What Is an H1 Tag? Why It Matters & Best Practices for SEO
What Is an H1 Tag?
An H1 tag is an HTML heading used to mark up a webpage’s main subject. In a webpage’s code, you’ll see the H1 text wrapped in <h1></h1> tags.
Here’s an example of an H1 tag in a blog post’s HTML code and on the live page:
In this article, we’ll share:
- Why are H1 tags important for SEO?
- How to add an H1 tag to your page
- H1 tag best practices
- How to run an H1 tag audit
H1 tags, though not a confirmed ranking factor, are still important for SEO.
Here are the top three reasons why.
1. H1s Help Search Engines Understand Content
Search engines, just like your readers, look at your H1s to learn about your pages and their content.
Google’s John Mueller has stated, “if you write content that you want to rank for, then being able to understand that content better does help us.”
The more descriptive your H1, the better.
The H1 in this blog post from Chewy is a great example of a descriptive H1.
It tells readers exactly what they’ll find: The best natural dog foods currently available, according to veterinarians.
And, with the descriptive H1 tag in your code, Google may have an easier time understanding what’s on the page.
2. H1s Improve User Experience
H1 tags improve user experience (UX) by allowing readers to learn what your page is about at a glance. Most websites display the H1 as the largest text on the page.
And improving UX is fundamental. Google has emphasized it as a ranking factor.
Not to mention:
A quick browse of supporting headers (like H2s and H3s) can show readers what they’ll learn before they dig in. That way, they can pre-assess your content’s value.
If you’ve done a good job, your H1 will provide hierarchy and reassure visitors that you have the information they’re looking for.
The example on the left has no clear structure and order. It’s really hard to even tell what it’s about.
The example on the right shows the H1 as the most prominent heading on the page, then H2, then H3, etc.
It’s easy to skim, follow, and understand.
3. H1s Improve Accessibility
H1 tags (and other headings in general) can help those who use screen readers due to visual impairments understand the page’s content.
Screen readers are programs that read text with a speech synthesizer or Braille display.
Here’s an example of a well-organized blog post with a screen reader displaying the headings:
Hundreds of millions live with vision impairment and use screen readers to browse the web.
In a study by WebAIM, screen users were asked how they preferred to find information on webpages. And 67.5% of respondents favored navigating the headings.
Quickly improve your site’s accessibility by crafting descriptive H1 tags and keeping an organized heading structure.
How To Add an H1 Tag to Your Page
Adding an H1 tag on most website content management systems (CMSs) is easy. In fact, many CMSs just make your meta title your H1.
But you might not always want your meta titles and H1s to be exactly the same.
For example, if you include your company name in your meta title.
Or if your title includes some kind of value proposition (like “Save on lawn chairs!”) — which could look spammy if repeated at the top of your page as the H1.
Here’s how to change your H1 tag using WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, and HTML.
Add an H1 Tag in WordPress
Most WordPress themes are coded to use the page title as the H1.
If you want to change any other headings, you have to go in and reprogram it.
Click on or highlight the text you want to reformat. A toolbar should appear above your selected block.
Click on the paragraph symbol found on the leftmost side of that toolbar. Then, select “Heading.”
WordPress automatically selects the H2 tag.
Change your heading tag to H1 by clicking on the “H2” in the toolbar and changing it to “H1.”
You’re all set.
Add an H1 Tag in Squarespace
Adding an H1 in Squarespace (for blog posts) is as simple as filling out the “post title” field in most cases.
If you want to change the H1 tag for a page, start by selecting the text you want to change into an H1.
Then, click on the formatting button on the leftmost side of your toolbar.
And select “Heading 1.”
And you’re done!
Add an H1 Tag in Wix
Like the other two CMSs on this list, Wix automatically makes your blog post title the H1 tag.
For any other page, you can edit the text you want to be an H1.
First, select the text you want to edit.
Then, click the “Edit Text” button above.
Click on the “Themes” drop down menu.
And select “Heading 1.”
And you’re done!
H1 Tag Best Practices
Here are six H1 tag best practices you can follow to improve your SEO.
1. Use Only One H1 Per Page
Using only one H1 creates hierarchy and gives your page a more logical structure.
It makes it easy for readers (and those using screen readers) to skim and understand what your page is about.
