Every page or post on a website will often contain multiple headings. H1 tags are typically served as the first header that users view as the title for a page or post. These types of tags are different from the other headers, or subheads that you might find on a page, like h2s and h3s.
Read our guide to learn about the importance of H1 tags for SEO; best practices for writing them; and great examples of H1 tags that you can draw inspiration from when crafting your own web content.
The first header tag available on a website is the <H1> HTML tag. It is used for a page or post title. The H1 value is enclosed in <h1> tags as HTML.
Aside from being written this way in HTML, the H1 tag is often formatted differently from other page headers (like H2s and H3s) to make the text stand out.
Most people assume that H1s are the same as page titles / title tags that are displayed as <title> in the HTML code of a web page. These are two different tags and we’ll cover the main differences below:
To find H1 tags on a web page, go into the source code of a web page. Hit CTRL + F and search for h1.
In the past, best practice was to only include a single H1 tag on a web page. I still follow this practice, but in recent years John Mueller from Google has stated that you can have multiple (or even no) H1 tags on a page:
"You can use H1 tags as often as you want on a page. There's no limit — neither upper nor lower bound.
H1 elements are a great way to give more structure to a page so that users and search engines can understand which parts of a page are kind of under different headings, so I would use them in the proper way on a page.
And especially with HTML5, having multiple H1 elements on a page is completely normal and kind of expected. So it's not something that you need to worry about. And some SEO tools flag this as an issue and say like 'oh you don't have any H1 tag' or 'you have two H1 tags.' From our point of view, that's not a critical issue. From a usability point of view, maybe it makes sense to improve that. So, it's not that I would completely ignore those suggestions, but I wouldn't see it as a critical issue.
Your site can do perfectly fine with no H1 tags or with five H1 tags."
Moz wrote a case study after testing this theory on their blog articles and found the results to be inconclusive - they didn’t experience notable growth or decreases after switching their titles from h2s to h1s.
I prefer having a single h1 per page, but it really comes down to making sure your website hierarchy and information flows in a way that’s best for users.
Consider headers to serve as a weight - with h1s signaling the most important content, h2s signaling the second most important content, and h3s, h4s, h5s holding progressively less weight.
You wouldn’t want to have an h3 tag serve as your title, followed by h2 or h1 tags as your subheads.
The interpretation or context of a website is one of the most complicated challenges that search engines face when deciding what pages should rank well for a given user query.
They use data from hundreds of signals to be able to do so in the most accurate and quickest way.
The page title is one of those signs, and another one is the H1 Tag.
Search engine spiders read the HTML code as they crawl the content of a website and attempt to recognize the sentences that are contained in the heading tags because they consider these to be representative of the content of the website.
So, you're making search engines understand the context and intent of your web page through the inclusion of keywords within your H1 tag.
Another explanation why headings are important for SEO is that they make browsing the page simpler for users.
By staring at the H1 tag, the user will see at a glance what your web page is about. The remainder of the headings also give users a major clue as to what to expect in the various sections in your article.
Here are a few best practices to consider when writing H1 tags for SEO:
First, you’ll want to perform keyword research and identify a keyword that has higher search volume and espouses what your web page is about. As an example, if you’re working on a guide that teaches users the basics for buying a house, a primary keyword to be “how to buy a house” - which has 22,000 monthly searches on Google.
You’ll want to avoid lengthy headings for your web pages - a good character length is about 65 characters or less. If you want to add more information that won’t fit within 65 characters, you could consider adding a subhead underneath your h1 tag.
H1s should be used to describe what your web page is all about. This is best for both Google and users to help your articles rank for appropriate searches.
This also ties in with the prior best practice - make sure that your H1 (and content!) answer the appropriate user intent.
For example, users searching for mortgage rates are likely looking for current rates among different loan types (30 year, 15 year, FHA loans, etc…) - they wouldn’t be looking for the history of mortgage rates, or mortgage rates from two years ago.
User experience has become a strongly integrated part of SEO over the years.
Search engines have developed to such a high degree that they can understand the intent behind what users are searching for.
Search engines are continuously shifting due to machine learning and changes in their algorithms - the latest change for search ranking criteria is now based on the billions of users on Google and Bing, and what they’re doing when visiting web pages.
And h1s are one of the most significant elements that influences their behavior on your website because they serve to enhance the user experience.
Not only do search engines use h1s as a signal for ranking, but they also look at how h1s are formatted and placed on your website through the lens of the user.
When I say unique, what I really mean is to make sure that every page on your website has a different h1 tag.
Google hates duplicated content on web pages because it can be hard for them to determine out of several of your web pages that have the same content, which one should be ranking in its search engine results pages for a given query.
If Google can’t determine which page best serves that query, it may choose to not display any of those pages, which is bad for your site.
Make sure that your page title (meta title) and H1 are somewhat similar. If a user enters your website after reading the meta title in the search results, but see that the H1 isn’t closely related, it can provide a jarring experience that may cause them to bounce from your website back into the search results to find a different website that matches their query.
This hurts your website’s SEO, because Google uses bounce rates and time spent on a page as a ranking signal in its algorithm. The worse these metrics are, the worse your pages will perform organically.
Like I mentioned with H1s playing to a good user experience, you want your H1 tags to look different compared to the other subheads on your page. Design-wise, you can style your H1s to be big, bold, and noticeable.
You also want the H1 to be… visible to users. In the past, webmasters would stuff their web pages with keywords and either style them to blend into the background of a web page. Users wouldn’t see these keywords, but search engines would in the page source code, which was an old blackhat tactic of manipulating keyword rankings for a page.
Google has since grown significantly to where it doesn’t consider keyword density to be a ranking factor. It will, however, actively penalize websites that try to hide content in this way from users.
It’s also a poor practice to hide H1s for users via CSS - some site themes may do this, so it’s a good idea to check that any enclosed <h1></h1> tags are displaying properly on a page.
Here are a few examples of good H1 tags that you can draw inspiration from:
The below example is targeting the term "SEO" - it's short, succinct, and matches the intent of a user who is looking to learn more about search engine optimization.
Another term targeting "SEO", it targets the term "SEO", and matches the intent of most users by offering a step-by-step guide that alludes to it being geared toward beginners.
Lastly, the below example is a guide on how to buy a house. It promises to go step-by-step into the home buying process and has an added bonus of being timely (updated in 2021).