Unsure how to use H1 and H2 for SEO? Here are all the key aspects + common mistakes to avoid

Be honest.

Have you ever used an H tag to highlight part of the text on one of your pages?

We’re talking about the “Heading 1”, “Heading 2”, “Heading 3” (and so forth) tags that pop up in your CMS editor.

If you have, you’re not alone.

Since each heading has a different size, a lot of people use them as a font styling tool allowing them to change the size and look of different parts of the text.

But that’s a big mistake.

These headings aren’t meant to be used as design tools since they actually play a key role in terms of your website’s SEO.

And that’s why in this post we’ll tell you:

  • How H1 and H2 are related to SEO.
  • How to use them properly.
  • Common mistakes that can have a negative impact on your website’s positioning.

So grab a pen and a piece of paper because an important lesson on SEO is about to begin. 😉

👉  H1 and H2: what they are and how they relate to SEO

Let’s start with the basics.

Both H1 and H2, as well as the subsequent H3, H4, etc., are HTML tags.

And what does that mean?

It means they’re part of the page code that tells Google’s crawler about the content of the page.

These tags work as titles or headers of the page, which explains why they’re also known as “HTML headers”.

As mentioned above, they’re shown in most CMS editors as “Heading 1”, “Heading 2”, etc.

So far so good, but what’s this got to do exactly with SEO? Let’s go over it.

✅  Why it’s so important to learn to use H tags for SEO

There are two main reasons:

  • By using these tags (especially the H1 tag), you’re telling Google the ranking keyword for each of your pages. We go much more in depth on this topic in this post on SEO writing.
  • By splitting the page content (be it a post, a category or product card) into different headers, you’ll make it easier for users and Google’s robot to understand all the information.

The last point goes to show that using HTML headers properly is crucial if you want to improve the user experience of your website, which is an SEO-ranking factor itself.

Let’s see how.

👉  Differences between the H1 and H2 tags: how to use them properly

Although they’re often grouped together, there’s actually a slight difference between the H1 tag and the others.

Let’s go over them.

✅  1. What the H1 tag is and how to use it

The H1 tag is the main title of every webpage. Here’s where you should include the keyword that you’d like to rank alongside it.

This tag is automatically assigned to the page title, so you don’t have to set it manually.

Also note this important fact.

Each page can only contain a single H1 tag.

If you add more, Google’s crawler won’t be able to correctly interpret the content hierarchy, which will result in worse positioning.

There’s not much mystery to it beyond that, so let’s move on to the next point.

✅  2. What the tag H2 is (and H3, H4…) and how to use it

These tags represent the different sections and subsections inside the text.

You can use different tags for the same content and it must be you who assigns them manually with your editor.

But, again, you need to do it properly. You must respect the hierarchy.

In other words, you can’t include an H4 inside an H2, just like you can’t add an H3 straight into the post if it’s not included in the immediate higher level, an H2.

Here’s an example to help you see it more clearly.

Considering titles only, this is what the first half of this post would look like:

  • [H1] Unsure how to use H1 and H2 for SEO?
    • [H2] H1 and H2: what they are and how they relate to SEO.
      • [H3] Why it’s so important to learn to use H tags for SEO.
    • [H2] Differences between the H1 and H2 tags: how to use them properly.
      • [H3] What the H1 tag is and how to use it.
      • [H3] What the other tags (H2, H3, H4…) are and how to use them.
      • [H3] Keywords in the H2 and H3 tags.

Why is this so important?

Once again, the Googlebot is to blame.

If you don’t respect hierarchy on your posts (you won’t usually go lower than H2 when structuring a category page) and wind up adding an H3 right after the H1, Google’s robot will raise an eyebrow (even if users don’t notice).

And you know what that means in terms of SEO.

✅  3. Keywords in the H2 and H3 tags

There’s something else you must know.

Earlier we told you it was important to include the main keyword in the H1, but what about the rest of tags?

We’ll be using them to introduce secondary longtails.

For example, imagine you want to position a post about how to fix a broken dishwasher and you want to add these keywords:

  • Main keywords: fix a broken dishwasher.
  • Longtails: how to know if a dishwasher can be fixed, dishwasher error messages.

In this case, this is what the structure would look like:

  • [H1] Do you know how to fix a broken dishwasher?
    • [H2] Basic tools to fix a broken dishwasher.
    • [H2] How to know if a dishwasher can be fixed.
      • [H3] Most common dishwasher error messages.
    • [H2] Need to contact the support team?

If you have more H2 or H3 titles, they don’t need to contain the longtails (it may actually be counterproductive).

👉  Common mistakes when using H tags that can be detrimental to your website’s SEO

As you’ve seen, using these tags properly is not particularly complex.

However, you must also know how NOT to use them.

Here are some of the most typical mistakes concerning H tags.

✅  1. Using them as another design tool

We already mentioned this at the beginning, but it’s so important that we’d like to stress it.

HTML headers aren’t meant to be web design tools.

They are meant to give a sense of coherence and order to the text – not to highlight part of the content.

If you want to highlight a line in the text or resize a title, the best practice is to use a block quote for posts (such as the one we’ve just used) or adjust the size at a code level.

✅  2. Focusing on SEO and forgetting about users

Keywords in post titles are important, of course.

But try not to overdo it.

We’re sure you’ve come across posts where the same keyword was forced into every single epigraph to the point that the content didn’t sound natural.

For instance, going back to the dishwasher example from before, it’d be something like this:

  • [H1] How to fix a broken dishwasher.
    • [H2] How to fix a broken dishwasher: tools.
    • [H2] How to fix a broken dishwasher: hacks to know if it can be repaired.
      • [H3] How to fix a broken dishwasher: common error messages.

You get the idea, right?

This doesn’t just make you look like a robot, which makes users more likely to leave your site.

On top of that, Google will spot it from a mile away.

This practice is known as keyword stuffing and it’s subject to penalization.

More than anything, sounding natural should be the overarching goal.

✅  3. Bland headings

This is closely related to the previous point.

Headings can help with more than just organizing information; their main goal is to catch a user’s attention.

For example, imagine we’d chosen “H1 and H2 for SEO” as this post’s title.

Would it have triggered you to even start reading?

Chances are slim. 😉

Working on your SEO doesn’t mean you have to forget about flashy headings capable of catching people’s attention.

✅  4. Lengthy sections

This is a lack-of-usage mistake, rather than simply a usage mistake.

If you use Yoast SEO (a must-have plugin if you use WooCommerce), every now and then you’ll see a warning popping up in the readability feature.

Among others, it tells you when a section is too long.

Bear in mind that reading from a screen is a tiresome activity. That’s why it’s so important to lighten up your text and intertwine different H2s and H3s (or even H4s) instead of letting it all out at once.

To give you an idea, there shouldn’t be more than 300 words across different H tags.

✅  5. Using the H1 as title

In this previous post, we told you about the title and how important it is when it comes to getting more clicks in the search results.

So what’s this got to do with HTML headers?

It’s fairly simple.

By default, most templates use the H1 text as page title. In fact, they don’t even allow you to modify them separately.

And this poses a problem because, in general, an H1 should have many more characters than a title allows for in order to be appealing.

All is not lost, however, as there are SEO plugins like Yoast that allow you to edit each of them individually.

👉  Now you know all the potential of H1s and H2s

And you know the next step, right? 😉

Head over to your e‑commerce website and double‑check these tags in all the sections and posts to make sure you’re using them correctly.

As you’ll see, some of your pages will rank better in Google before you know it!