In SEO, we often talk about title tags. I’d like to propose that title tags and headers serve exactly the same purpose. Before getting all up in arms, here’s my reasoning.
What does a page’s title tag do? What’s its purpose? It describes the page. What about the H1? What it its purpose? To describe the page… Since they serve the same purpose, why are they so unevenly weighted in SEO? Let’s explore it.
Title Tag Awesomeness
Title tags are awesome for SEO. They are the single most important on-site element in which to place keywords. They are the first things you look at for SEO, and they provide some of the largest benefit.
Aside from simply describing the page, what do title tags provide? Three awesome benefits:
- They provide a concise description of the page (65 characters) for both users and robots
- Boiling a thought down to its essence provides keyword-rich content, which is great for search engines to classify content
- They provide a convenient headline to describe the page when it comes up on a search result page
H1’s Not as Awesomeness
Now compare title tags to the H1 – what is the purpose of an H1? Since there is only one H1 per page, it’s to describe the page of content. Didn’t the title tag do the same thing? Yeah, it does.
H1s are traditionally the largest text on a page. My guess is somewhere around 95% of visitors will read the H1. With that understanding, how much SEO value do you get from putting keywords in H1s? Surprisingly, not much at all. Why do you think that is?
I think it’s for two reasons:
- Since H1s serve the same purpose as the title tag, but the title tag does more, search engines have shifted the weight that the H1 would have gotten to the title tag.
- Search engines don’t want to incentivize keyword stuffing in H1s. H1s introduce your content to the reader, and they want to make the web a better place to be.
How to Maximize the Use of H1s
I look at H1s much the same way as I look at meta descriptions – don’t think too much about search engines when writing them. Instead, think of what is going to draw in your reader and lead them towards the desired action. I would not simply repeat the title tag in the H1 simply because they serve the same purpose.
People and search engines expect keyword usage in title tags, but they don’t expect it in headers. Use your H1 as an opportunity to use a keyword variation, and make a visitor want to read your content. If the largest words on a page are written for a search engine, it will turn off a lot of readers, and hurt user experience the web over.
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