124 - SEO On Page Headings

Day 124 - SEO On Page Headings - what they are and how they affect SEO

In my recent SEO post 123 - SEO Meta Title and Description I talked about the importance of two fields that are of great importance to create good SEO for each of your website pages. Today I want to talk about other really important fields that appear on your website page that are also key to SEO namely website page headings.

Website page headings are special fields that you add to your website page, they are not simply text fields where you change the font, size and colour just to make them stand out like a heading! Most website design software will allow you to create up to 3 types of heading and subheadings. The terminology may vary between different software. In Jimdo software which I use the object you add to the page is titled 'heading' and within that object you can create either 'large', 'medium' or 'small' headings. Regardless of the software used to create the heading if you look at the source code created by the software (just right click on the webpage in your browser and choose 'view source code') you will see that all headings will be surrounded by code <h1>...</h1>, <h2>...</h2> or <h3>...</h3> (<h4> through <h6> also exist but most software like Jimdo will limit you to the first 3 suggesting that anything further is overcomplicating things somewhat!). In Jimdo the 'large' heading is <h1>, 'medium' is <h2> and 'small' is <h3>. Following on from my previous post example you can see below how I have created a <h1> heading on Lucy Gell's 'All Bets Are Off' acid plate etching product page.

You should create a <h1> heading on every website page that you create. This heading should briefly describe what the page is about and you should try to embed the keywords that you are optimising your website page for (see 120 - SEO Matching Keywords & Phrases To Web Pages). You may need to add additional words if the keywords alone are not readable enough! The <h1> heading is extremely valuable in terms of SEO so you should ensure that it appears and that you place your key keywords in there.

Your <h1> heading should not be confused with your meta title described in my recent SEO post. The meta title is off screen and created specifically to appear in a certain way in Google search results rather than on your website page itself. Your <h1> heading, however, will appear as an on-screen heading or title on the website page itself. For good SEO results your meta title and <h1> heading will probably look very similar and both contain the keywords that you are optimising your website page for.

You should also ensure that each page ONLY HAS ONE <H1> HEADING! It can appear anywhere in the page although it will usually appear at the top of the page. You can, however, include multiple <h2> headings or subheadings. These have a much lower value to SEO than a <h1> heading (although high than ordinary text elsewhere on the page), however, if you have a particularly lengthy website page these are a great way of breaking up lots of text and you can help search engines understand the page better by summarising each section with <h2> or <h3> subheadings.

It is, however, important that you design your webpage for humans as well as search engines. If your web page is quite lengthy it is very likely that visitors will scan the web page before reading certain sections that they are interested in in detail. They are able to scan it quickly by using your headings and sub headings. Think of your main heading (<h1>) as the title of a book and then your sub headings (<h2>) as chapters within your book. You can quickly read the book title to ensure that you have located the correct book and then you can quickly flick through the book to locate the chapter that you are interested in before then reading the detail in that chapter. If your headings and subheadings are in a different font size and colour and strategically placed around your page you make it easier for the visitor to work in a similar manor to locate what they are looking for without reading everything. You also help visitors with accessibility issues to locate things on your page through good use of headings and sub headings. 

When creating your headings and subheadings think about how long you make them. If your heading has only 2 or 3 words it might work harder for you for SEO, however, it might not be very readable unless you also add other words to it. If it has 6 or 7 words you might start to water keywords down so that they cannot work as hard for you. Also be careful not to just replicate your product title here. In this case Lucy's product is 'All Bets Are Off - whippet dog acid plate etching'. I have not used that as the page heading <h1> because people are unlikely to use the search term 'all bets are off' to locate this product. They are, however, likely to search for 'running whippet', 'running dog', 'whippet art' or 'dog art' for example. I have optimised other product pages on Lucy's website for 'whippet art', 'dog art etc' therefore I have simply focused this page on 'running whippet'.

In my next post I will show you how to make your images on your website pages work harder for you as part of your search engine strategy.

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