WordPress Heading Tags: H1, H2 - How And why you should use them

Headings in any page, be it print or screen, instantly make it more readable. They serve as visual cues, and the essence of an article is immediately obvious. Many readers simply skim the content, and pay more attention only to that portion of the text that is captured by the heading that interests them. But it’s not only readers who like headings, search engines too look for them. And in today’s post, we’ll see how WordPress Heading Tags can be used to improve both readability and SEO.

(We’ll be keeping the discussion here to HTML4 tags without venturing into HTML5 space, because it’s a little more complicated there. Also, this post is more about WordPress heading tags within the WordPress Editor, and not about the title tag or page heading.)

So what’s the difference? The title tag is expressed as <title> in HTML and this is what shows up in the address bar in the web browser. You don’t see it on the webpage. The text that is contained in <H1> tag is what users see as a title on the webpage. The title of this post is wrapped in <H1></H1> tag. Want to check? Click CTRL + U keys on your keyboard. In the page that opens (filled with code) press CTRL + F keys and type in </H1> and you’ll see the H1 tags of this post title. Usually the titles and H1 headings are similar, but need not be identical.

What are Heading Tags ?

We normally think of headings as a method of styling the fonts – bigger size font, bold fonts or italics. But while using headings in HTML, we structure it using heading tags. Heading tags are HTML markup used for differentiating headings and sub-headings from the rest of the text in your content. As Google describes it in it’s Starter Guide,

Heading tags (not to be confused with the HTML tag or HTTP headers) are used to present structure on the page to users. There are six sizes of heading tags, beginning with <h1>, the most important, and ending with <h6>, the least important. So you have the maximum size heading at H1 and this is usually reserved for the first level heading of a post or page or for important content on the homepage. Most CMS’s, including WordPress, add the H1 tag automatically to the title of a blog post. But sometimes a theme can alter this setting. If that’s the case, you can change it in the theme template files.

H2 is used for breaking up the H1 content into easily digestible bits. This is how it appears in the Text Editor:

Use H3 for breaking up each H2 content. Rarely do headings reach the H4 level or beyond.

Why you should use Heading Tags?

Headings in webpages perform pretty much the same functions as they do in a print format. However, when it comes to webpages, headings are not just about appearance. They also help search engines to find the page. Google scans your post for content relevant to the searched words, and looks within the heading tags to see what the content is all about. We should make it easier for Google to find those words.

A title tag informs both users and search engines what the topic of a particular page is. Ideally, you should create a unique title for each page on your site. Heading tags tell a search engine how the various text blocks are connected and their interrelation. Once you know this, it’s easy to understand why your keyword must find a place within the tags. Google perceives this content as most relevant for the search and this will likely improve your search engine rankings.

To say that heading tags are crucial for SEO rankings would be overstating it. To say that heading tags add SEO value is more appropriate. In the last few years, more weightage is being given to authoritative content as a ranking factor. However, Google finds the keywords more easily, if they are wrapped in heading tags. And hence heading tags are an important on page SEO factor that you do not want to overlook while optimizing your webpages.

WordPress Heading Tags – Best Practices

  • Normally we use only one H1 tag for a page, and you’ll most likely find it for the heading.
  • H1 to H3 tags should suffice on most pages. H4 – H6 tags may be stretching it a bit, unless the page is really text heavy.
  • Maintain hierarchy while using the heading tags, meaning use the tags in numerical order H2, followed by H3, H4… Don’t skip a level.
  • Ensure that your keyword is included in H2. This is because Google looks for keyword presence in the title and keyword density in the content while searching and ranking content. There’s no necessity for exact keyword match.
  • Keep a limit for the number of words that you cram between the header tags. Don’t pack in whole sentences or paragraphs.
  • It’s not advisable to use the same keywords in heading tags across different webpages on your site.
  • Do not use header tags simply to make some elements standout. To style any specific element on your website, use CSS.

Adding Heading Tags in WordPress

You can add header tags in WordPress in 4 ways,

1. You can manually type the header tags in the Text Editor in WordPress.

2. You can just as easily do it using the Visual Editor.

The toolbar in the Visual Editor has many formatting options. You’ll see a single row of options with the Toolbar Toggle at the extreme right.

But there is second row (called Kitchen Sink!) that remains hidden. It appears only when you click the Toolbar Toggle. You’ll find the option for formatting text as headings in this row.

To add a heading, highlight the text and move to the ‘Paragraph’ option in the toolbar. Clicking on it will bring up a menu of the 6 heading tags and you can pick any one.

The text now appears as a heading.

3. If you’re more comfortable working with the keyboard, use Alt+Shift+Numbers 1-6.

To remove the heading tag, retype the same command or use Alt+Shift+7.

4. Staying with the keyboard, you can also use the octothorpe or hash keys:

  • ## followed by text – for H2 tags.
  • ### followed by text – for H3 tags.
  • ###### followed by text – for H6 tags.

Final Words

Heading Tags are important for webpages and can make a big difference to readability and search engine visibility. They need to be contextual, to stress the importance of content. Use them sparingly on a webpage to capture the essence of the content in a single phrase. Most of all, it’s so easy to practice headings, so let’s do ourselves a favor by using them.