Stephanie O'Keefe SEO strategist working on Header Tag Optimization on laptop in kitchen.

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5 Tips to perfect Header Tag Optimization

If you’ve ever posted content to your own website, you’ve probably noticed that you have many formatting options when it comes to organizing information on the page.

But did you know that what you choose to do could impact your SEO? Yep! With header tag optimization, you can use the H1 tag and other header tags to your advantage – kind of like a roadmap that tells readers and search engines what’s on your page.

However, knowing how to use header tags can be a bit…complicated. A recent twitter poll showed that over half of SEO pros don’t actually know what Google’s official recommendations are. (Yikes!)

The good news is that there’s a tried-and-true method to the madness. You don’t have to guess about header tag optimization! In this post, we’re getting into the nitty-gritty details of H1 tags, header tags, and how to use them. I’ll share what they are, why they’re important, and the best practice secrets I coach my clients on. Let’s go!


What is an H1 tag?

An H1 tag is an HTML tag that is used to mark the main topic of a webpage.

When building websites, you can use different types of headers to divide content in a way that tells users and search algorithms how the information on the page should be organized. 

An H1 tag is usually given to the “headline” or “title” of a given page on your website. Whichever line of text tells people about the main topic of your page should get an H1 tag.

We call it an H1 tag because it is a “tag” that appears in the code of your website. For example, if you were to look at the code behind a blog titled “10 Must-Do Activities in Paris,” the H1 would look like this:


<h1>10 Must-Do Activities in Paris</h1>


Pro Tip! An H1 tag is usually the prominent text on a page, but that’s not always the case. On a homepage, it might not be the largest text, but it will be the text that describes the main purpose of the page. That gives designers a little more freedom to highlight a compelling headline while still maintaining good code structure. On blog posts, the H1 is almost always the title.


Why are H1 tags important for SEO?


Ever heard the saying “clarity is king”? H1 headings add clarity for readers and Google. Headings make it clear what your page is about.

Technically, H1 tags are not a Google ranking factor. But they do play a big role in structure and content comprehension. When people and algorithms can easily and quickly understand what’s on a web page, that does help your SEO. 

The more descriptive your H1 tags are, the better! Ideally, you want to tell readers what they will find on a page. And putting that information in an H1 tag puts that information directly into your site code, so search algorithms can easily understand as well.


What is the hierarchy of headings?


When posting in WordPress, you’ll notice that you have not one, but four options for headings: H1, H2, H3, H4.

A lot of attention is given to the H1 tag, because the best practice says that there should only be one per page, and that it should tell people about the main idea of the page. But what about the other headings?

There’s a best practice for using those headings too! Not only do they have different tags, they will look differently on the page. So, using H1-H4 tags wisely can help you visually organize information on the page in a way that guides readers through content.

I like to think of it like an outline, where every header nests underneath another one. The H1 tag is for the “main idea” of a page. Then, the H2s are the main points or supporting ideas. H3s are for details to the H2s, and H4 is useful if I have additional details to add underneath an H3. 


So, a finished page might be structured something like this:

Graphic Showing How To Set Up Header Tags In Blog Post.


It all comes down to this: people love to skim! Adding headings according to a hierarchy helps skimmers figure out what’s on your page at a glance. A descriptive H1 tag (and organizing all the information that comes after it) helps people take one look at your page and say, “Yep, I’m in the right place!” 


Psst! One of my favorite tools is the Header Checker tool. You can use it to peek inside website pages and see how the information is organized by header tags.


How to format an H1 header


That all depends on the content management system (CMS) you’re using to post information on your website.

Usually, your CMS will have easy-to-use word-processor style formatting, and you’ll be able to select H1 formatting from a drop-down menu.

In WordPress, most themes are coded to use the page title as the H1. If you want to manually format an H1 in WordPress, highlight the text you want to become the H1 and wait for the toolbar to appear. Click on the Paragraph symbol, then select Heading. Then, you can choose which header tag you want to apply.


How to add header tag in WordPress Editor


In Beaver Builder + Elementor, you can choose the H1 with the Heading Module.

How to add header tag in Beaver Builder



How to add header tag in Elementor


Can I use more than one H1 tag?

The technical answer is yes, but I don’t recommend it! That’s right – officially, Google says that it doesn’t matter how many H1 tags you have on your page. Nowadays, AI and language learning models are so smart that they should be able to tell what your page is about, regardless of how many H1 tags you have.


So, why do I advise against it?

Good on-page structure, especially for content, all goes back to a logical header structure. Using an H1 to mark the main idea of your page – and then H2, H3, and H4 tags to organize the rest of the information – is still a fabulous way to organize information! 

And when your information is well-organized, that makes for a great user experience, which is a ranking factor. And while it’s not a must for search engines, it certainly makes it easier for Google to understand what’s on your website when the information is well-structured.


Header tag optimization tips

Here are some quick tips for header tag optimization:


1. Use only one H1 per page


Depending on your CMS, you might have the option to include multiple H1 tags. Don’t! Using one H1 tag is a logical way to help readers, and Google understand the hierarchy of information on your page. The H1 is reserved for communicating the main topic that’s on the page. Every page only has one main topic – so it should get one H1.


2. Make sure every page has an H1


You don’t have to put an H1 on each page…but you definitely should! Again, that’s because the H1 tells Google and users what the page is all about. On websites, you want the purpose of each page to be crystal clear. (If you can’t figure out what the main topic is for a page, ask yourself: what will my potential clients type into Google?) 


But Did You Know That What You Choose To Do Could Impact Your Seo? Yep! With Header Tag Optimization, You Can Use The H1 Tag And Other Header Tags To Your Advantage – Kind Of Like A Roadmap That Tells Readers And Search Engines What’s On Your Page.

3. Include your target keyword


After all, one of the goals of your page is to rank for a keyword. Most of the time, this happens naturally, because the keyword you’re trying to rank for is usually part of the “main idea” of the page. Including it in H1 can help boost SEO for the page and help users understand what they can expect to find.


Psst! Need help nailing down your target keywords? Read this post on how to do keyword research, where I guide you through the basics!


4. Keep it to 60 characters or less


H1s can be any length, but the best practice is to limit them to 60 characters. That’s because Google will only display 60 characters’ worth of information when showing pages in search results. Any longer, and your H1 could get abbreviated or cut off.


If a longer H1 is a must, try to write it in a way that the first 60 characters communicate everything a reader needs to know. That way, if it gets cut off, people will still understand what’s on your page.


5. Make it skimmable


The rule of thumb is to make it clear that your page satisfies “search intent.” In other words, it should be clear that people will find the information they’re looking for on your page. If you’re writing H1s for blog posts, you’ll also want to make it compelling – like a can’t-miss read!


Header tag optimization can be easy!


To sum up, here’s how to do it:

  • Use one H1 per page
  • Make sure every page has an H1
  • Include your target keyword
  • Keep it 60 characters or less
  • Make it clear and skimmable


Ready to refine your SEO strategy?


Our SEO Services cover header tag optimization and go even deeper to give you a comprehensive SEO audit and makeover that will increase your site’s searchability. Book a call now!


Steph O'Keefe, SEO strategist and WordPress designer sitting at desk wearing a white shirt in Raleigh, NC.

I'm Steph!

I'm the Founder and creative Director behind Southern Creative, a.k.a. your SEO strategist and web designer.

My passion is crafting websites rooted in strategy so you can put your focus where your heart is while we launch your dream website that shows up online.