The H1 is for the main topic or headline. The H2s are for important subheadings. H3s are for subheadings that support those. And so on:
Each page should have only one main topic and headline. And that should be your only H1.
2. Make Sure Every Important Page Has an H1
Considering that an H1 tag is the most important heading, every important page should have an H1.
Which pages are considered important? That’s up to you. But a good place to start is with any page you want to rank on Google.
To find pages with missing or empty H1s:
- Go to Semrush’s Site Audit tool
- Enter your homepage URL and hit “Start Audit”
- Click on the “Issues” tab
- Type “h1” in the search bar
- Click on the warning for pages that don’t have an H1
3. Include Your Target Keyword
A study of Google’s ranking factors suggests that including your main keyword in your H1 tag is a ranking factor.
Along with your meta title, Google uses your H1 to determine whether your content is relevant to a searcher’s query.
In other words:
A page with an H1 that’s highly relevant to a search query is likely to rank well for that query.
It also makes sense to include your target keyword to make the page’s topic clear to readers.
We do this for all our blog posts. Below, you can see how we included the keywords “title tags” and “alt text” in two different blog post H1s:
4. Keep H1 Tags Under 60 Characters
The more clear and concise you make your writing, the better. It’s no different for H1 tags or other headings.
Best practice is to keep it between 50 and 60 characters—just like your meta title tags.
Many CMSs use the same copy for your H1 and title tag. Plus, as we mentioned before, Google occasionally switches title tags for H1 tags.
And you don’t want Google to truncate it in the search results, like this:
So, there’s no technical limit to the length of an H1 tag. But your best bet is to keep it under 60 characters.
5. Make Your H1s Similar to Your Title Tags
A meta title tag is an HTML element used to specify the title of a webpage. It’s written as <title> under the <head> section of your site’s code.
People often confuse these with H1 tags because both the title and H1 tag describe what a page is about.
The main difference is where they appear.
Title tags appear on search engine results pages (SERPs). And at the top of the web browser tab. Other than that, they’re not visible on the webpage.
Here’s an example of a meta title in a browser tab and in a SERP:
H1 tags are what users see on the page, often in large text. They usually do not appear on SERPs.
Here’s an H1 for one of our blog posts:
Google recommends matching your H1 tag to your title tags to prevent inaccurate article titles from showing up on search results.
They don’t have to be exactly the same. But they should be similar.
Users will feel deceived if they land on your page and see a completely different (and unrelated) H1. You don’t want that.
6. Optimize Your H1 to Satisfy Search Intent
Search intent is a user’s primary objective when searching for something.
Your H1 should immediately tell the reader that you’re going to satisfy their search intent. In other words: Your content is going to give them what they want.
Satisfying search intent is important because it’s Google’s No. 1 goal. Which, in turn, makes it a primary goal for you if you want better rankings.
To determine search intent for a keyword, type it into Google and analyze what comes up.
For example, the top results for “content marketing” focus on explaining what content marketing is:
None of those articles are too in-depth. They also aren’t selling anything. That tells us the search intent is informational, with articles written for beginners.
That means we need to write an H1 (and accompanying post) that satisfies that informational search intent.
An even quicker way to determine search intent is with the Keyword Overview tool.
Type in your keyword and hit “Search.”
This will pull up information about your chosen keyword, including its intent.
How To Run an H1 Tag Audit
To check your website in bulk for any H1 tag errors, run a site audit.
Open Site Audit. Then, paste in your homepage URL and hit “Start Audit.”
The tool will show a dashboard with your site’s overall health. Click on the “Issues” tab to see the list of errors.
In the search bar, type in “h1” to only see errors related to your H1 tags.
Now you can see all pages that have H1 issues. Fix errors first, then warnings, and then notices.
We recommend running monthly audits to notify you of any new issues that need your attention.
To do so, you can set up a recurring report.
In the top right-hand corner of your Site Audit dashboard, click the “Settings” button.
Find “Schedule” by scrolling down through your Site Audit settings.
Next, you’ll see a pop-up where you can choose how often to run your report.
Set it to your preferred day. And make sure to click on the “Send an email” option at the bottom of the pop-up. Then, click “Save.”
That way, you’ll be able to fix any issues and keep your SEO efforts running smoothly.