Headings are essential to any article. They are there to help us navigate a post easily, and quickly skim to see what a section is about before committing to reading it. If your headings are unclear or misleading, people will quickly leave your site to find the right information. This can impact your search engine optimization (SEO) since it detects if you have a high bounce rate.
There has been a debate in the world of SEO as to whether having multiple H1 headings in a page is good or bad for your SEO. Both sides of this debate have good reasons as to why they think you should or should not use multiple H1s in your content.
As one of the top marketing firms in Seattle, today we will take a look at both sides of this debate and determine which is the best for your organization.
Against Multiple H1s
The major argument against using multiple H1s is that the title of your post should be your H1, as having multiple H1s suggests that there are multiple main topics in your page that are of equal importance.
When you structure the content for your site, you use different heading tags to rank the importance of the subject. So, the title gets the H1, the other key topics get H2 headers, and subtopics under those get tags of H3 through H6. The headings are read by search engines to determine what the page is about, and the headings are thought to make that easier.
When you organize your heading tags, think of them as your outline or table of contents. What is the main, overarching topic of the page? That is your H1, which is why there are people against having multiple H1s on a page; but if you really have multiple big topics, you might need more than one H1 tag. What are the most important points? Those are your H2s. What are the subpoints to those points? Those are your H3s. Continue on from there.
Here is an example of how this works, using leotards and ballet shoes.
H1: Best Clothes and Shoes for Ballerinas
H3: Benefits of Leotards
H3: Should I wear a tutu?
H3: The Best Places to Buy Leotards
H2: Ballet Shoes
H3: Flats vs. Point Shoes
H3: Tips for Breaking in Point Shoes
H3: The Best Brands of Ballet Shoes
There is a clear, logical order to the headings structure and layout, and you can find what you need in the article quickly and easily. If you are only looking at the post to find tips to break in your point shoes, you can find that easily and ignore the rest of the article if you want to.
It is thought that having multiple H1s can make content confusing for both Google and your readers because it may make it seem there is no clear distinction between the main topic and its subtopics. In the above example, it would not make sense to make one of my H2 tags an H1, because these are parts of the main topic, but not the main topic itself. Even if Google does see the distinction between types of header tags, it would still be confusing to your readers why you have a new H1 in the middle of your post.
For those who use screen readers, the headers are there to help them find the structure of the page. This is important to keep in mind when you structure your heading tags on your website.
Screen readers usually have shortcuts to jump between headings in a text, so having well used and planned headings is good all around. Since heading tags are formatted with HTML code, the screen readers understand the breakdown of a page, making it easier to navigate.
WebAIM conducted a survey on the subject in 2017 and found that the majority of people using screen readers rely on the headings to navigate the page and find the information they need (1). The survey also found that 60 percent of screen reader users prefer a site to only have one H1 with the document title, which 30 percent prefer two H1 tags, one for the document title and one for the site name.
For Multiple H1s
Part of the argument against the use of multiple H1s is that they can confuse Google. The problem with this reasoning is that Google itself has said that is not at all the case. While the Google algorithm at one point may have seen multiple H1s as confusing, it has advanced to the point that Google now understands how they are being used.
Last October, in an episode of #AskGoogleWebmasters, Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller said, “Our systems don’t have a problem when it comes to multiple H1 headings on a page.” (2)
Mueller explained that Google uses “headings to better understand the context of different parts of a page.” He also pointed out that using multiple H1s is a common thing on many websites, so Google has plenty of expertise when it comes to this. He advised that when it comes to headers, “SEO shouldn’t be your primary objective. Instead, think about your users: if you have ways of making your content accessible to them, be it by using multiple H1 headings or other standard HTML constructs, then that’s not going to get in the way of your SEO efforts.”
Thanks to Google, we know that we can use multiple H1 tags on a page, but should we? Keeping accessibility in mind, you may want to stick to only using one H1 tag in your content to make navigation easier for screen reader users. However, if it makes sense for you to have more than one H1 on your page, then yes, but otherwise, you probably should try to stick with only using a single H1 tag.
If you are unsure about how to structure your headings, working with one of the top digital marketing firms in Seattle can be a great help to you. Contact Seattle Public Relations today to get started!