Updated: Jan 14, 2021
Remember: it’s not about SEO.
It’s about users.
Make the message clear and each page layout simple.
Find out how important an H1 tag is for SEO today. Here's what headers on pages mean and how they are viewed by search engines.
Simply stated, H1 header tags are important.
But it isn’t just making sure we use H1s on webpages or even how we use them.
It’s actually understanding what an H1 is (in modern definition) and how it fits into a page’s organisation.
More importantly, it’s knowing how an H1 – and other header tags (H2, H3, H4, etc.) – fit into the overall user experience of that page and the website as a whole.
Technically, that main header tag doesn’t even have to be an H1.
But, whether it is an H1 or another header tag, that main header is incredibly significant.
Let me explain.
H1s Aren’t What They Used to Be
H1s used to be systematic and standardised; but no longer, as search is smarter than ever before and getting smarter every day.
The idea of using an H1 as a main category – a headline, if you will – has not changed.
But the role of that header is built more around the overall user experience of the page – and how it helps to improve that experience – than the keyword variations included in it and the order in which an H1 shows up in the header hierarchy.
So, that main headline doesn’t have to be an H1, but the fundamentals behind it acting as an H1 remain.
The main header of a website, which could easily be an H1, should be an overarching, short summary of the content on the page.
And the rest of the page’s content should comfortably exist below it on the page, likely in the form of subheaders.
To further understand the importance of an H1 – and how to craft perfect ones for your content – it helps to understand where H1s came from and how they evolved.
Because now, their purpose is important, but their formality is unrestricted with rules or prerequisites.
What H1s Used to Be
There used to be some pretty straightforward requirements for H1s in regard to SEO.
Include the most important keyword(s).
Don’t use more (or less) than one H1 per page.
Make sure the H1 is the first and largest text on a page.
But Google has made it clear these are no longer the rules of the land.
Websites have evolved, as has the way they are presented, the way they are crawled (by search engines), and the way they are consumed (by humans).
What H1s Are Now
Having multiple H1s isn’t an issue.
It’s actually a fairly common trend on the web, especially with HTML5, according to Google’s John Mueller in the video linked above.
And how many H1s there are or where they line up on the page shouldn’t be overthought if the heading structure of a certain page is the best, most organized way to present the content on that page.
“Your site is going to rank perfectly with no H1 tags or with five H1 tags,” Mueller said in late 2019.