I’ve been reading over our blog posts from last week on H1, H2 and H3 tags and wanted to add a few thoughts into the conversation.

First, H3 tags, or even h4-h6, can also be used outside of the content structure to point out other important sections of a page.

For example, the orange heading below this post that says “Leave a Reply” and all of the headings in the sidebar of this page are H3s. They’re used in this case to indicate to search engines and users that “this is a section of important information” as opposed to being supportive content of a previous H2. While this is somewhat of a misuse of the heading in relation to the content structure, it is still an applicable and acceptable use for the tag.

In practice, we rarely ever use headings past H3s because if your page contains enough content that it needs h4s-h6s, then it probably shouldn’t all be on one page. Instead it should probably be divided into a new category of the site or a main page with sub-pages of supporting & stand alone content.

Just to point out a couple of more things to readers, heading tags don’t have to be large and bold to be a heading. We can make a h1, h2, h3, etc. tag look like anything we want it to…even like this paragraph text that you’re reading now. But, they are very important structural elements of any web document and should be used correctly.

Also, headings should never be used for presentational purposes. Too many people and agencies use heading tags because they need big red text and they think that since headings are big and bold…they’ll just use that! Don’t ever, ever, ever do this. Use a paragraph tag instead and use CSS to make it look how you want.

In short, headings are structural indicators…just like when you’re writing a paper in school. h1 is Main title of the paper, h2 is a section of the paper, h3 is (generally) supporting content or a supporting idea of the h2 and its child content.

5 Responses to Further Thoughts on H1, H2 and H3 Tags

  1. Hi Dean,

    First off, thank you so much for all that info!

    After reading your posts I took a look at my website and realized that the titles were H2 built-in by WordPress (for example on my site: Catch up on our Blog is H2). Then the H3’s are for the title of each posts, leaving me with H4’s for my subtitles (that now are H3’s). Should I be worried or change any of that for a better outcome on Search Engines (not sure if that is even possible in WP).

    Thanks in advance!
    Christine

    Christine | July 5, 2013at 12:44 pm

  2. Hi Christine,

    You’re very welcome and thank you for the question! I apologize for taking a few days to reply. Those vacations really cut into the workweek!

    To answer your question, we build a lot of our sites with WordPress here and we always use custom themes so that we know the HTML is correct. That being said, whenever an outside theme is used one of the first things that we need to do is go into the WP templates and change the h2s to h1s and the h2s to h3s in the standard WP build. It is very possible and actually very easy with some FTP access.

    Depending on your setup, there are usually a page, post, category and archive template that need to be changed. After accessing with FTP or the WP file editor, you just need to find those files (they’re named what they are and in your theme’s folder), then just find the h2 and switch to an h1, etc. There should be a start tag that looks like <h1> and an end tag that looks like </h1>. The different headings will have the different numbers.

    One thing that you need to keep an eye out for is that a lot of WP themes have an h1 around the logo/sitename link in the mast (header) part of the theme. You may need to find your header file in the theme to change this to a non-heading, like a <p> instead. In fact your theme does have it’s logo in an h1, with the id of logo. You’ll want to fix that so that you don’t have two h1s on every page of your newly headered site!

    Lastly, I would conjecture that you will do better with the proper headings. I see that you’re using Google Analytics, which shows me that you’re a smart site owner. I would make the changes to your code and then leave an annotation in Analytics about when you made the changes. Then watch your organic traffic every couple of weeks and see if you’re noticing any improvement.

    As a side note, anytime you make a major change to your site, do a new promotion, advertisement, etc. for your site, you should annotate it in Analytics so that you can see what the result was.

    I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have any other questions.

