SEO H1 Tags Best Practices: How to Optimize H1 for Higher Rankings

How would you like to know the top SEO H1 tags best practices for ranking your pages higher in Google?

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If that sounds good, then you’ll want to read every word of this post.

Header tags like the H1 serve an important function for both your users and your SEO. And if you’re serious about increasing your website traffic, then you can’t afford not to optimize your <h1> tags the right way.

As you’ll find out below, H1 tags don’t just make the content on a webpage better organized and easier to read, but they’re also a critical SEO element that can affect how high your pages rank for target keywords in the Google search engine.

So to make sure you get the most value out of your <h1>, I’ve put together a list of H1 best practices you can follow for perfect on-page optimization.

Note: This is just a sample of what you’ll learn in my Mastering On-Page SEO course. If you like this guide, then you’ll love my complete course.

What Is H1 Tag in HTML?

The H1 tag is a defined element in HTML. It is written in HTML code as <h1>. Typically, the HTML tag is the first header tag visible on a webpage. An H1 tag in HTML is often presented in large letters as the defines the most important heading.

Why H1 Tag Is Used In HTML?

The H1 tag is used in HTML to define the first heading on a webpage. In proper HTML heading markup, the <h1> tag is used to present the main topic for the page. Correct hierarchical heading layout will have an <h2> as a subsection of <h1>.

Now you know the basic ideas behind the H1 tag.

Next, I’ll go over the most important H1 SEO best practices that can give you the most value from your <h1> HTML element.

SEO H1 Tags Best Practices

1. Include Keywords in the H1 Tag

According to industry experts, the H1 tag is considered to be one of the top 3 SEO ranking factors for on-page optimization. Brian Dean from Backlinko reports this, so does Matthew Woodward, Kyle Roof, and Matt Diggity.

The other two factors are the page title (also known as meta title) and the URL.

To get the most SEO benefit from your H1 tag, you’ll want to put your main keyword in this HTML element. And if you can add in secondary keywords or even a long-tail version of the main keyword, then that can benefit you as well in the <h1>.

Also, put your main keyword as close to the beginning of the H1 tag as possible. The closer the keyword is to the start of the <h1> HTML element, the more SEO weight it is given. And never repeat keywords.

Additionally, always remember that your H1 tag needs to be readable for the user; don’t just stuff as many keywords as you can into this HTML element. If you write for your visitors first, and then make tweaks to optimize for Google, you can naturally include keywords without sacrificing the user experience.

For example, I want this page to rank for the following keyword variations:

  • SEO H1 tags best practices
  • H1 SEO best practices
  • H1 best practices

If you look at the H1 tag for this page (image below), you’ll see that I’ve only used the first keyword variation as an exact match in the HTML element. I didn’t put the other versions because it’s not necessary; each of the words that make up those keyword versions is included in the first variation.

H1 best practices

If you’re not sure which keywords to use in your H1 tags, then check out my guide on why keyword research is important for SEO. It includes a simple process for how to choose the best keywords to use on your pages.

2. Meet User Intent with the H1

Search engines like Google are increasingly focused on finding out the intention of its users and delivering search results that satisfy that intent.

And just because a webpage has a specific keyword in the H1 tag, doesn’t mean that the content will meet the user’s intent.

Here’s a quick example of what I mean:

Suppose you were searching Google for this keyword phrase, “how many keywords per page”. Clearly, your intention is to find out the number of keywords you should be optimizing a webpage for. Is it 2 keywords, 5 keywords, or more?

Now imagine if you clicked on a search result in Google that had the following page title: “How Many Keywords Per Page (A Detailed Guide)” and when you visited the page, you were met with this H1 tag, “How Many Keywords Should You Be Tracking Per Page?”

That content doesn’t meet your search intent, does it?

And if you saw that H1 tag, you’d probably leave the page and go back to the Google search results page (SERP) to find something more relevant.

Let’s now imagine you clicked on my website in the SERP and were met with this H1 tag: “How Many Keywords Per Page for SEO Should You Focus On?

Download the SEO Keyword Research CheatsheetDownload the SEO Keyword Research Cheatsheet

That content does meet your search intent. And you would continue to read the page.

So how do you make sure that you’re meeting user intent with your H1 tags and not missing an opportunity to gain more engaged visitors here?

According to Searchmetrics, whenever you write a piece of content, you want to be asking questions like:

  • What does the user want when they open my article?
  • What’s their intent?

And your H1 tag should satisfy that desire.

Essentially, you want to give the visitor what they came for in the <h1> tag. Once a person sees a promising result in the SERPs, and clicks on it, the words in the H1 are what confirm or deny that the user is on the right page. So make it a practice to always meet user intent with your H1 tag.

A simple way to achieve this is to just make your meta title tag and H1 tag the same. That way there is no confusion for the user. Plus, this SEO strategy can reduce the chance of Google’s algorithm rewriting your meta titles when it thinks there’s a mismatch in user intent.

According to Zippy, after an analysis of 81,000 page titles, Google rewrote 61.6% of them for indexing in the SERPs; some rewrites were minor and others were quite significant. So the most effective way to decrease the chance of Google rewriting your title is the match it with the H1 tag, or at the very least, make them similar enough that a rewrite wouldn’t matter much to the user.

