO?</h2>
  • My h3 = <h3>How to use the h1, h2 and h3 tags</h3>

As you can see, I used my h1 to capture the overall theme of the post since it represents what’s most important. I then used my h2 as a subheading to reinforce my h1 and overall theme. The same can be said about my h3 and how it relates to my other headings and overall theme.

Header tags are a key component to SEO and can help improve your rankings on the search engines. Check your pages now and see if you’re using your h1, h2 and h3 correctly!

18 Responses to H1, H2 and H3 Header Tags for SEO

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  • I really appreciate this. I have been looking around for quite a while now trying to figure out if H1 tags actually were used in the body, but you pointed out here that it’s basically just used on the title.

    I was having issue with this because practically all blogging programs including Microsoft’s Live Writer all make the title a large size, but now I know that is basically H1 (please correct me if I’m mistaken).

    Thanks a lot for the help. Just felt I had to thank you since I haven’t seen anyone else above do it — even though the link is nofollow. ;)

    Regards,
    Fernando Bernardino

  • You’re welcome, Fernando.

    It’s likely that your blog software is using h1s, but sometimes they are h2s. You can view source of the page, or use a tool like Firebug to look at it a little closer. Ultimately, you want your main heading to be an h1.

  • I found your description of headers h1, h2, h3 very clear and very helpful – I shall correct my pages. My question is my pages are long i have maybe ten headers – is this allowed ? how should deal with it? can i repeat h1, h2 and h3′s in different places all the way down the page. I really want to keep the long pages.( Each page covers a different musical key for piano AND guitar.) thankyou. Tony.

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  • Hi Tony,

    Sorry for taking so long to respond. Your comment must have slipped past me!

    Ideally, you would try to break your super long page into several smaller pages. 250-600 words in length each.

    Whether you do or not (sometimes it’s not plausible), you don’t want to repeat your headings.

    There isn’t really a limit to the headings you use either as long as you’re following proper document structure and you only have a single h1 per page. If you can break your document up with h2s, as each is a different subtopic of the musical key, then this indicates that you could probably create several smaller pages instead, using more of a categorical structure with sub-pages.

    I hope this helps and answered your question! Feel free to comment back if not. I’ll be quicker next time!

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  • It used to be that we were told best practice was not to make your headers into links. I’m now seeing more and more H1 and H2′s as links.

    In your opinion, is the move to responsive web design a factor in this?

    Thanks,

    Lorraine

  • Hi Lorraine,

    Thank you for the question.

    The short answer is, “It doesn’t really matter as long as there’s a purpose for it to be a link.”

    Typically what you’ll see these days is headings as links as a result of a CMS or secondary index page. Usually these pages are some sort of category page with sub-pages (about us, services, blog categories by topic, etc). They’ll list out a heading, which is a link to the full article/page and are usually followed by an excerpt, or the first paragraph, of the child page.

    In this case, it’s actually a great idea to make the heading into a link, because your anchor text is exactly what the page you’re linking to is about; as opposed to a “Read More” link at the bottom of the paragraph.

    I hope this clears things up. Please feel free to shoot back a comment if I can help clarify.

    Best,
    Dean

  • I should probably also post a link to my follow up article, which will help clarify some more about the proper usage of heading tags: http://www.tmprod.com/blog/2011/further-thoughts-on-h1-h2-and-h3-tags/

  • Thankyou so much! I have been searching all day for a clear explanation like this..gonna hunt your blog for more tips

  • Thanks for the info. My problem is that I am with an ecommerce hosting site that seems to have very little respect for SEO (e.g. no H tags, no atl=””, no use of CSS sprites, etc.) – although they give it a lot of lip service. While I can go in and edit some of the templates (which I did to add in H1 tags) .. adding h2 and h3 tags is more problematic.

    any suggestions how I might maneuver around the limitations?

    Thanks …

  • Hey John,

    That’s a very good question. I have experienced several clients who use hosted SaaS ecommerce platforms (Software as a Service), which are very limiting in what they are able to change. Some examples of these types of platforms would be Big Commerce, Volusion and several other ecommerce platforms that they host for you.

    A lot of the time, they will allow you to change html tags and some other advanced things using javascript. The problem is, javascript is only good for the end users (your customers) to change the way information is presented. Like changing an h3 in the template to an h2 on page load, etc. Search engines don’t read the javascript rendered pages!

    Other times, on your product or page’s in your CMS, you should have a text area that you’re able to put in your content/product description. A lot of times there will be an “HTML” button, if it is a WYSIWYG editor. Other times, you can just type the h2 tag directly into that box.

    I would try typing an h2 opening and close tag in one of those text boxes, around a piece of text and then look at the public page to see if it shows. If there is an HTML view button, do it there instead.

    If that doesn’t work, you should file a support ticket with 3dCart and they should be able to help point you in the right direction.

    I hope this helps! Let me know if there are any other questions.

    I see that you’re using the hosted version of 3dCart.

  • Thanks, Dean. I have been ‘tweaking’ the code (for instance, I found where the product title is displayed and enclosed that in H1). But, this is an example of something they should have done in the first place. (They do quite a few SEO UNfriendly things in their code) Quite frankly I am finding more and more things I do not like about 3dCart. And it seems they regularly just do something that makes my life more difficult. If I was not so busy, I would be seriously looking for an alternative.

  • No problem, John. I hope that it works out for you. A lot of CMS make the main heading an h2 by default – even WordPress, which is the best for regular sites. I’m not sure why they do this either.

    Taking a quick look at your site’s code, it seems rather outdated, as it is built in tables, using deprecated tags like <i> for italic, etc.

    You might want to take some time to find a new system when you can. Something with a responsive or mobile code base that doesn’t use tables. CSCart or Magento would be good options, but you’d need to host and build out the new site yourself or have someone like us do it.

    If you decide to move forward, you should also look into a service like Cart2Cart that will transfer over your products, attributes, customers, orders, etc. It will make the migration process much smoother.

    Good luck!

  • Thanks, Dean

    I had not heard of Cart2Cart. I’ll check it out.

  • Is there somewhere I can go to review your eCommerce website offering?

  • Thanks for this post. I have hit my head against the wall a number of times wondering how to write h3 header tags until i finally read your post and understood clearly what they are and how to write them properly. You’ve saved me time and energy. Kudos

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