SEO Header Tags: A Beginners Guide To SEO Headings

What are Header Tags?

Header tags, also known as HTML heading tags, are a set of HTML elements that are used to define the headings and subheadings on a web page. 

For example, below you will see the H1 header on the Amazon Fire Stick product page, as well as an H2 and H3 header:

6 Types of Header Tags

There are 6 total types of header tags ranging from H1 to H6, with H1 being the most important and H6 being the least important.

The H1 tag is used for the user-visible content title heading (not to be confused with the page title) and the H2 tags tend to be used for primary headings within a piece of content.

The other header tags ranging from H3 down to H6 are used as hierarchical subheadings to organize the content in a logical structure.

In most cases, you will only need to use H1, H2, and H3, however, in longer-form articles you may require H4, H5, and even H6 tags.

What are the Benefits of Header Tags?

There are many benefits of using header tags effectively within content, many of which indirectly support the SEO of that webpage.

Header Tags Provide Structure

When planning out and writing content, using header tags provides a useful structure to either create an initial outline of ideas to flesh out within a content piece, or they are useful to restructure existing content into a more organized fashion that is easier to follow and consume.

This makes it easier for search engines to understand the structure of the page and the importance of each section.

Think of how a non-fiction book is structured with chapters, sections, headings, and subheadings - it’s the same principle but in a much shorter form.

They Improve Accessibility

Providing a clear outline of the content makes it easier for users to navigate and scan content, which is how most online content is consumed. It’s easier to jump to specific sections rather than having to read through huge blocks of text to find the right information.

Headers Break Up Blocks of Text

Instead of having long blocks of text, even if split into paragraphs, headers add context to each section, visually breaking it up for easier consumption. This also helps search engines give more context to each section, which could lead to Google using a section for its featured snippets.

How To Add Header Tags in HTML

Depending on which web platform you are using, adding header tags is quite easy, but may vary depending on the CMS you use. In this section, we’ll show you how to manually add header tags using HTML markup.

To create an HTML heading tag, make sure to switch to your HTML editor so your platform registers the markup.

Then, decide which level of header you want to create, whether it’s H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, or H6.

Next, add starting and ending tags as follows (we’ll use an H2 for this example):


Finally, type your header text within those tags, for example:

<h2>Header Tags for SEO</h2>

This will then tell web browsers and search engines that this is an H2 tag.

For example, when inspecting the code on this page, we can see the text 'SEO Header Tags: A Beginners Guide To SEO Headings' within the H1 tags, indicating that is the H1 heading for this page.

H1 heading example

Using Headings in Themes & CMS

If you use a CMS such as WordPress, Wix, Shopify, or another one, these should already have visual options in their rich text editors to select which header tag you want the selected text to have.

Header Tag Tips

Let’s dive into some specific header tag tips to help you know when and how to use them effectively, for maximum SEO and user experience benefits:

Keep Headers Concise

Although there is no hard rule for how long text within header tags should be, the generally agreed guideline is between 10–70 characters. Keep them to the point, so users can easily understand them at a glance as they skim down the page.

Include Keywords

It’s important to include relevant keywords within header tags, in order of relevance to the page topic. For example:

In the H1 tag, include the primary keyword as this is the most important and lets readers and search engines know this page is about this topic.

Within H2 tags, you should use variations of the primary keyword and secondary keywords that relate to the main topic.

Finally, for H3 headers and below, you can also use additional secondary keywords that are more specific, including keywords that give context to the topic (lexical semantic keywords [LSI keywords]).

Avoid Keyword Stuffing

As important as it is to have relevant keywords within headers, it’s equally important not to overdo this for the sake of adding keywords for the search engine. This can hurt your SEO if you do this. If keywords are overused within headers or the copy, it’s best to use alternative phrases to make the content read more naturally.

Single H1 Usage

The H1 is the only header tag that should only occur no less than but no more than once on a page. Typically, H1 tags are used for page or blog content titles (not to be confused with the page title, which is hidden from users).

For primary headings within content, it’s best to use H2 tags, and then use the H3s and below for nested hierarchical organization.

Keep Header Tags Consistent

Some people like to write header tags in title case format, others prefer just capitalizing the first letter in the sentence. Whichever one you choose, make sure to be consistent as users prefer a consistent experience.

The same goes with the length of header tags - if you typically write headers on the shorter spectrum, then be consistent across your website with shorter headers.

Creating a consistent experience for users is important because they start to form expectations as they read your content and they’ll be more likely to come back and read your content if it provides an enjoyable and engaging experience.

Don’t Skip Levels

When using header tags it’s important not to skip levels. What this means is that if you are using H2 tags, for example, and you want to create subheadings, do not jump to H4 tags, but instead only go one down, to H3. The number indicates the hierarchical level, so it’s important to respect and use them appropriately.

Make Headers Compelling

Another purpose for headers is to pull the reader into wanting to read that section of content. The more compelling it is, the more engaging. Here are a few tips to write more compelling headers:

  • Use action verbs to convey a sense of urgency or importance.

  • Use numbers, statistics, or concrete details to make your heading more specific.
  • Use questions to make readers curious and engage them in your content.
  • Highlight the benefits of your content in your heading.
  • Use ‘power’ words that evoke emotion and interest in your reader.

Optimise for Featured Snippets

You’ve probably seen Google return answers directly in the search results after you typed a query. These are known as featured snippets and if headers are used correctly, Google may opt to use that section as a featured snippet or answer card. Here are some tips to enhance headers for featured snippets:

  • Answer the question directly - if your header is in question form, simply answer the question below the header concisely.

  • Use structured data markup - this helps Google understand the context and relevance of your content.
  • Use subheadings - this makes it easier for Google to understand the structure of your page.
  • Focus on clarity - avoid jargon, technical terms, or long sentences.
  • Keep your header short - ideally no more than 60-70 characters.
  • Use lists and tables - also, make sure they are properly formatted.
  • Keep your content fresh - update your content regularly to keep it current.

For example, here is a featured snippet for the question 'how to get more followers on instagram'. According to Search Engine Land, a featured snippet gets approximately 8% of all clicks.

How To Get Instagram Followers Featured Snippet Example

Hike + Header Tags

You can use the Hike SEO platform to research keywords that can be used within headers and build out a structure for your content. Additionally, you can use the content wizard to instantly create content for your page or blog article, and then optimize the headings to fit the recommendations within this guide.

Sign up today to start making SEO quick and easy for your small business or agency.