The heading structure of your content and pages is fundamental to good, on-page SEO strategy. Headings are how we can indicate to search engines what they should prioritize when "scanning" site content. That is, they are indications that we leave in the markup for Google or any other search engine, so that they understand what we're talking about, and can offer our content for user search results.
This is why it's so important that we define the correct and relevant keywords for our content or pages, so that we can contribute as much as possible to improving the search engine positioning of our content, sites, and digital channels.
What are headings?
Headings or headers are HTML tags or labels that serve to structure and prioritize the information of content or a page so that search engines and users understand them better.
Types of headings
Headings are divided into 6 main levels: H1, H2, H3, H4, H5 and H6, with H1 being the one with the most importance in any structure and H6 with the least. Typically though, only H1 to H4 are usually used, since H5 and H6 more often than not have little relevance for modern search engines.
Normally, the relevance of each label is reflected in its size and style (H1 is usually larger and more visible than the H2; H2 is larger and more visible than the H3...etc.). But, we can also work on a strategy in which we assign, for example, an H2 to text that is not necessarily as relevant as an H3, but is relevant in terms of the content itself.
The H1 tag, also known as the title tag, is the one we should assign as the title of our content, which is without a doubt the most important set of keywords. Within the content structure, the H1 tag must be unique. That is, there can only be one, and it must be as concise, relevant and short as possible.
The H2 tag, or subtitle tag, must be assigned to those "sub" titles that are also relevant and complement or function as expressions or synonyms of the H1, and can also correspond to user searches. Any content piece or page may be several H2s, but it is crucial not to abuse them because search engines penalize their overuse.
The H3 tag is assigned to subheadings that we think complement the information already highlighted in the previous headings, but may not be as relevant. They can help users when reading content because they guide the user's eye, while also contributing to SEO.
Lastly, H4 to H6 tags are used for minor headings and search engines do not usually consider them when indexing information. But, they are useful when we want to introduce additional heading levels in our content for ease of reading.
<h1>Structured Data in Google: what is it and how does it improve SEO?</h1> <h2>What is Structured Data?</h2> ; <h2>Why is Structured Data important for SEO?</h2> <h2>Structured Data formats</h2> <h2>How to implement the most common types of Structure Data</h2> <h3>Article</h3> <h3>Frequently Asked Questions</h3> <h3>For Small Businesses</h3> ...
Document the header structure
For Content Managers to work more efficiently with their development teams who implement the defined header structure in their content, ideally you should document the structure with screenshots and examples of the design to indicate, explicitly and visibly, what an H1, H2, H3, etc. should be. This is especially useful during the implementation stage of any web project.
Common mistakes in header strategies
When devising and implementing your content header structure, certain recommendations need to be taken into account so as to not make mistakes that may negatively impact your header strategy.
Use more than one H1 or duplicate:
There can only be an H1 in the content and it must not be the same as the title of the page, but rather, related to it.
Apart from choosing the relevant keywords for the headings by means of good keyword research, you shouldn't abuse these words within the text to give them more relevance, since Google usually penalizes this "over-optimization". Always favor natural writing in your content for clearer, more organic reading.
Bad header structure and heirarchy:
Not including relevant keywords in your headings or altering the linear order of the headings (for example, after an H1 there shouldn't be an H3. It's important to respect the order of the headings), can create problems and be counterproductive for the SEO of your site.
Links in your headers:
If you insert a link in your header you are giving up partial authority of your page to the destination page to which the link is directed. This results in a cannibalization of the queries to both URLs. If you want to position content in search results, it does not make sense to link a header within that content to another URL.
Use of images for headings:
It may seem obvious, but it should be noted that Google does not read text within an image. Headings should be text only, not added as images.
Review the header structure of your content
If you have doubts about how to organized your headers, don't worry. There are several tools and browser extensions (especially in Chrome) that allow you to check the header structure in your content and pages.
SEOQuake: this is an extension that provides a diagnosis of different aspects affecting the SEO of your content or page, including information about the headers. A drawback with this tool is that you have to diagnose each page separately. That being said, if you apply the same logic to the whole structure, or create content periodically, you will not find this so complex.
Screaming Frog: this paid tool provides a very thorough diagnosis of many aspects of all your pages and content that impact SEO, among which are the H1 and H2 headers to check whether they exist and if they are well defined. This tool is set up so that you don't have to check pages or content individually, allowing you to quickly get an overview of everything.
Implementation header structures in Modyo
At Modyo, as we've mentioned before, it's important that the content manager responsible for devising the header strategy communicates to the developers charged with implementing this strategy in the pages. This includes how they wants it to be presented in the clearest, most visual way possible through screenshots with all the H1, H2, H3, etc., indicated.
In addition, before any product is delivered, Modyo's Q&A team audits the content to determine if the heading strategy is properly implemented to ensure the best SEO results.
With Modyo, you can define content types with fields that exactly match the required header structure of your content. What this means is that headers are assigned to certain fields dynamically through templating, and reimplementing the structure for every published content piece that is loaded on the platform is completely automated. It also provides flexibility in cases where H1, H2, H3, etc., need to be assigned manually, through content provided in "rich text" type fields.
Not only that, but because the publishing lifecycle of content is completely separate from its presentation, you can utilize that content in any format across any channel. This eliminates scalability issues, and marginalizes coordination efforts when updating content in the future. Simply republish any new version of your content, and those updates are instantly reflected across the header structures of every page, app, or endpoint.