Header Tag Guide for SEO Success

What’s good for your users is also good for SEO. Your users prefer not to read long blocks of text. It’s boring. It’s unattractive.

 

Have you noticed

How posts on LinkedIn

With the most views and shares

Are formatted like this…?

 

Obnoxious as that is, there is a reason for it. Today’s readers need information to be as digestible as possible. If they have to search for an answer to their question on your page, well, they won’t. They’ll bounce from site to site until the desired information jumps out at them.

 

Thoughtful use of headings that are properly coded (with header tags) make this a possibility.

 

This post will define headings and header tags, and explain how to properly use them to improve your website’s user experience and crawlability.

  • Headings organize content to improve the user experience.
  • Header Tags communicate to search engine spiders the meaning of your headings, and subsequently your content, so your webpage can be properly indexed in SERPs.

Headings

The Headline <h1>

The headline is the title of your content. This sets your users and Google’s crawlers’ expectations for the entire page.

Headline Best Practices:

  • Introduce the page’s most important keyword theme.
  • Describe the page’s content accurately in no more than one sentence.
  • Be similar, but not necessarily identical, to the title tag.

 

Your headline should always answer the following question:

What is this page about?

 

It may seem elementary, but unfortunately, this often gets forgotten. Website owners and admins will get caught up in keyword ideas and ranking opportunities, and end up writing a headline that does not accurately represent the page’s content.

 

 

“I know we actually sell wine, but what’s the difference? Any traffic is good traffic, right?”

 

Major Headings <h2>

Major Headings provide the first opportunity to segment your content into digestible sections for your readers.

 

Your major headings should:

  • Outline the most important sections of your content.
  • Accurately describe what aspects of your headline this section of content focuses on.
  • Introduce topics that merit discussion.

 

Your major headings do not need to reiterate important keywords. Don’t try to push them in when it feels unnatural.

 

Subheadings <h3>, <h4>, <h5>, <h6>

Subheadings can and should be used sparingly to further segment your content and facilitate user comprehension. While subheadings can be helpful, overuse can have an adverse effect if they become too obscure or irrelevant. Subheadings, like content, should always tie back into their parent heading and the main headline.

 

Example hierarchy:

 

Header Tags

How To Implement Header Tags

Adding the tags themselves is simple if you’re coding with straight HTML.

<h1>Header Here</h1> indicates the most important heading, while <h6>Header Here</h6> defines the least.

To define a heading, surround it with the tags. For example, the headline of this post looks like: <h1> Header Tag Guide for SEO Success </h1>.

A user-friendly CMS, such as WordPress, offers a visual editor that allows you to edit content while simultaneously viewing how it appears on the actual webpage. You can toggle between the visual and HTML editor to see how your changes are expressed in HTML, and vice versa.

If you don’t like the default styling of the heading tags, they can be easily changed with your site’s CSS. But, be careful when editing your site’s CSS. Even if a headline is the right font and size, it may not be coded as an <h1>, and thus will not be recognized by Google as a headline when it crawls your site. To that end, don’t make the mistake of using multiple headlines, or using an <h2> tag for a headline because you prefer a different font size or style.

 

Headline/Header Tag Best Practices

Code Headline as <h1>.
Only use one <h1> headline.
Write headline that conveys same idea as title tag.
Segment content relevant to headline with major headings (<h2>).
Include content to support each header.
Use simple text.
Use Headers to increase font size.
Create header tags irrelevant to content.
Overuse header tags.
Overthink.

 

Importance of Header Tags

I was asked to look at a website that was experiencing a decline in traffic, despite a wealth of quality content and an optimal user experience. It was discovered that there were no <h1> tags throughout the entire site; each heading that should have been coded as an <h1> was coded as <h2>. As a result, the topics of these pages were unclear to Google, thus nullifying their chance of ranking for the keyword themes being targeted.

Even though these webpages were well-organized and filled with insightful, scholarly content, Google was unable to properly categorize the content and reflect the site’s industry authority in the SERPs. Making these changes can have a sizable impact on overall SEO performance.

It is important to audit your website’s header tags, because a simple coding error can easily go unnoticed and adversely affect your website’s search presence.

