The ultimate guide to using headings H1-H6

January 12, 2021
SEO Fundamentals

Headings play an important role in structuring your website’s content.

Ranging in importance levels—from the most crucial H1 to the tiniest segment headed by H6—, headings give both the visitors and the search engines a clue about the content’s hierarchy.

Besides, including keywords in the headings can help you boost your rankings.

What are headings?

Headings are used to provide hierarchy and clarity to a web page. This helps visitors quickly scan the page and helps search engines understand its structure and topic.

There are six heading levels: H1 through H6. While headings only play a small role in search engines’ algorithms, including keywords in headings does contribute to topical relevance – and through that, improved rankings.

The hierarchy of headings

A page starts with the H1 heading.
A page starts with the H1 heading.

Headings should be logically structured on a page. A page starts with the H1 heading, followed by an H2 heading, which can be followed by an H3 heading should you need a sub-section. For the start of a new section, you should use another H2 heading. Don’t skip a level in the hierarchy; for example, don’t go from an H1 heading to an H3 heading. There should be an H2 heading in between them.

Here’s a good example of correct heading usage:

<h1>This is the title of the page</h1>
<h2>This is the first section</h2>
<h3>This is a sub-section</h3>
<h2>This is the second section</h2>
<h3>This is another sub-section</h3>

The H1 heading

The H1 heading describes a page’s main topic. It should be highly related to the content and unique across your website, and a page may only contain one H1 heading.

Don’t put the H1 heading tags around an image, since search engines don’t understand images very well. You’d be missing out on an opportunity to signal to search engines what a page is about.

<h1><img src="logo.png"></h1>

H1 heading length

You should avoid making the H1 heading too long. If you do, there’s a big chance the H1 heading won’t be readable for your visitors, which hurts their user experience. We recommend sticking to a maximum length of 60 characters, similar to the title attribute. As for the minimum length, it needs to be long enough to make sense. In our experience, sticking to at least 4 characters helps you with this. Above all: make sure the H1 heading makes sense for your visitors.

Multiple H1 headings? Not even in HTML5.

When the HTML5 specification was first introduced, support for multiple H1 headings per page (each in their own section-element) was included. However, since browsers didn’t adopt this recommendation, support for this was subsequently dropped when the HTML5.1 standard was published. For more information, see this W3c thread (opens in a new tab).

Other uses for the H1 heading

If you haven’t defined a page title, or if search engines didn’t find your title to be relevant enough, they may show the page’s H1 heading as the title in the page’s search engine result – its snippet.

H2–H6 headings

H2–H6 headings are used to further structure the content. Using H2 headings is recommended, and using H3-H6 headings is optional.

Take back control over your content hierarchy

Are your headings following a correct hierarchy? Run a quick check with ContentKing and see what you can improve.

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Frequently asked questions about headings

📈 Do headings really improve my rankings?

Yes, they do! Even today, headings still play a role in communicating relevance for keywords to search engines.

While the role of headings in search engine algorithms has decreased over the years, it does send a clear signal to search engines regarding what a page is about.

🤔 Is it a problem to have the same text in my title and my H1 heading?

From a visitor standpoint it can be, if another title or H1 heading is a better fit. From an SEO standpoint this is not a problem. It’s definitely not something you’d get penalized for by Google.

🔢 Can I have multiple H1 headings on one page?

It is recommended to use only one H1 heading per page. Even though after the introduction of HTML5 using multiple H1 headings per page was included, browsers didn’t adopt the practice and since HTML5.1, there is no support for multiple H1 headings.

ContentKing Academy Content Team

Steven is ContentKing’s VP of Community. This means he’s involved in everything community and content marketing related. Right where he wants to be. He gets a huge kick out of letting websites rank and loves to talk SEO, content marketing and growth.

Vojtech is heading ContentKing’s Customer Success team. His job is to make sure that our customers have the best possible experience while using ContentKing, be it by answering your questions, crafting Support documentation and Academy articles, or hosting webinars.

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