Header tags and how you use them in SEO Copy

Header tags and how you use them in SEO Copy

Some say there are two sorts of people. Those who code, and those who don’t.

If you’re going to be successful at SEO copywriting you’ll have to dip into HTML a little, as we saw in Make Title Tags Work for You, but you don’t need to be a fully fledged geek.

Six header tags. But only two for you to worry about

In days of yore, when I learned how to be a sub editor, we used mark up hard copy so that the typesetter would know what we wanted the copy to look like on the page.

The typed manuscript would look something like this:


Small disaster. Not many killed*


Last night, as dusk drew in over the sleepy seaside town of Walmington-on-Sea, Mrs Ethel Brown (84) ran into a traffic bollard on her mobility scooter, scattering joggers and dog walkers alike, and crushing four unfortunate crustaceans…


Damage estimated at £47 by Borough Surveyor


Borough Surveyor, Mr Brian Bloggs, peering over his clipboard, sucked air through his nicotine-stained teeth and passed wind audibly…

HTML markup is very similar (HTML stands for hyper text markup language). Instead of ‘Headline’ and ‘Subhead’, we have <h1>, </h2>, <h3>, <h4>, <h5> and <h6> tags, in descending order of importance. There’s a matching closing tag – </h1>, </h2> etc – which indicates where the heading finishes.

Google and the other search engines appear to put a greater importance on words that appear between the <h2> and </h2> tags than between <h3> tags and lower. Words that appear between <h1> and </h1> are the most important of all.

Just like traditional headlines and subheads.

I’ve never used more than the three largest header tags, and then I’ve only used <h3> in only one project. Keep it simple. If I only need two of the header tags, I’m fairly sure they will be enough for you, too.

Put your SEO key phrases where they have most effect

Build your headlines and subheads around the key phrases you want to target. In this post, I’m interested in ‘SEO Copy’, ‘header tags’ and ‘key phrases’.

H1 Tags

You can see how I’ve put the most important key phrase to Writing For SEO in the <h1> tags, while the others are in the <h2> tags. On this site, the <h1> copy is the large headline against the orange background, while the <h2> copy is the larger and bolder headings that appear in the main copy.

The above piece of code looks pretty frightening, but if, like most people, you’re using something like WordPress, your software looks after the coding for you.

How many header tags?

This is very important.

You should only have one set of <h1> tags on each page, while you can have as many <h2> tags as you like – or as many as the copy’s structure, logic and readability can stand. With blog posts, I seldom use more than four <h2> tags or less than two.

I have to hold my hands up. The theme I use for Writing For SEO does not have an <h1> headline on the home page. It’s a weakness that I want to fix, but there are other factors that work in the site’s favour, so despite this handicap, Writing For SEO appears on Google.co.uk at between position two and position 11 for the search ‘writing for seo’. The results on Google.com are only a little worse.

Inserting the tags

For the blog post pages, the copy put in WordPress’ ‘Enter title here’ field appears in <h1> tags, but I have to use the ‘text’ tab to insert <h2> tags in place manually. That’s the only piece of code I have to touch.

H2 tagging in WordPress

While the h2 tags tactic should work on WordPress and most CMS and Blogging platforms, you’ll need to check that your theme puts your titles in <h1> tags and only has one set of <h1> tags on your published pages.

Have a look at the code used for one of your pages by going into your browser’s View menu and choosing an option that says “Source Code’ or something very similar. If you’re using Google Chrome, you’ll need to go one more level down – it’s under ‘Developer’ in the View menu. You can then use Find to check how many <h1> tags you have.

It’s easier than it looks

It may look as if there’s a lot to digest here, but it boils down to just three points:

  1. Use <h1> and <h2> tags for targeting your preferred key phrases
  2. Use just one <h1> headline per page, but as many <h2>s as good writing allows
  3. Check that your Blogging or CMS platform publishes pages that follow rule 2

But please leave a comment if something isn’t clear.

*When I was trained in journalism and editing, this wonderful example of a bad headline was cited as being real and appearing in The Times, many years ago. Disappointingly, I could find no reference to it when Googling today. Maybe you know something about this story.

Have you read these?

  • Pingback: On-page Optimization Tips for 2013 ‹ Smart Business Trends()

  • Pingback: The AppThat Top 5 SEO Tips - AppThat Digital Marketing Solutions()

  • Adarsh

    Dear David,

    Really great tips about heading tags, appreciates you great job. now my blog visible in first page. Thank u

    • http://www.writingforseo.org/ David Rosam

      Thanks Adarsh. It’s good to see my tips are helping.