 

Writing effective headings using proper tags is one of the most straightforward pieces of an SEO strategy. If you are not sure where to go next, read more SEO tips on our blog or schedule a free consultation with Titan’s experienced strategy team.

3 On-Page Content Essentials for SEO Success

Writing good content is hard. Putting out content that’s well-researched, well-written, and informative – regularly? If you’re putting in that much effort, you want your hard work to be rewarded.

You wouldn’t dive into a pool without first seeing how deep it is; don’t make the mistake of writing content without checking the water.

Your content’s journey to ranking well starts when you’re planning your content. Whether it’s disregarding the way Google’s algorithms work or missing something fundamental, it’s painfully easy to write great content that still won’t rank.

Here’s how to make sure your content gets recognized.

 

1.      Your content needs to be published regularly.

What Counts as New Content?

‘New content’ refers specifically to content which you have not published before.

Updating old content is valuable if the information is outdated or you see opportunities to improve it. However, updated content does not count as new content. You can even delete old content that isn’t relevant or important.

 

What Is Publishing “Regularly”?

Try to publish new content at least once per week, but ideally two or three times per week.

Unfortunately, there is no universal best day to publish. Often, Tuesday or Wednesday perform well, but it depends on your industry and audience.

Try measuring engagement via post comments, Google Analytics or social media interactions to figure out your ideal posting schedule. Segment the engagement metric by day of the week and time of day for additional insights. Think about who your audience is, and when they’ll consume your content.

Maybe your U.S. audience likes to check Twitter over their lunch break. You can post your article in the morning and promote it on Twitter around 12 PM EST/9 AM PST to reach both the East and West Coast lunch crowd.

Or, maybe your audience wants to read your content during slow periods at work. Try posting so it will be new during a midweek afternoon.

The only way to know is to get real data.

“I wish,” he sighed, “that there were a more efficient way to do this. Alas!”

That’s A Lot to Keep Track Of.

It can be difficult to keep to a weekly schedule, especially if you’re posting two or three times per week. Knowing when you should schedule posts is important, but so is being prepared to post on schedule. Have content planned, written and approved in advance, so you’ll never be forced to publish before you’re ready or miss your ideal publishing window.

To create a content calendar for planning content and tracking progress, you can make use of a program like Trello, Google Drive (Calendar/Sheets), Microsoft Excel, or one of multiple other options available.

Many platforms with built-in blog integration have an automatic post scheduling option. If there’s a chance you’ll be busy with something else when it’s time to publish, you’re in good hands.

 

Why Do You Need to Publish Regularly?

Because Google wants to deliver the most useful and up-to-date information, it prioritizes crawling sites which publish regularly. Adding new content signals to Google that your site is worth re-crawling more frequently.

Every new piece of content gives you another opportunity to focus on new, related keywords and increase visibility. Combined with effective content and promotion, this means traffic will increase.

A regular publishing schedule also has a positive effect on your authority, which is both a ranking factor for Google and a factor in your industry reputation. By consistently putting out interesting and useful content, you will become known for providing value and insight. This is often called “thought leadership”: being recognized as an authority within the community.

 

Your future customer, whose faith in your thought leadership allows him to completely ignore the flood of low-quality content from your competitors.

2. Your content needs to be high-quality.

What Does It Mean to Be High-Quality?

First Ideal length and depth of content depend entirely on your goal. These are not hard and fast rules, just guidelines for finding your content’s ideal length.

  • High SERP rankings: Aim for at least 2,000 words, but even from 3,000-10,000 words, to get the most backlinks. Ideally, these will have heavier research and more valuable insights and takeaways. Of course, if you’re putting in this much effort, always start with keyword research!
  • Maximum social shares: 1,000-2,000 words performs best, especially if it’s solving a problem or explaining something interesting. This helps reinforce authority and community engagement.
  • Highest engagement: Blogs with under 600 words tend to get the most comments, especially if they’re discussion prompts. But this length won’t help with social shares or SEO, so these blogs should wait until you already have an audience.
  • A comfortable middle ground: 750 words tends to perform acceptably across the board.

Try to match the amount of information to the length! Don’t shove 3,000 words’ worth of information into 1000 and omit important context, and don’t bloat your 300-word blurb to 1000 words chasing social shares.

