What is a heading on a web page?When you first look at any web page, most of the time the very first text that you read on the page is a heading, like a newspaper article.

These headings are extremely important to getting your visitors attention and incentivizing them to read the reset of your article/page. If you don’t grab them with a strong heading, chances are they will leave your site soon thereafter, increasing your bounce rate and decreasing your stickiness (aka how long visitors stay on your website).

BoostSuite and most of the other content marketing in the market today focus on optimizing text headings, specifically the H1 text heading.

What is a heading? Specifically an H1 heading?

H1 headings are snippets of HTML code that have specific styles applied to them that usually make the words within them larger and different colors to help them pop out of the page and make them more noticeable to the reader.

To understand how headings work on a web page, let’s consider an article in a magazine or newspaper. The title of the article is usually bigger and more pronounced than other words. Headings allow you to scan a page in a magazine or newspaper and pick out the sections you want to read. An H1 heading on a web page is almost the same thing.

It makes certain words stand out, which allows your website readers to see what any page is about immediately, and determine whether or not they want to read it. Since most web content is free, heading tags also serve as a way to get the search-engines’ attention so they can provide their searchers with the most relevant results.

Why are headings important to search engine optimization?

When used in conjunction with your page title, meta description, keywords and keyword targeted body content, and links, headings help improve search engine ranking for specific keywords and phrases.

H1 heading tags are some of the more heavily weighed elements of on-page content by the search engine. If leveraged properly, H1 headings can be very effective in helping to shape search engines’ perception of your pages’ content.

The heading tags (H1, H2, H3 and so on) represent the beginning of a new section or area of a pages content and alert search engine spiders of the relevancy of the content that follows the heading tag.

Here are some optimization tips to keep in mind when creating/editing your H1 heading tags:

  1. IMPORTANT: More is not better, don’t overuse! Limit each page to one H1.
  2. Limit length of your H1 heading; avoid words that aren’t relevant to the page’s main focus and content.
  3. Include exact target phrases within the H1 heading text, but use variations through your body text to avoid obvious repetition and build keyword density.
  4. Include target phrases toward the front of H1 heading tags for best performance.
  5. Include supporting content after H1 heading tags; the heading should precede a body of relevant content that compliments it.
  6. Place your heading tags in order. H1 should appear first in code, the H2, H3 and so on.

What does a poorly-optimized heading look like? What about a well-optimized heading?

Let’s take a look at a couple examples. Assuming the target keyphrase is “Free SEO Suggestions”, here are a few examples of H1 headings with varying qualities of optimization.

Poor H1 Heading:

” … ” (none) or..

“Hey, welcome to our site. Read these awesome suggestions to find out more about doing good stuff for your site.”

As you can see, this heading is slightly irrelevant to the page and doesn’t contain my focus keyphrase, “Free SEO Suggestions”.

Good H1 Heading:

“Free SEO Suggestions”

This one is better because it contains the focus keyphrase and it’s toward the front of the text, but it can be better if I elaborate.

Best H1 Heading:

“The top 25 free SEO suggestions from BoostSuite.com”

This one is the best because not only does it contain the focus keyphrase, it also lets the reader know that these are the top 25 SEO suggestions and who they’re being provided by, BoostSuite.com. This helps reinforce BoostSuite as an authority on SEO suggestions in the readers’ minds.

You’re not going to optimize your pages properly if you don’t contain one relevant H1 heading. Not only that, if you don’t use an H1 heading, your page will not have the formatting of a newspaper or magazine article, making it appear sloppy and unprofessional.

Readers focus on aesthetics of pages, so if they don’t look good, they won’t read the content, no matter how valuable it is!

How to check your source code to see if you’re using H1 headings on your pages:

  1. Open the Internet browser of your choice and go to the URL of the page you want to check.
  2. Click ‘view’ then ‘source’ or right-click on the page and select ‘view page source’. A new window will open displaying the HTML code.
  3. Click ‘edit’ then ‘find’ or type ctrl+F or command+F to open the search box.
  4. Type in ‘<h1′ and click ‘find next’.
  5. This will now highlight the sections of your page that are using the H1 tag.

Here’s an example of what an H1 tag looks like in the source code of an article I wrote for Shoeboxed on “3 Holiday Promotion Ideas For Your Small Business“:

If you’d like to make sure you’re optimizing your H1 headings properly, be sure to sign up for your free BoostSuite account today!

Image via Flickr