Tips for Using the HTML Header Tag

html header tagOne of the things I’ve paid some close attention to lately, especially for improving page rank, is the HTML header tag.

Since hearing so much about how the search engines are considering the header tags more significant than in the past, I’ve been making a few tweaks and have seen some improvement on a few of my web pages where I’ve used the HTML header tags correctly.

So let’s take a look at how I use them and a few of the tips I’ve picked up that might help you as well.


How the HTML Header Tag is Used

First off it helps to know how the HTML header tags are used by the search engines as well as your readers.

To the search engines the H1 tag is like a marker.  It’s the HTML code that tells the search engines that the text within the tags, ‘<h1> Text </h1>‘  is more important text than what directly follows it.

To the reader,  the header tag is also giving them an idea of what follows the tag, just as it does for the search engines, but for your reader it clues them in on the highlights of your content and allows them to skim, which readers like.

The search engines also give more weight to the text within the H1 tag because they use it to determine its relevance to what people are searching for.  It also tells them what the page is about.  That’s why it’s important to use your keyword phrase in your h1 tags, more on that in a minute.


Tips for Using the HTML Header Tag

Make sure that your H1 HTML header text is near the top of your page; the best place is right after the opening <body> tag.

When using the H1 tag it will typically display with a bolded slightly larger font.

Getting back to your keyword phrase, you should also use your best keyword phrase within your HTML header tags.  So make sure that your primary keyword or keyword phrase for your page is enclosed in an H1 tag.  At a minimum your header tag can simply be your keyword phrase but for your reader’s sake, it should stand out as a headline that has a natural sound to it.

For example, a headline like ‘top keyword phrases’ sounds pretty basic but it’s also a little dull with simply a keyword phrase in the tag, but a headline like ‘top keyword phrases that grab your reader’s attention‘ not only uses the keyword phrase, it’s written for the reader as well, and the search engines will prefer that.

Remember I said above that the search engines give more weight to the text within the HTML header tag?  Don’t be misled by that.  I’ve actually heard of people putting their entire web page within their header tag hoping to give the whole page more weight.

Sounds good in theory but sort of like shooting yourself in the foot.  The search engines, particularly Google, see that as spamming which means you’re likely to keep your page from gaining any rank at all.

Use your header tags the way they were designed to be used, sparingly and appropriately.

Also don’t use headers simply to make certain text look bigger.  That’s also misleading.  If you want text to stand out, either bold it or use a larger font.


Refer to Google’s Best Practices when Using Header Tags

One of the best things you can do for your webpages is pay attention to Google’s best practices.

Google relieves some of the guess work by telling us exactly what some of those best practices are for creating your webpages and using header tags.   In fact I highly recommend their SEO starter guide, page 20 is devoted to using HTML header tags correctly.

That’s a simple suggestion but a pretty valuable one since most people don’t read this guide 😉

For example, Google tells us that when writing our web pages pretend that you’re writing an outline.  Remember those outlines you wrote in school?  This is very similar to what they are talking about.

The best questions to consider when creating  your web page would be:

What are the main points of your page?
What are the sub-points?

Use this structure to help guide you in selecting text for your header tag and other level header tags such as the H2, H3 and so on.

A word of caution though. Don’t use header tags for text that doesn’t help define the structure or purpose of the page you are creating. Your header tags need to be relevant to the text it precedes.  Google can tell when it’s not.

Several years ago the header tags were more of a styling tool to help make text appear more prominent on a page. Today that is done primarily by the CSS or Cascading Style Sheets.  Today you shouldn’t think of your Header tags as being anything other than the accurate words designating what’s important on your page.

If you’re working hard to make sure that your pages get found by potential customers through the search engines, keep your pages tightly focused, used your best keywords so that they sound natural and not phony to readers and use the HTML header tags appropriately to help the search engines as well as your readers know what your page is about, but even more importantly, use them to help you get found.

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  1. Hi Liz,

    This is very important to know. I just wish I didn’t get so confused with HTML codes. The headline has to be the top keyword phrases? okay I understand, I am going to give it a try. Wish me luck… :-)


  2. Ms. Liz says:

    Paul, using header tags allows you to effectively use your main keyword phrases within your content. The search engines also put slightly more weight on header tags.

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