 

Second Your content must be relevant to your target audience.

  • Keeping a consistent topic helps readers and Google understand what your entire site is about.
  • Consider removing older and irrelevant content, and keeping your site to a specific group of topics.

 

Third Modern content readers have certain expectations. If you don’t make your writing easy and interesting to read, it effectively has no audience.

  • Add visuals or images that reflect the content and add interest. As a starting point, try one image per 300 words to break up sections.
  • Most paragraphs should be no longer than three sentences. While it may not look like a block of text on desktop, longer paragraphs are much less pleasant to read on mobile.
  • Follow clear writing best practices: use active voice, keep subjects and verbs close together, and vary sentence length.

 

It’s technically a car, but you wouldn’t rely on it for a road trip. 

Why Does Quality Matter?

In short: Quality reinforces authority.

Search algorithms pay attention to how readers engage with your content. If the overall quality of your content is poor, it is immediately obvious to both your audience and search engine crawlers, and damages your authority with both.

Since people prefer to read high-quality content, gaining the appropriate reputation will help your readership and overall traffic. High-quality articles are also more likely to get valuable backlinks, since they contain worthwhile information. Such responses signal your site’s authority and improve ranking.

 

3. Your content needs to be properly optimized.

How Do You Optimize Content?

Google uses the words in content to understand its subject, so ensure your content is relevant to the keywords you are targeting. Every industry has top keyword themes. To guide overall on-page content strategy, combine relevant themes with your expertise within these themes.

For your page-by-page strategy, assigning specific keywords to content requires finding an attainable keyword with high search volume.

You can start from either end. Either create content around a high-performing keyword theme, or assign an attainable keyword with lower search volume to an existing piece of content. The latter is what SEOs often refer to as “low-hanging fruit”: longer-tail search terms so relevant to your content that you already rank.

Make sure you only put keywords where it feels natural – don’t shove them in just to have them. This is a cardinal sin of SEO known as “keyword stuffing”. It worked ten years ago, but today Google will penalize you for over-stuffing keywords into copy. Prioritize high-quality writing over keyword density.

Finally, put your content in context by linking to prominent industry sites and articles. Having outbound links to authoritative sites is helpful for your users and raises your authority by extension.

 

Towns became cities through a combination of accessibility and opportunity.

Let keywords and great content be your site’s railroad and industry.

Conclusion

Optimizing on-page content for SEO isn’t about being the best writer. It’s about balancing best practices with a nuanced understanding of Google’s algorithms, thus reinforcing authority and rankings to grow your online presence.

Looking for an expert in SEO or Paid Media? If your industry authority isn’t receiving the attention it deserves, Titan’s team of experienced analysts can help. Contact us for a free evaluation.

If these content tips helped you, get a weekly roundup of industry trends and important insights delivered to your inbox and subscribe to our newsletter.

3 Website Tips and Tools for SEO Success

SEO can seem confusing or even overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. At first, Google’s algorithms created a Wild West of best practices, but today’s algorithms look for website traits that searchers consider legitimately valuable and authoritative. Many things critical for SEO success relate to the structure of your website itself, from the way it’s built to the tags you use when presenting content.

Here’s how you can make Google happy and satisfy your users at the same time.

1.      Your site must load quickly.

If your site loads at a snail’s pace, Google won’t crawl it completely, it won’t rank well, and your users will leave. Fortunately, there’s a lot of help out there.

A snail on a toy airplane.

This little guy may dream of flying at 550 miles/hour, but he needs to re-evaluate his strategy.

 

How To Diagnose & Fix Slow Loading Speeds

If you don’t know if your site is slow – or you aren’t sure how to fix it – Google is a great place to start with its free web-based analytics tools. These will give you a sitewide overview, with suggestions for improving speed overall and on the worst pages.

 

Some useful tools:

 

To get page-by-page suggestions, your SEO team can generate reports for individual pages using Lighthouse and Google Analytics, and determine if the suggested changes are viable.

 

Not ready to use tools? Here are a few easy, important tweaks you can implement:

  • Switch to a faster web host.
  • Reduce the size of images and files so they load more quickly.
  • Avoid unnecessary plugins & extensions.
  • If you have enough traffic and budget, start using a Content Delivery Network.

