H1 Header Tags

What they are & Why they are important

The H1 Tag is the name of your web page that regular users see when the land on the page.  It's like the name of a chapter in a book - it provides a concise explanation what this page is about.

What is an H1 Header Tag?

An H1 header is the largest and most prominent heading on a web page. An H1 header is best seen in it's natural environment:  HTML.  This is what an H1 looks like within the HTML that is behind most web pages:

H1 Header

Sidenote: An H1 tag refers to "tags" that are basically the building blocks of HTML.  Every webpage is structured within these tags.  If you see words or acronyms wrapped in < >  then it's very likely a HTML tag.  So the H1 tag is one of those more important HTML tags you want to be aware of.

The H1 acts as the visual header of the page. Whenever you visit a website - it simply tells you what to expect in the upcoming content and gives you some context. Road signs are a great example of how we use indicators in our everyday lives. Signs help us quickly understand what is coming up. The H1 header is a sign and indicator of what's coming next.

Why is the H1 Header important?

In short, H1 headings are important for human readers so search engines also use the text within the H1 as a strong signal.  This is one of few times you can directly tell  Google and Bing what your page is about.  H1 headings and Title tags are two of the most important on page factors that you have 100% control over.  It's  a rare chance as a content owner.

Imagine Google were really lazy and all they did was partially scan content (hint, they actually do this sometimes).  Just like a lazy human reader they are going to scan titles, headings, and sub headings.  Based on these concise snippets of data it will draw a rough conclusion.

The H1 header really has two purposes on the visual page:

  1. Acts as a descriptive title
  2. Provides structure for the page

Most content we create has a title or description.  The H1 header is the best opportunity to describe what your page is about. You can use a brief phrase or a full sentence - neither is right. A good rule of thumb - use direct, simple language (no run-on sentences). You want to concisely and descriptively give your site visitors the 411 on what they are going to find on your page.

Headers also provide a visual structure to written pages. There are actually several levels of headings from H1 to H6.  If you've ever written a basic outline then you understand the concept already.  Just like an outline - headers break up your content into sections and sub-sections.

Overall the H1 header is the best way to tell people (and robots) about your content.  It's a great big sign post that gives visitors a clue what the following content will be about.

You'll need to do a few things first before you start re-writing or editing.

Also, it's usually best to look at you're whole site, then prioritize where it makes sense to make improvements. If you have headers that are completely missing or one-word H1 headings (i.e. 'Home' or 'About') you have some opportunities to improve.  But don't' worry just follow the steps below and we'll have you optimized in no time.

Remember H1s are one piece of the puzzle.  A good H1 needs to be followed by great content that delivers to your readers.  Pull all the stops - if your are truly delighting your readers - they will comment, link and mention the article.  The H1 header is a great tool to help emphasize the core purpose of a specific web page.

How to optimize your website's H1 Header

Below are step-by-step directions on how to review and optimize your H1 headings. You can use this same approach for other headings as well. Remember only use one H1 per web page. Each page on your website should have an H1 header.

It's worth noting - that Step 1 through Step 4 are all preparation steps to help you optimize more effectively.  Hope you find this useful.

  1. Prepare your data
    • You'll need a spreadsheet (excel or Google Sheets)
    • You're in luck!  I set up a H1 Heading Worksheet in Google Sheets.
    • Open the file above & make a copy of this template
    • Copy in your URLs and current H1 tags
    • If you can export a list from your website that is even better
    • Cut and paste the URLs and H1 data into the template
  2. Understand your website
    • Spend a few minutes looking at how your website works - specifically when you create or edit a webpage
    • Every website is unique, depending on what you are using (WordPress, Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace, custom, etc)
    • If you have fewer than 30 pages - it might be easiest to just manually cut and paste the URLs and H1 tags
    • If you have more than 30 pages you may want to find ways to bulk edit  (i.e. for WordPress see Yoast below)
  3. Keep your audience in focus
    • Go back to your template sheet
    • In the the top row above the list of H1 headers you have copied in your spreadsheet
    • Write a short sentence that describes your main audience.
    • Now bold that sentence and make it larger
    • This little trick helps keep your audience top-of-mind as you re-write your H1 headings
  4. Research your keywords
    • Open the 'keywords' tab in the template
    • Open this page in your browser: https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner (create an account if you don't have one, this is 100% free)
    • Add in your top 5-10 keywords that you think are relevant to your website/audience
    • Adjust 'targeting' in the left rail
    • Click on "Keyword Ideas"
    • Click on "Download" this will download the full list in a csv file
    • Open the csv file and sort your results by volume
    • Copy and paste the info into the keywords tab
  5. Re-write your H1 headers
    1. Go page by page and describe the page
    2. Remind yourself who your core audience.  Try to use language that resonates with your audience.
    3. When it makes sense, glance at your keywords and use these to vary the language
    4. Don't force it.  If it reads funny or seems forced - then re-write the heading text.
    5. Note: I already included some functions to track duplicates & character length.  So just focus on your beautiful, unique, and descriptive H1 tags
  6. Review your new H1 header
    • Step one: scan through all your new headings. Make sure they are all unique.
    • Spell check (just do it)
    • Look at you top 3-5 pages.  Re-read these, confirm it's  a good re-write
  7. Load your new H1 headers into your website
    • For those of you using WordPress: Yoast is a great plugin to help you manage many on-page factors for SEO.  It helps you manage things in one place and highlights where you can make incremental improvements.  Joe at Gravitate has a great post on how you can use the Yoast plugin to update all your H1 tags in one place - a huge time saver.
    • Wpsites walks you through how to do bulk edit in WordPress. Big time saver and efficient way to update many pages.
    • Wix has a tutorial on how and where to add/update your H1 header.
    • WeeblyTricks provides a walk-through H1 headings
    • If you site is custom built or uses another web framework - you'll want to work with a trusted person to implement your changes.
    • Other platforms?  Let me know and I'll do my best to update.
  8. Congrats - you did it!


Harness organic search to make meaningful connections with the right audience
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