H1 Tags: What are they and do they help rankings?

Professional Internet marketing is comprised of many different services.  One of the most important for the long term growth of any company is organic search engine optimization (SEO).  Search engines rank sites based on the value of the content, site layout and code, internal link structure, inbound links from other relevant sites, etc.  The topic I am writing about today refers to just one of the above components.  Some of these seemingly minor details are often overlooked by a website development firm or Internet marketing company that focuses more on design than search engine friendliness.  A fancy website with no traffic is like having a Ferrari that sits in the garage all the time.

As I mentioned above, site structure, code, and content are important elements for SEO that help the search engine spiders (or crawlers) understand what to look for.  If your site appears like an organized outline with valuable content, then the “spiders” are more likely going to give a glowing report to the search engines.  H1 tags play a role in this by giving a “title” to the content on the page.  The H1 tag is one of the first things the spider will see and, if properly done, uses keywords relevant to the content on that page.  Imagine you are reading a magazine article and you think it is supposed to be about soccer.  Unless there is valuable content in the first few sentences and the title is captivating, you will turn the page.  This is much the same for the search engine spiders.  If they do not find the content they think they are supposed to see, they will move on.  Better luck next time!

I like to refer to the use of H1 tags (and H2, H3, etc…) in reference to a well-written outline.  The title of your outline would be the H1 tag defining the overall topic of the content on the page.  H2 tags would be the main sub-topics, H3 the sub-topics under that…and so on.  The level of the tag references the overall importance to the content and provides a hierarchy for the spiders to follow.  WordPress sites and blogs are a great example of how Google likes to see tags used.  The easier you make things for the search engine spiders the better.

Before the days of CSS (cascading style sheets), H1 tags were large and often looked funny on the page.  It was difficult for designers (building SEO friendly sites) to use them too much without interfering with the overall look and feel.  Now that we have CSS, a general font style and size can be assigned to all H1 tags on all pages of a site so everything is uniform and the website designer can sleep better at night!  So by using CSS, you can improve page relevance to the search engines and avoid the ugly appearance of the larger font style.

A good Internet marketing company will usually use these methods when reviewing a site prior to beginning an SEO campaign.  Most of the time when taking on a new SEO client there is some web development work to be done to improve site structure, implement title tags and meta tags, and rework internal link structure.  Before applying any search engine optimization there must be a healthy environment from which to build.

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