 

Complicated plane cockpit.

“I never could’ve landed this plane in under three seconds back when I was a snail.”

 

Why Does Loading Speed Matter?

If your site is too slow, users will leave before it even finishes loading, meaning all your hard work on SEO is wasted.

 

First – Mobile search is becoming increasingly important. The majority of customer segments use mobile search to find you:

 

Mobile traffic is important for all industries and types of sites, but it’s especially critical for some:

 

B2B is in almost as deep:

 

Second – Page load time matters in mobile searches:

 

2.      Your site must be easy to navigate.

Hands pointing to different map locations.

If your users look like this, admitting you have a problem is the first step to finding a solution.

How to Improve Your Site’s Navigation

To make your desktop site easier to navigate, make sure you:

  • Create a header with links to other important sections.
  • Organize the links into logical groups that make them easy to find.
  • Fix “orphan” pages (which no other pages link to) by adding internal links.

 

Mobile sites need all of these done, and also come with another set of challenges. On a small touch screen, navigation is critical. You need to ensure that:

  • Text and images are large enough to read without zooming
  • Links and buttons are visible and large enough to tap with clumsy fingers.
  • If interstitials/overlays must be present, they are easily dismissed.

 

Check out Google’s guide on making your website mobile-friendly.

 

Why Does Your Site Need To Be Easy To Navigate?

Google’s bot crawls through your site to look at every page. Then, the pages are indexed so they can be found via search engine. If the bot can’t navigate through your site, Google will not be able to find and index your pages – and they will not appear on the SERP. This means that any page on your website should be easy for your users to find.

Child holding hands with a robot.

“My friend doesn’t understand you, so forget being invited to my birthday party on the SERP’s first page.”

-Google

 

Mobile Usability and Your Ranking

Here’s another thing to consider: Google values mobile websites so highly that in 2018 it rolled out “Mobile-First” indexing, which prioritizes indexing mobile over desktop sites.

You may find that Google is only indexing your mobile site’s content, which is a problem if your mobile site doesn’t have the same content as your desktop site.

Google also prioritizes pages with mobile versions on the mobile SERP. So, not having a mobile website not only frustrates your customers, but also makes you far less likely to rank well in mobile searches. Don’t buy into fearmongering – it won’t affect your rankings on desktop – but since mobile searches are so important, you can’t afford to let them go.

This shouldn’t be an imposition, since you want a mobile site anyway to keep your customers happy. Just treat your mobile site not as a pared-down version of your desktop site, but as an alternative layout that should still offer full functionality.

Three people on their cell phones.

These people are literally searching your keywords right now.

Do you want them to settle for your competitors?

 

3. Your site needs appropriate tags on every page.

Metatags are a crucial element in communicating information to Google and your users. The Internet is full of advice on tags, and there are a lot of them.

Here’s a quick and easy reference to actually useful webpage elements:

Tags/ElementsEvery Page?What Does It Do?HTML Appearance Example
TitleYes!Serves as the clickable headline for your site’s organic listing on the SERP.<title> … </title>
HeadingYes!Tells the user and Google the topic of your content.<h1> … </h1>
DescriptionYes!Shows underneath the title on the SERP instead of a page excerpt.<meta name=”description” content=” … “>
Hreflang, language codesIf you have multiple language versionsTells Google what language your page is in, to give users the right version.<a hreflang=” … “>
Open GraphAny page you want/expect to be shared on FacebookTells Facebook how to parse your page when a user links to it.<meta property=”og:title” content=” …. ” />
Robots.txt fileNo! Only once in your root directory.Tells Google to not crawl or index the pages listed.URL: [yourwebsite.com]/robots.txt

 

Takeaway

Google and Bing work hard to make their ranking algorithms reflect actual usage and people’s preferences. These changes not only benefit your position in the SERPs but make your site more attractive to users. Implementing best practices regarding page speed, ease of navigation, and effective metatag usage will improve user experience and validate your SEO efforts.

If you are having trouble implementing best practices, Titan Growth’s all-star team has experience with all aspects of SEO, from optimizing new websites to encouraging continued growth for established sites. Contact us for a free evaluation or subscribe to our weekly newsletter for industry trends and important insights delivered to your inbox.