3. Keep the H1 Between 20 to 70 Characters

While there is no technical limitation to the length of an H1 header tag—you can make it as long or as short as you want—the best H1 SEO practice is to keep it between 20 to 70 characters.

If your H1 is too short, you’re wasting valuable SEO space. And if the H1 is too long, then you’re diluting the power of the tag.

As I mentioned in the first H1 SEO tip, the <h1> tag is a good place to add in secondary keywords. It’s always better to make the H1 longer than shorter because you can optimize this heading for additional keywords you want the page to rank for.

4. Only Use One H1 Tag

With the H1 tag being such a powerful HTML element to optimize for SEO, you may think that it would be a good idea to use more than <h1> on the page.

If one H1 is good, then wouldn’t 10 be even better?

That is actually not the case.

Although Search Engine Roundtable reported that John Mueller from Google said there is no problem with using multiple H1s on a page, it’s still a bad SEO practice. That’s because the presence of more than one H1 tag can dilute the SEO power of a single H1 element.

Therefore, your webpages need to have only one properly optimized H1 tag, and nothing more, if you want the maximum SEO ranking power for your keywords.

5. Make Your H1 Tag Stand Out

In my #2 H1 best practice above, I stressed the importance of meeting user intent in the <h1> tag. That’s because visitors want to instantly know that they’re on the right page and going to get the exact information that they’re seeking.

Along with that concept includes making your H1 tags stand out to the reader.

In proper HTML heading markup, the <h1> tag is used to present the main topic for the page, so the H1 should be the most noticeable visual element on the page as well.

Therefore, the best practices for styling your H1 include:

  1. It should be big (font-size of 30px or larger)
  2. It should be bold (font-weight of 700 to 900)
  3. It should be noticeable (placed at the top of the content)

By combining good web design practices and SEO with your H1s, you can improve the user experience for your web pages while also capitalizing on the ranking power of on-page search engine optimization.

However, H1s are not the only way to improve your keyword search results. There are actually about 10 other easy things you can do to increase your traffic, which that linked page covers.

And once you are done optimizing your H1 tags and other on-page SEO elements, you can visit this page to learn how to check keyword ranking in Google to track your progress.

Do H1 Tags Matter for SEO?

H1 tags do matter for SEO because having an H1 tag on your pages can help your content rank better in the SERPs. H1 tags matter for SEO because they tell search engines and visitors what the content of the page is about which is why the H1 is an important spot to put your keywords.

Without an H1 tag, you’ll be diluting the SEO ranking power for the page because the <h1> HTML element is one of the top 3 ranking factors for on-page optimization. Therefore, you should always include an H1 on the page and optimize it as best you can for both search engines and website users.

Learn More About the Keyword Accelerator Playbook

Is It Bad to Have Multiple H1 Tags?

It is not bad to have multiple H1 tags on the page in regards to HTML markup. However, it is bad to have more than one H1 tag for SEO because having multiple H1 tags on the page will dilute the ranking power of the H1 HTML element.

The main purpose of an H1 tag in HTML markup is to present the main topic for the page. Correct hierarchical heading layout will have an <h2> as a subsection of <h1>. That’s why on most web pages you only see one H1 tag followed by multiple H2 tags.

What Should My H1 Tag Be?

Your H1 tag should be descriptive of the page. The H1 tag should also contain your most important keywords. You can match the H1 tag to the page title tag, but it is not necessary. Your H1 should be a good balance between SEO and helping readers understand what the page is about.

Can Title Tag and H1 Be the Same?

The title tag and H1 can be the same. And in many cases, this is the best SEO practice to follow as long as it satisfies the user’s intent. Additionally, the title tag and H1 can also be similar and closely related but they don’t have to be identical.

According to Google’s own recommendations, you’re encouraged to “match your page’s meta title [title tag] and H1” and changing the order up a bit is not a problem.

My H1 SEO best practice here is to make both the title tag and the H1 the same as much as possible; however, I will often omit any extra words that only serve the purpose of the title tag in the SERPs.

For example, the title tag for a blog post on this site about good SEO books to read is:

  • 20 Best SEO Books for 2022 On Search Engine Optimization

But the H1 tag on the page could easily be:

That strategy would allow me to capture more clicks from the search results by including the number of books and the current year; however, the actual H1 tag doesn’t need to have all of those numbers. The number 20 could be omitted without any issues.

Now here’s another example from the SEO chatter website that uses an exact match between the title tag and H1 tag.

Both the title tag and H1 can read:

Just use what’s best for your content. It may be a slight variation between the title tag and H1 tag or an exact match. Both are perfectly fine for improving your search engine optimization.

Reminder: Everything you learned on this page is just a small sample of the advanced SEO methods you’ll learn in my Mastering On-Page SEO course. If you like this guide, then you’ll want to check out the complete course and read the reviews from current members.

SEO H1 Tags Best Practices Summary

I hope you enjoyed this detailed guide on my top SEO H1 tags best practices.

As you discovered, there are several tactics every webpage should follow. This includes having your keywords in the <h1> HTML element, meeting user intent, keeping the length between 20 to 70 characters, using only one <h1> on the page, and making the tag stand out for the user.

If you follow these H1 best practices for your SEO, then you can give search engines like Google a better indication of what your content is about, which can lead to an increase in your keyword rankings.

SEO H1 Tags Best Practices