• Zoe Barnett

How to use header tags - easy SEO tips for small business owners

Updated: May 7, 2019

When it comes to SEO, there are lots of things you could be doing as a small business owner. A quick Google search will take you to several great articles (like Moz - which is a great website for SEO tips) that you can follow to get started. Wooooah! There are so many articles, though. From header tags (sometimes also called heading tags) to title tags it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to upping your website's SEO.

When clients talk to me about SEO - or, getting seen on Google, I immediately think of the easiest and most effective change they can make. And usually, it's their header tags. A quick snoop on their small business' website and I can see that yep, they really could do with fixing those header tags.

Hands on white keyboard typing, looking for SEO tips, on white desk next to yellow watch, white Apple mouse and mobile phone
Did you know header tags are easy to fix when it comes to SEO?

And the good news?

Header tags are pretty easy to fix up.

Phew! So, you can relax a little.

So, before we get started on how to use them...

What actually is a header tag?

A header tag is basically the bit of code that shows Google (& humans) what is the heading.

It works the same as when you write something and want to put a heading on something in a simple Word processing document. It's a summary of the information you're about to delve into.

It's usually larger than the rest of the text and stands out by perhaps being bold (but not always).

For example, the above 'What actually is a header tag?' uses a header tag because I'm telling you, the reader, and Google quickly what the paragraphs of text below are about.

What are the different header tags?

There are 6 header tags in HTML. Known as <h1> to <h6>.

Traditionally you should only have one <h1> tag per web page. It should say clearly what that individual web page is about.

There's a lot of debate around having more than one <h1> tag but the important thing to know is that if you do use more than one <h1> tag you won't be penalised by Google. It's just best SEO practice for your structure to only use on <h1> tag.

You should aim to use at least some <h2> tags and maybe some <h3> tags to break up your text too. These are great for telling your reader what the different chunks of text are about.

Screenshot of WordPress editor showing how to format a header tag for SEO tips.
This is how header tag formatting looks in WordPress. It's a similar process in other CMSs.

How do you use header tags?

Your website CMS (Content Management System) should be set up to use them.

When you are writing the text for your website check out the formatting tools (where you can change font size, colour, type etc.) and look for the header option. Simply highlight the piece of text for your header.

What's the best way of writing a header tag?

Two words. Keywords & readability.

Keywords simply tell Google what your page is about. It's no-brainer to make sure you are using them in your headers. However... don't 'keyword stuff".. because...

You want your headings to have a good level of readability! Remember - your customers are human so make sure they appeal to an actual human reading them. Even if you did trick Google with all your keywords (you won't - Google is waaaaay too clever for that) the human reading your website would soon leave if they felt it was 'spammy'.

It's all about balance. Like everything in life, right!?

Screenshot of keyword planner searching for home decor to help write headers for SEO
Google's keyword planner is an excellent tool for finding relevant keywords. Keep your eyes peeled as I'll be doing a blog post on how to use this tool for FREE very soon.

Other tops tips when writing headings

  • Think of your audience. Imagine it's YOU who is reading the article so make your headings punchy, interesting and enticing.

  • Think of solving a problem for your audience. Use words like 'how', 'why' and 'top tips' so the reader knows they can get something valuable from the paragraph underneath your header.

  • Generally, try to keep headers short and sweet. Best practice says under 70 characters. I don't stick to this all the time as it has no direct impact on your SEO but I always aim to keep them around this short length because well, let's face it - we can all be lazy. So, we don't want to read lots of text. We want to be able to scan text and understand it quickly.

  • Check you've done it right by learning how to 'inspect' code on your browser. On Google Chrome it's really easy. Simply highlight the text you want to check out, right click and select 'Inspect'. You'll be able to see a <h1>/ <h2>/ <h3> etc. tag if you've formatted your header correctly. There are also lots of handy tools online to check. However, don't get too hung up on these tools as sometimes they don't always get it right. The most important thing is inspecting it yourself.

screenshot of inspecting header tag for SEO
The highlighted part in grey shows the use of a <h2> tag in my blog. You should always use header tags when writing blogs.

Recap: why format your header tags?

Two reasons:

Header tags are part of your technical SEO strategy

Header tags are read by Google. There is some debate that they are less important now but nevertheless they still matter when it comes to showing what is important on your page. And...

Header tags improve readability for your users

And therefore, build into your overall SEO strategy. If your website is easier to read and easier to navigate people are likely to hang around longer, explore and actually show Google they LIKE your website. Google uses this data to push you up the ranking as your website will gain 'points' in the 'I'm a useful website' category.

So, there you go.

Get help with header tags... and other areas of SEO

Have I persuaded you to put aside an hour to check and revamp your header tags?

I know, some of you may be saying "I wish"! The truth is, of course, even though header tags are certainly not complicated they can still be time-consuming. And yep, when you're a small business owner time is not something that is often on your side.

If that's the case but yes, you do want to UP your chances of ranking well in Google, get in touch with me.

I can help support your small business online marketing through SEO services, guidance & training. I'm based in Cheshire but work nationwide with clients.

Did you know I offer a mini SEO website audit from only £40? A mini website SEO audit shows you any issues with your SEO & offers quick tips on what to fix.

Freelance marketer sat on beige sofa in home office with grey carpet, giving advice about header tags & SEO from ipad.
I can give your small business advice to help you get started with SEO.