    Dean | July 9, 2013at 1:11 pm

  3. Hi, Dean:

    Great information on the tags. I had no idea. I’ve been a copywriter and author for years, but until recently, I had no rocketing, compelling reason to get too far into Internet use and lingo (in normal, everyday copy writing terms, H1 and H2 are simply “headers” and “subheads”). However, I have just published my first Kindle book on Amazon (it’s for kids: “Boggles Boneyard and the Case of the Purloined Pomeranian”), and am going to set up a blog. I’ll also open a Twitter account (I’ve been resisting). So you have a new fan and follower. I like your writing style and easy-to-follow explanation of things heretofore foreign to me. Thanks much!

    Cathy Swormstedt | July 13, 2013at 10:36 am

  4. Dean,
    This part right here is gold! : “In short, headings are structural indicators…just like when you’re writing a paper in school. h1 is Main title of the paper, h2 is a section of the paper, h3 is (generally) supporting content or a supporting idea of the h2 and its child content.”
    The simple way you used real world examples I understand to stand for these confusing H tags was quite brilliant.
    I Google searched H2 tags as I’ve asked my virtual assistant to do the back end actions on my blog. I’m a good writer, but wasn’t feeling sure about the SEO stuff.
    Your post was the most helpful and understandable out of a multitude tried. Thanks for not assuming I’m all techy.
    My VA has been making my blog subheads H2’s. He’s on vacation and I wanted to do it myself to stay consistent.
    Here’s my question. I’m going to use a post he H2ed as an example so I’m not just being theoretical.
    Here’s the post: http://www.callagold.com/jewelry-repair/cost-to-size-ring-platinum-white-gold/
    I’m a jeweler and jewelry blogger and I’m answering the FAQ, “How much does it cost to size a ring?” I’m doing a series in which I focus on categories and use real rings. TMI?
    My VA H2s each of my subheads. But they aren’t all explanatory in a way that a search engine would get, I think.
    So knowing he’ll H2 each of my subheads should I be trying harder to explain the content of the copy below that subhead in the sub titles?
    Or should I tell him, “Don’t H2 that particular subhead because it isn’t explanatory of the copy below it.”?
    I guess I’m wondering is it best practices to H2 each subhead in a blog?
    Or only H2 the subheads that you can title with some kind of key word that you use in the copy below?
    And if you’re still putting up with my massive machine gun of questions, how should I guide my VA in helping me make my blog posts better so he’s not possibly pissing off the SEO gods above? Like “dude don’t over do the H2’s,” or “hey tell me if I’m not using the key word in my subtitles anywhere so I can fix that.” Or “Only three H2 tags max in each of my blogs on my subheads.”
    Thanks for your excellent explanation quoted above that I actually understood. And thanks for listening and hopefully understanding just how basic my understanding of H2 tags is. I’m still not even whiffing how I’d use an H3 tag. But I’d love to gain better understanding of how to use and not abuse H2 tags.
    Hey you could do an H2 tags for dummies where you used a blog as an example and went into excruciating detail on where to use them and how to use the key words and like that. There are a tremendous amount of people that need a deeply kids book kid of gradient to understand how to use this tool. Just sayin’

    Calla Gold | January 4, 2014at 12:25 pm

  5. Hi Calla,

    Thanks for the long and thorough question. I’m sorry that it’s taken so long to respond and appreciate all of your great feedback.

    I took a look at the URL you gave as an example and only have a couple of recommendations for you. The main heading of your article “How Much Does it Cost to Size My Ring? Platinum and White Gold”, should be an h1 and not an h3. There should only be one h1 (your main title) on each page in general practice and that should be it. You should also reword it to be human readable and not to look like a question with some keywords stuck at the end. Something like “How Much Does it Cost to Resize My Platinum or White Gold Ring?”

    The rest of the h2s are fine, but the example h2s, like “Ring #1 – Complex Sizing – Platinum and Diamond Engagement Ring.”, could be h3s.

    You have a lot of good content here and I would think about maybe splitting it into a couple of different articles. As my last hint, lay off the “Santa Barbara Jeweler” in your content a little bit. Keyword saturation is pretty old school and you’re not doing yourself any favors. ;)

    Best,
    Dean

    Dean Duncan Jones | February 4, 2014at 10:42 am

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