  • carl

    Hi David, I am new to seo, i have been told that my url and h1 tag are the same, is this bad for seo

    • http://www.writingforseo.org/ David Rosam

      Hi Carl

      I wouldn’t worry about the URL and h1 tag being the same. However, I would try to make the URL shorter than the headline (h1 tagged content) and just contain the key phrase you’re targeting.


      Please get in touch again if it doesn’t!

  • Pingback: How H Tags (HTML Heading Tags) Impact SEO | Orange and Juicy()

  • Pingback: Is your homepage content doing its job effectively? | Yola()

  • http://www.writingforseo.org/ David Rosam

    Hi Onairam

    You certainly can – just sent it using the contact form.

    • http://www.writingforseo.org/ David Rosam

      Thanks. I have your message. I’ve been away for a few days so have only just had a chance to look at the site you’re asking about.

      On the home page, the headline Residential Real Estate should have tags.

      I’d recommend you put some subheads into the body copy, and these should have s.

      On the Selling Your Home page, use for the headline as before, and s around Sellers and Working With Real Estate Agents.


  • FortitudoX

    Hi David,

    Quick (Well it started quick and then grew) question for you; I use archive pages as main pages and thus have roughly 25 H1s for each author page. I know keyword density isn’t a huge factor but does using my key word 25 times in a H1 setting on 1 page affect my SEO negatively? My keyword pops up roughly 75 times per page, 1/3 from H1, 1/3 from body and 1/3 from URL. Example page can be found here: http://www.brilliantlifequotes.com/author/bertrand-russell

    • http://www.writingforseo.org/ David Rosam

      Hi there

      My reply grew, too. So I’m making it into a proper blog post, which will be finished very soon.

      • http://www.writingforseo.org/ David Rosam

        Hi there

        Here is my long reply http://www.writingforseo.org/remove-a-page-google/. I hope it helps.

        • FortitudoX

          Great, absolutely, thanks for taking the time for such a informative response. Webdesign/publishing is new territory me and you gave me some good ideas and confirmed a few hunches I had. I wrote a lengthier response over there.

          • http://www.writingforseo.org/ David Rosam

            No problem.

            I’m glad you found it useful.

  • aditi

    so how about taking the contact details , partners , technology how should it go? whether heading tags and under which heading tag, ?? h2 or h3 .. please tell us

    • http://www.writingforseo.org/ David Rosam

      I’d think in terms of how I can use schema.org to get more leverage from that kind of data. Google is stressing rich snippets more and more.


  • http://internetwarz.com/ Vipul Behl

    Hi David,
    I am i currently not using header 1 in any of my blog posts, is it bad for seo.
    Thanks in advance

    • http://www.writingforseo.org/ David Rosam

      Hi Vipul

      The answer is Yes!

      Try to use h1 and h2 tags in your posts.


      • http://internetwarz.com/ Vipul Behl

        actually i make my headings h2 because if i make then h1 then they will have a font size greater than my post title.
        I want to keep my post heading in h1, do you know any way of doing that.
        Please check out my blog and guide me.
        Thanks in advance.

        • http://www.writingforseo.org/ David Rosam

          Your post title, as it appears on your blog page, should be your h1. Then other headings within your post should be h2.

          What platform are you using for your blog? WordPress? Blogger? Something else?

          • http://internetwarz.com/ Vipul Behl

            I am using WordPress for my blog.
            Is my post title in h1? I really don’t know whether it is in h1 or not.

          • http://www.writingforseo.org/ David Rosam

            Hi Vipul

            Can you let me have the URL of your blog, please?

            Then I can tell you.

          • http://internetwarz.com/ Vipul Behl

            My blog url is : http://internetwarz.com

          • http://www.writingforseo.org/ David Rosam

            Your post title is in h1:

            Apple launches Apple Watch

            But only on the post page itself, not on the Home page.

            That’s great. Nothing to worry about.

          • http://internetwarz.com/ Vipul Behl

            Thank you David,
            I really was worried, I thought that the heading were not in h1. But you cleared it all.
            Thanks again

          • http://www.writingforseo.org/ David Rosam

            A pleasure Vipul

  • http://seoclassics.blogspot.com Btechbaddies av

    I am getting 3 to 5 header tags in my blogger,,when i chek from source page. please suggestheader tags optimization techniques..is there any saperate code?

    • http://www.writingforseo.org/ David Rosam

      Hi there

      There’s no separate code – just the , etc.

      I like to have just one on a page and as many s as I need to naturally divide up the copy. On longer pieces, I occasionally use s as well, but that’s pretty rarely. I like to keep things simple and not looking like a entry in an academic journal.