Recently a customer asked if the use of HTML heading tags on a webpage is recommended and specifically how the heading element <h1> impacts SEO. Good question! We want to summarize our response and provide other sources of information on this topic for those who enjoy our blog.
Background Information: It is widely considered to be best practice to use “Semantic Markup” when defining the structure of a web page. One concept of semantic markup, as well as with the creation of an effective outline, is to imagine you are writing an outline with the main points and sub-points of the content. According to w3schools.com in HTML the <h1> to <h6> tags are used to define HTML headings with <h1> defining the most important heading and <h6> defining the least important heading. Each document should have only one subject and the element <h1> should mark the subject of the webpage. CSS can be used to style the HTML heading elements on a page but are not used to create the heading elements themselves in the code.
Use of Heading Tags are Essential for Searchability and SEO: Paraphrasing Jennifer Robbins who authored the book “Learning Web Design,” HTML is used to add meaning and structure to the web page or content rather than apply styling and presentation to the content. Google has provided an SEO Starter Guide wherein it is stated “Structured data is code that you can add to your sites’ pages to describe your content to search engines, so they can better understand what’s on your pages.” Headings are important because search engines use the headings to index the structure and content of your web pages.
Headings Enhance Accessibility of a Website: The use of HTML section heading elements will also significantly enhance the accessibility of a webpage. Some developers have the view “in terms of SEO, the larger fonts are always treated with as much weight as H tags.” The use of larger fonts and bold text may make the content appear to the human viewer as a heading; however according to Yale University “One of the most common accessibility mistakes is making text bold when a heading is needed. Though the text may look like a heading, the underlying code is not set correctly, and screen reader users will not benefit.”
Trust but Verify: As mentioned previously there may be some developers who may disagree on the need to use heading elements in their HTML markup. Therefore we would encourage anyone looking for a second opinion on the need and use of the HTML heading elements to research this topic on the web. This blog by a competitor entitled “The Overlooked Importance of Heading Tags for SEO” may be a good place to start. As can be seen below they put their words to action.
Thanks for reading. If you want to discuss this topic or anything else web related for that matter please contact B-Web Services today!