Google’s John Mueller answered a question about H1 headings. He followed up his answer with a strong affirmation about the importance of heading tags for ranking.
Which Heading Tag You Use Doesn’t Matter So Much
In a Webmaster Central hangout, someone asked if it mattered if a page used an H2 heading tag instead of an H1.
“A page without an H1 title will it still rank for keywords which is in the H2 title?”
Google’s John Mueller said that the page could rank regardless of which heading element was used.
…Will it still? I don’t know if it will still but it can. It can absolutely.”
Mueller Explains How Headings Helps Pages Rank
What’s interesting about his follow up statement is that not only does he explain how heading tags helps a site to rank, he calls them ranking factors.
What’s interesting about that statement about headings as ranking factors is that sites can rank well in Google without heading tags. Anyone who’s done competitor research has seen these.
That gives the impression that maybe heading tags aren’t a ranking factor or maybe not so important anymore.
John Mueller has in the past downplayed the importance of H1 headings by saying they aren’t critical.
H1 headings used to be critical. But they are no longer absolutely necessary to ranking.
But according to John Mueller in this video, heading tags can play an important role for helping a site rank.
Here’s what Mueller said:
“So headings on a page help us to better understand the content on the page.
Headings on the page are not the only ranking factor that we have.
We look at the content on its own as well.
But sometimes having a clear heading on a page gives us a little bit more information on what that section is about.”
That’s an interesting point that bears commenting on. Properly used heading tags provide information of what a section of content is about.
Mueller goes on to say how heading tags can be important for image SEO as well.
“So in particular when it comes to images, that’s something where headings and the context of that image helps us a lot to understand where we should be showing that image in search.
…images are not text. We don’t automatically know what we should be showing it for.
And that combination of the image plus the landing page is something that depends quite a bit on the text of the page.”
Google Confirms Heading Tags are a Strong Signal
John Mueller continues his answer by stating unambiguously that heading elements are a strong signal.
“And when it comes to text on a page, a heading is a really strong signal telling us this part of the page is about this topic.
…whether you put that into an H1 tag or an H2 tag or H5 or whatever, that doesn’t matter so much.
But rather kind of this general signal that you give us that says… this part of the page is about this topic. And this other part of the page is maybe about a different topic.
So that’s generally what I would think about there.”
We like to think of heading elements as providing hierarchical structure, where you can nest several subtopics within a bigger topic. For example, a section of a web page about art materials can contain a section about crayons (H2), with subsections devoted to professional artist crayons (H3) and Crayola brand crayons (h3).
But according to Mueller, you can also just label all three as H2 and that will be enough to signal to Google what the individual sections are about.
How to Use Heading Tags for SEO
Headings are important ranking factor for SEO. Which headings are used (H1, H2) apparently matters less than the act of using them to send a signal to Google of what a section of content is about. Doing that helps Google understand the content and rank it better.