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The Basics

In HTML coding, the heading tags from H1 to H6 form a top-down hierarchy. They’re there so both human readers and automated search engines can look at a document and know how the information of the page is organised.

The most important heading tag is the H1 tag; if it tells the user what they came to see, then it’s worthy of a search result position.

What is Google saying?

OK. But now Google is saying that H1s don’t make any difference to your SEO rankings. They say their systems aren’t too picky; they’ll try to figure out the HTML as they find it – be it one H1 heading, multiple H1 headings or just styled pieces of text without semantic HTML at all. 

In other words, Google’s systems don’t have to rely on specific headings structure to indicate the main focus of content on the page.

But wait, what about SEO?

That being the case, you might wonder why SEO gurus have been telling us for years that best practice is to use and optimize a single H1 and subsequent headings on a page, and that ranking systems depend on them. 

The reason is that your primary audience is human. And from a human user’s point of view, web pages should be all about accessibility and readability. The hierarchy of headings should be about the ideas they’re trying to convey; they’re designed to communicate to your readers what the content on a page is about, how ideas are grouped, and so on.

As ideas, your headings are meant to make it easy for your readers to navigate your pages in the way that you want them to. They’re how you guide them to the point of your messages. 

Put your users first

How you use H1s also depends on the context. If you want to make your H1 the key topic of the page, then make it your title or headline. If your H1 is there to serve another purpose, remember that too many H1s or none at all is (A) bad design, and (B) counterproductive.

First and foremost, think about your users: if your content has headings that work well for them, it won’t get in the way of your SEO efforts.

HEY, YOU! YES, YOU!

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