Using Header Tags Correctly

In search engine optimization every detail matters. Details are what set apart the successful search engine optimizers from the mediocre. Much like everything else in life, if you work a little bit harder and a little bit smarter you’ll get further ahead.

So let me explain the use of the header tag. You know, H1, H2, H3, etc. What’s it for and where do you use it for the best optimized content?

SEO for Dummies

Header tags show a great level of importance for text. While putting text in a header tag won’t make you king of the search results, it’s another detail that adds to the many other details you’re hopefully keeping up with.

Headers Make Big Fonts *sniff*

Yes, sometimes wrapping text in HX tags makes the font bigger, but that’s not WHY the header tag exists, and thus that’s not why you should use it.

Never mix page markup with style. Don’t count on your H1 tag being Arial, black, and 36pt font. Styles, nowadays, are set by the style sheet and should never be left to the browser to decide what page attributes will look like. I could go on and one with this, but the point is not to think of HX tags as looking any different than regular text.

Instead, think of header tags as…drumroll…section headers.

Outlining Your Pages With Headers

So this tag was created with the intention of marking a page with tags that signified some sort of organization. Headers outline the page. So the H1 tag is the title of the entire page, and each child header breaks the page down into it’s various parts.

Remember, each page on your website is a separate entity. Treat each page uniquely, tailoring your content around the title of your page.

What To Put In Your Headers

More easily, here’s what not to put in your headers. Don’t put things that are irrelevant to the topic of the page.

WordPress defaults to displaying sidebar widget titles as H3 tags. Some of these widgets are, “Recent Posts”, “Search”, “Tags”, etc. Are you competing for any of those keywords? Probably not. Put those titles in DIV tags.

Yes, they do organize the page, BUT if you’re building your pages correctly the sidebar should be at the bottom of the source code. Right out of the gate that means the sidebar is less important than the body content.

It’s your body content that needs the organization.

When writing your headers out make them easy for users to get the point and try to use some keywords at the same time.

“My H1 Is My Site’s Name” – Bad Idea

Well, it’s a good idea…for your home page. When searchers actually search for your website’s name your goal shouldn’t be to have results for any page on your site. Your goal is have your home page come up in results.

Your website’s name isn’t the main topic of every page on your site either. So why tell search engines every page’s most important information is your name?

So, put your site name in an H1 tag on your home page and in a DIV tag on all the rest.

For WordPress users, you can use something like this:


<a href="/">

All that says is that if the page is the home page use an H1, and if it’s anything else use a DIV.

Enjoy Your New Header Tags Knowledge!

6 thoughts on “Using Header Tags Correctly”

  1. @Patrick

    This is a great tip! I was aware of using only one H1 tag per page but you opened my eyes to the [if front page] [else] php code. My question to you is would this even matter if I am using a image instead of actual text for my “Logo” area?

    Please get back to me. In the mean time I think that outputting the actual site name in text and hiding it, making it invisible with css should do the trick!

    Thanks for taking the time to write this!

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